Never look back, and you’ll have no regrets • Accelerate uphill in order to take flight on the way back down • Anticipate each crossing with a renewable spirit • Search for freedom amongst ambiguity •
While some of life’s crossroads are more significant than others, it is important that we realize the beauty in every path. The truest reward is in finding yourself completely submersed in what you are doing at that exact moment. But what happens when your life is dictated by frozen ideals? Maybe it is more important to stop wishing and dreaming, and just live. Otherwise, we may just end up spending our lives standing paralyzed at the crossroads.
It is Christmas Eve. We hike down 500 feet of steep, wooden walkway to find a natural tunnel. It opens the jagged cliff, allowing trains to pass through. The walk doesn’t seem difficult enough to justify the chair lift above us until we consider the trip back up. Unfortunately, that lift is not in service this time of year. In fact, we are the only ones visiting the park at all. So I take time to stand in the center of rusty train tracks, where parallel planks emerge from fossil ridden stone. Alfonso reads about tormented lovers and Native American legend. It is the story of “Lovers Leap.” We sneak into neighboring North Carolina to surprise friends as close as family for Christmas Day. It is a detour welcomed with warm hugs and a comfortable bed.
Back on track in Virginia, we ascend to the 5,729-foot high Mt. Rogers, and camp in the snow at Bear Tree Recreational Area. We wake up several times to start the car for heat. The next morning, exhausted from the bitter cold, we venture out onto the frozen lake and peel an orange for breakfast through mittened fingers. The leaves frozen in the ice are a beautiful sight, and we remember again why we are on this journey.
We unexpectedly happen upon FOAMHENGE, where the name pretty much sums up the fact that it is “Stone Henge” built of foam. New friends are made at the Poe Museum in Richmond and we watch glass being blown at Jamestown, the first permanent colony in America. In Alexandria, a gallery displays the painting I created from our Tennessee experience. The one I call “Strum.” We camp in our Honda Element in Shenandoah National Park but another restless night comes from the natural and unnatural sounds in the distance. Alfonso is nervous for our safety and moves the car twice before I stubbornly refuse to pack up the bed to move again. This ignites an eruption of unhealthy words from both our mouths. But there aren’t doors to slam or rooms to escape to and in the bitter winter cold, we are forced to embrace one another’s tired soul to stay warm…to stay alive.
Listening to the whirring of machines, my entire wardrobe swirls against soapy glass. My legs are folded across the faux wood surface of a rickety 3’ x 8’ table. I try to use this time wisely, and prop a canvas in front of me. Thinking back to the events that transpired over the past week, I pretend not to notice the two men watching me from behind the row of washing machines. Lover’s leap, Foamhenge, Richmond and Jamestown all entertain my mind, but after finishing the painting’s background, I must stop. It’s time to give these two men a break. Their eyes and minds must be burning by now over wonderment of what I am doing painting in a laundry-mat. So we fold and pack and on New Year’s Eve, take our journey to West Virginia.