Intimidating storm clouds churn in over the western hillside as they release thunderous grumbles from within. The shattering crack of lightning in the distance exclaims that I might not have enough time to climb on the boulders dubbed “Hunter’s Rocks”. I am racing against the clock as I take my first steps across a barren creek bed littered with dried leaves that crumble under foot. The age-old weathered sandstone that covers a majority of Pennsylvania leaves its sediment washed along the forested ground conjuring up reminiscent thoughts of a hike leading to an isolated beach. As I crest the top of the trail; I catch my first glimpse of the natural jungle gym in front of me. My finger tips are tingling as I can feel excitement radiating throughout me. I am a kid on Christmas morning with an adventure wrapped in a large red bow sitting before me. I purchased my first climbing shoes 2 weeks ago, and with every opportunity I have had to use them I have been beaten by summer storms. Today I make my first attempt at breaking them in.
A cloud of chalk envelopes me as I clap my hands visualizing my route along the bulbous stones that stand in front of me. With my first grasp upon the textured rock it slightly cuts into my palms as if I were rubbing against sand paper. My straining muscles slowly pull my feet from the ground, and I begin the problem in front of me. With a deep breath in I move from one finger clenching hold to another, and with a deep breath out my feet follow. It is a puzzle that lies in
front of me with no clear direction other than up. Several moves from the top I am filled with a
slight uncertainty as my fingers strain to hold true to the stone. My mind races as I contemplate letting go to fall to the safety pads below, but I soon look past the direct problem of fear and find an overwhelming calmness from within. One more breath allows me to focus as my body moves with an assured agility reaching for the top. A blind slap of my hand over the final hump locates the closing piece to the puzzle. My fingertips anchor around a nub, and with all of my might I strain to pull myself over the top.
With an elated sense of accomplishment I gaze breathlessly over vast hillsides and into a pastel pink sunset. The first drops of rain from the building storm moisten my hair and begin to trickle down my face. The cool droplets are remindful of a champagne shower while standing on the champion’s podium, and standing victorious atop “Hunter’s Rocks” I was indeed.
Fog draped hillsides laid at the end of rows and rows of farmed fields lining both sides of the valley as we drove east. The waning sun created a sepia toned landscape as it drooped over the western horizon. Each stone or brick home that we passed could have been straight out of my great grandmother’s picture book. Generations of families have lived and worked on this land, leaving a rich heritage that I cannot imagine. We quietly pulled into Millheim after careening our way along Highway 45 through these central Pennsylvania farm lands. Two story buildings lined the shoulders of the “one road” town before colliding with endless farm lands just a few blocks away. Each building has been built off the exterior wall of its neighbor, as if it needed to lean against it for support. Bricks were laid, windows were placed, roofs were attached, and the front door hid true lives behind them all. The eyes of an older woman watched me as I strolled into the comforts of her hometown. There were no questions that she wanted to ask of me; who I was or where I was coming from, but rather offer me a comfortable reassurance with her homely smile.
A rambunctious clamor of conversation and festivities spewed from Elk Creek Café and Aleworks as I opened the glass front door. My eyes darted around the great front room as I was immediately intrigued with the energy that had been packed in like a can of sardines. A stage was set with a multitude of stringed instruments against the far wall, three rows deep of thirsty individuals stood off of the varnished wooden bar, and all of the seats in between had long been claimed with people anticipating the bluegrass that would be dancing around our ears soon. My friends and I happened to sliver our way through the masses and unexpectedly fall upon a table for three. There was no hesitation as we climbed onto the empty seats, and were shortly thereafter asked if we would like our first taste of their delicious home brewed beers by our new friend Monica. With smiles crested upon our faces and cold amber colored pints in our hands we let glasses clink with our cheers to the evening. We were not only overly pleased with the variety of ales (Blue Heron Pale, Elk Creek Copper, Poe Paddy Porter & Double Rainbow IPA) that continued to stream over our taste buds as freshly filled glistening glasses were brought to our empty hands, but Monica also felt that it would be rude not to indulge in what Elk Creek calls
their Nouveau Dutchie Cuisine™. Chef Mark Johnson has taken great satisfaction in keeping locality close to his heart, and has written homage to his local purveyors within every line of his
menu. With simplicity being the focus and flavors being the pride you come to find yourself gazing over plates such as Apple, Cheddar, & Bacon Salad w/ sunflower seed vinagrette; Cheddar & Valley Ham w/ ginger peach chutney and ale mustard; and Peanut Butter Pie with Pretzel crust.
Strums and thumps started to come from finger picking musicians that were ready to give way and release their joyous musical notes upon our waiting patience. There were several bands that would be taking the stage to pay tribute to the late great Jerry Garcia this evening. As I heard the deep echo of the standup bass intertwine with the soft melodic twinges of the mandolin, and the stringy notes jump from the banjo there was nothing left to do but jingle and jangle my dancing bones. Listening to songs such as Peggy O, Bird Song, and Jack a Row in a small pub in Pennsylvania transcended me 15 years prior when I first heard these same notes peel off of my dad’s record player. However the raspy tones that filled my ears tonight were not from age old dusty vinyl, but the rattle of microphones being tormented with live musical talent. Lyrics to all the songs echoed from wall to wall as everyone sang in unison, and I could feel the hard wood floor quiver under our my feet. Live music easily excites me, but when I saw a seven year old prodigy lay a rosined bow across his fiddle strings I was befuddled. I could do nothing more than stand gawking with my lower jaw resting on the floor below, and when he stopped to bow his bleach blond head I felt that the explosion of applause that had erupted would bring the walls down around us. The evening was brought to a finale with all of the musical members gathering upon the tightly packed stage for a final “Fair Thee Well”. Musical notes that had brought many individuals together over the years were working its magic once again. Elated smiles surrounded me as I scanned all that stood singing along for the encore. Once all was said and done; I am sure that Jerry and I both shared the same smile as the masses spilled into the quiet midnight streets of Millheim.
,”because I have just realized that I can no longer return to what I have been doing, even if this means giving up some reasonable
monetary return at the end of the month, sacrificing a certain degree of emotional stability, abandoning work that I understand and within which I have mastered certain techniques. I have to
change, follow in the direction of my dream, a dream that appears to be infantile, ridiculous, impossible of attainment. I have to be the writer that I have secretly wanted to be, but that I have lacked the courage to become.” Paulo Coelho
Being a lifetime vagabonder (always practicing of course young jedi) takes a little philosophical measure to be written into the heart and soul. It is not a course in which I will ever arrive; and in fact I will become infuriated at times due to the lack of finality that it carries. It is allowing me to be reassured that I am following my heart and the whims that it produces, and these measures will build my foundation that I stand upon daily. Not that I am building a foundation of security and come another day I hope to return to my whims and smiles in order to live a life that I had always dreamed of. Smiles and the love there in are created in the moment, taken from the moment, and will be lost if you do not enjoy the moment. I do not state that my way is the way forward; in fact to others it might carry a slight air of lunacy, but it is the way that I have come to find faith in. It allows me to see distant dreams that lay behind the mirror as I awake in the morning. It allows me to relinquish all that I have; to follow my heart with one foot forward, and not a second thought of turning back.
My footsteps are written across the sand; as I take a new step forward it is deep and ingrained within the crystalized fragments of the shell and coral below. Within moments the rippling tide will wash over the embedded foot print leaving its trace no longer. At this point I am left with a decision: Do I try and find the comfort that lay within the steps behind me that are now
beginning to disappear in front of my eyes, or do I carry on creating a new path into my dreams?