Spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains
It is March and almost spring in Central Virginia! The Blue Ridge Mountains will soon erupt into green buds, followed by an explosion of greenery and flowers. Honestly, before I moved to Central Virginia, I never knew anything about the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, since I have moved here, not a day goes by without me admiring and appreciating them more and more. I did not know that the Blue Ridge Mountains simply got their name from the bluish color they have when seen from a distance; and that it is trees that put the “blue” in Blue Ridge – the hue comes from the isoprene, a common organic compound given off by many plants. The trees of these mountains release this compound into the atmosphere,thereby contributing to the characteristic haze on the mountains and their distinctive color. Neither did I know that these are some of the oldest mountains in the world. I have also been told that under portions of the mountains – granite rock laced with quartz crystals goes down one hundred miles deep.
In the Andes Mountains in South America, the descendants of the Inca believe that each mountain peak is an individual god. They call them Apus. They communicate with them in prayer, dreams, rituals and ceremonies. The Apu mountain spirits also serve as protectors, watching over their surrounding territories and protecting nearby Quichuan inhabitants as well as their livestock and crops. In times of trouble, the Apus are appeased, or called upon, through offerings. Small offerings such as chicha (corn beer) and coca leaves are common.
I have come to think of the Blue Ridge Mountains the same way – as living entities. I have had dreams where the mountains spoke to me. They talked of the long mosaic of human history they have witnessed. They spoke of how much they enjoy their own and human’s existence. Most importantly, they talked of how they become more when people give them attention. They spoke of how they love people to hike in them, or sit by their watery places: ponds, rivers, streams and creeks. How they love the sound of people’s laughter, especially children at play or people on picnics.
I awoke from these dreams wondering if they could all be real. Could mountain ranges think, feel, and love? If they could, would they care about human attentions and emotions? I am not sure what conclusions I have come to with those questions. But I do know that when hiking on the Appalachian Trail I feel alive in a very special way, as if I’m connected to something indefinably bigger. I know that whenever I take out-of-town visitors to see Crab Tree Falls they have a great time, and are very impressed and uplifted. And I know that even looking at the beautiful scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains from afar inspires a sense of wonder. How small we humans are compared to these mighty beings.
It is March and it is soon spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Doesn’t it make sense for each of us to find or make time in our lives to appreciate the unique beauty and wonders of these mountains we live near and in? I plan to hike, to swim in the lakes sheltered by them, and appreciate them more this spring. I give thanks for their very existence. I urge all our readers to do something similar. Make the magic of the Blue Ridge Mountains or any place in nature your own.