I was a day late but not a dollar short. Fall colors were at their peak (pun not intended but acknowledged) when I visited my sister and her husband in the mountains of western North Carolina two weeks ago. Sunday was beautifully bright and sunny but my schedule brought me there on Monday.
Even though muted by the gray of an overcast day, there was still plenty of glory in the mix of maples, oaks, ash, poplar and plenty of other deciduous species. The occasional brilliance of crimson wrapped the trunks of trees host to the tall climbing vines of poison oak. Lower to the ground, sumac and sassafras showed their colors. Warm and expressive in closer view, the hues faded among hills stretched as far as the eye could see.
While Olian kept the Chihuahua company at the cabin, Freeda chauffeured me around the area, stopping at a couple of overlooks. We made our way down Calloway Gap on a winding gravel road that made us grateful we met no one headed up during our descent. At West Jefferson, we checked out some limb trimmers at Lowe’s and then stopped at Wal-Mart where I bought a few quasi-ripened plums.
On the alternate route back home, we pulled over along the ridge at the Ruby’s Rock Falls overlook. Ruby was nowhere to be found and there was no other spectator to help us locate the falls. It seemed clear that we were not standing near them as there was no noise of tumbling mountain stream. We looked at the sign, looked toward the opposite mountain a mile or more away but without success.
Then, as we stepped over a bit, I looked through the fork of a poplar tree. On that opposite mountain, about halfway up its side (or down, if you’re an optimist), I noticed a long dark stripe with a thin white strip down its middle. As I watched, the strip seemed to pulse, change shape ever so slightly. I realized I was watching a long stream of water tumbling down a rock face. From that distance, I couldn’t tell for sure whether it was spilling over a series of vertical drops or running along a steep angle of bare stone. Accounting for distance, it seemed to be an exposed run of two-to-three hundred feet.
Without close investigation, judging from my limited perspective, using what evidence I had at hand, I am pretty sure that we “found” Ruby’s Rock Falls. Sometimes, even without the rushing and roaring, the thunder and spray of standing at the brink of Niagara’s legendary drop, we know with varying degrees of certainty that we have located some particular place or purpose.
There are similar experiences in our searching for the things that are unseen.