LESLIE CRISS: Beach bouts appreciated, but mountain moments cherished

By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

“In the mountains, the shortest way is from peak to peak: but for that you must have long legs.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
I used to be convinced I was a beach person. There’s something about the sound of the waves and the smell of the air that relaxes every part of my being.
The sea gulls flying overhead? They’re just icing on the cake.
When I was a kid, my family spent time every summer on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and except for the time I fell asleep on a raft and woke up, red as a fire engine, floating next to a shrimp boat, it was always fun.
When I taught school right out of college, I lived on the beach in Ocean Springs. Sadly, the house is no longer there, thanks to Katrina. But the view was magnificent.
Out my living room windows and through 100-year-old oak trees icicled with Spanish moss, I could see front beach. From my side porch, I could watch fisher folk dock their boats in the harbor after a long day’s work.
And when the boats breezed in, a bazillion gulls followed, hovering for a sample of the day’s catch.
If I hadn’t spent my days teaching junior high students, it would have been the least stressful time of my life.
I’ve seen the Gulf of Mexico from this state of my birth, plus Alabama, Florida, even Texas.
I’ve seen the Atlantic from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and the Pacific from coastal towns near Los Angeles. I’ve loved nearly every beach moment I’ve had.
At some point, my family took a vacation to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. And my beach allegiance wavered a bit. But Gatlinburg proved a little too crowded and commercial for my tastes.
Then I visited Maggie Valley, and more recently Black Mountain and Waynesville, all in North Carolina. And the views took my breath away every time.
I’ve eaten fresh trout in an inn situated on one of the highest spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I’ve watched the sun set on trees with leaves just beginning their metamorphosis into the golds and reds of fall.
I’ve searched hard for the black bears folks have told me not to feed and laughed at chipmunks and squirrels as they frolic near mountain streams.
I’ve met mountain dwellers – from the cradle and also transplants – who will gladly share their own stories of why they live in the mountains, and why I should, too.
I have listened hard and heard – nothing. Only a wondrous, peaceful silence.
It’s doubtful I’d ever turn down a trip to the beach.
But if I had to choose between the beach and the mountains, the choice would be simple.
Because, these days, I’m a mountain person.

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