The Stress Doc captures the colorful sights, animated and soothing sounds and profound silences as one travels down a mountain country road. Once again, he must escape the big city to nurture fully all his senses and tune in to the big picture.
The Gospel of a Country Road
Take me home, country roads To the place I belong West Virginia, mountain momma Take me home, country roads.
John Denver knew of what and where he sang. And yet, each year I debate taking my solo, overnight retreat to the mountains of West Virginia. Its a five-six hour drive, and Ive done it before, at times money has been a concern, while Octobers usually a busy month, and the leaves probably wont be that spectacular this season with the lack of rain blah,blah,blah. And fortunately, its not a logical debate; its a spiritual one. An act of faith. In some silent subterranean nexus of psyche and soul, theres a need to be connected intimately and tangibly with the big picture. So I go and return quieter, wiser and spiritually richer.
A Long Days Journey Into the Soul of the Dark Night
This year I journeyed to Helvetia, WV, also known as Little Switzerland. Helvetia is an idyllic mountain village, maybe thirty residents. While Heidi doesnt live here anymore, one of the natives is, in fact, that delightful and dynamic "mountain momma" (actually, a grandma) who returned to her roots after a divorce and living abroad. She built a bed and breakfast, that is, a Hutte or restaurant along with separate sleeping quarters. The latter is a rustic, wooden, two storied cabin-like structure that captures the feel of Old World Europe. The town was originally settled by Swiss and German immigrants about 130 years ago. Escaping religious persecution, these folks landed in Brooklyn and somehow did the covered wagon tour to their New World mountain hamlet. (And I complain about my long trip. Actually, I enjoy the focused excitement of driving along tight mountain curves.)
No phone, no TV. Over 36 hours detached from the virtual virtues and vices of cyberspace. And maybe thats the moral of this essay: when so absorbed in my online and offline writing and workshop activities, I sometimes forget how critical it is to nurture the larger senses and spirit. Let me sketch and relive this vibrant picture. The town is bisected by a babbling stream, a stones throw from my bedroom window. How restful that late afternoon nap after an hours hike up and down that forested country road. Gently rocked to sleep by the gurgling, splashing stream. I wouldnt be surprised if there isnt some hard-wired memory in our reptilian brain.
And speaking of the brain and the senses, for me, the color of the leaves also evoke an overpowering chemical reaction. When bathed in sunlight, the shimmering waves of lemons and apricots and orange-cranberry hues overwhelm the logical left-hemisphere. All I can do is gaze and sometimes gasp. And from a distance write: The forest as the artist/Trees willowy and bold The brushstrokes of the branches/Leaves afire red and gold. And then God-like fingers/Stream down from above Solar rays caress you both/A touch of natures love. (Email email@example.com for the entire "Mountain Vision" lyric.) While not brilliantly breathtaking, the colors have a more subtle, a more mature beauty this year. (Maybe its a projection of a fifty year old psyche ;-)
And when the color disappears and night descends, then the other big picture show takes center stage. Walking in the cool, clean, crisp mountain air, down another country road, beyond the last remnants of man-made lighting, reveals the truly majestic and miraculous mystery. As wonderful as cyberspace is, it cant compete with the real thing. Growing up in New York City, presently living in Washington, DC, one hardly remembers the night sky. Viewing clearly the Milky Way and a myriad of stars (this year I didnt see shooting stars) surely places everything in a vastly different perspective. And on this "I- ThouMAX" screen, one does not just find constellations; there are almost limitless projections. Silhouetted against the darkened yet starlit panorama, the towering black-grey tree-covered mountain ridge morphs into the elongated spine and tail of a slumbering brontosaurus. Down a darkly deserted road, Hollywood has nothing on the resultant primal images and urges when plugging our imagination into the ultimate mountain momma...mother nature! I can still detect a lingering soreness in my neck from not being able to stop gazing heavenward.
And day follows night. Again, Im a lonely traveler along another hallowed and hushed path, before the sun has climbed above the mountain ridge. Its the coldest part of the day. Frost on my car windshield. The first steamy breath sighting of the season. Seeing the stream, a gently flowing, dark purple sheet of glass with a hint of light, reminds me how rarely I observe my environment at this hour of the morning. (And I'm a morning person.) Yesterdays late afternoon rustling of deer just beyond sight is replaced by the morning song and medleys of birds. Also, the rhythmic rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker.
And Im ready for the hearty breakfast in front of a fiery pot-bellied stove. The heat and light are as nurturing as the fresh fruit cup, warm banana bread and preserves, oatmeal and brown sugar and hot tea. Such a meal has me sleepy. And for now, alas, the dreamy journey must end.
Im heartened by having set down my trip in words and images. This gets saved to a readily accessible file to remind me that this man cant live by intellect and words, psychology and virtuality alone. There must be time for space and color, light and shadows and pitch darkness, for the animated sounds of nature, along with tactile and olfactory pleasures and bracing cold pain, for a quiet sanctuary to recover our primal essence. Yes, take me home country road. A world for simply being not of human doing and, surely, a time and place for Practicing Safe Stress!
Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc," Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a nationally recognized speaker, workshop leader and author on stress, reorganizational change, anger, team building, creativity and humor. He is also the internet's and the nation's leading "Psychohumorist." The Stress Doc is a columnist for the popular cyber-newsletter, Humor From The Edge -- HUMOR FROM THE EDGE HOME PAGE . Mark is also the "Online Psychohumorist" for the major AOL mental health resource network, Online Psych -- ONLINE PSYCH: THE STRESS DOC and Financial Services Journal Online. And he is an offline writer for two mental health/substance abuse publications -- Treatment Today and Paradigm Magazine. His motto: Have Stress? Will Travel: A Smart Mouth for Hire! Reach "The Doc" at (202) 232-8662, email: Stress Doc@aol.com, or check out his "Hot Site" website: http://www.stressdoc.com or click STRESS DOC HOMEPAGE. (The site was selected as a USA Today Online "Hot Site" and designated a four-star, top- rated site by Mental Health Net.)
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