Tuesday, April 3, 2012


A couple of weeks ago I met up with some people at Amicalola Falls, about thirty miles from where I live, for a day hike. I’d done the hike many times before. It’s a steep and strenuous climb up 425 wooden steps to the top of the falls, but that’s part of the experience for me. I like to go up slowly, stopping at the wooden platforms to take pictures of the rainbows in the water and of wildflowers and anything else I might encounter. The return hike is much easier of course and follows a trail through the forest, past a large Native American trail tree, which I always like seeing and which is something of an old friend. On this particular Saturday, we hiked up the forest trail rather than down, which was an interesting if unintentional shift and offered a new way of seeing the still-brown rhododendron tangles and interplay of fallen and standing trees. I had to hurry to keep up with these hikers, though. I am not sure if they noticed the trail tree or not. I called it to the attention of a couple of hikers near me. I am always a little reluctant to do that kind of thing. I don’t want to be one of those people who shows off what they know and gets in the way of other people’s authentic experience. At any rate, we walked down the wooden stairs, not up, which was fine with me. I stopped to take lots of pictures, mainly of trillium and spiderwebs. I couldn’t believe how much trillium there was. Every time I run across it I am freshly amazed at its beauty. Its heart seems split open, vulnerable, green and crimson to the sun. Some of the trillium at Amicalola was dusted with catkins and some of it connected to trees and rocks with thin skeins of what I took to be spiderweb. Between lying on the ground and trying to catch the light as it came through both petal and web and taking pictures of other hikers and their kids for them, I got left behind by the hikers I was with. This bothered me not at all, but of course I met up with a few of them not far from the end of the hike, returning to make sure I hadn’t gotten lost somehow. It’s hard to get lost at Amicalola, but I suppose people have done it. I felt badly that the hikers had worried about me; I should have known they would have. I am not ever going to be one of those hikers who competes in races as they hurry over trails with backpacks. That’s all right with me. I have some fine pictures of trillium and trail trees to show for my slowness.
After the hike, I sat at a wooden picnic table near the AT trailhead and read and wrote for awhile. Annie Dillard would understand about being distracted by trillium. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she writes, “I live in tranquility and trembling. Sometimes I dream. I am interested in Alice mainly when she eats the cooky that makes her smaller. I would pare myself or be pared that I too might pass through the merest crack, a gap I know is there in the sky. I am looking just now for the cooky. Sometimes I open, pried like a fruit. Or I am porous as old bone, or translucent, a tinted condensation of the air like a watercolor wash, and I gaze around me in bewilderment, fancying I cast no shadow. Sometimes I hide a bucking faith while one hand grips and the other flails the air, and like any daredevil I gouge with my heels for blood, for a wilder ride, for more.”
For me, the wilder ride means falling behind faster hikers while I lose myself in the heartspires of trillium and the capriciousness of web and light between stones.


  1. Wonderful photos and personal essay with Annie Dillard contemplation. At 62, I tend to pause a lot on uphill walks (all kinds of walks, honestly) and have learned to make good use of pauses. Thanks for affirming this odd reflective habit with your prose.

  2. A few years ago I spent New Years Eve at the lodge at Amicalola Falls... I hadn't been there since hiking the beginning section of the AT... (I hiked from GA to the Smokies in 1985) In 1987, when I hiked most of the trail (from Northern VA to ME, having completed the Southern section), the first book I read was Annie Dillard's "Tinker Creek." I wish I had read it while hiking in Southern VA, where her cabin was located. I am waiting to see when the first trillium appears here as we're way ahead for the season (normally they are out in early May)

  3. wonderful post.

    made me think of one of my favorite places, Ricketts Glen State Park. Peace and Hope

  4. Thanks, y'all, for your comments. I don't think pauses are really odd, Geo. I'm glad you liked the little essay.
    These are relict trillium, unless I'm mistaken, by the way.
    I will look up Ricketts Glen, Stratoz.
    Sage, Annie Dillard was one of my late mother's favorite writers, and I grew up with her writing. It still means a lot to me and in some ways I think I am only now beginning to truly appreciate Pilgrim and Teaching a Stone to Talk. Her book of found poems, Mornings Like This, is wonderful if you can find it.


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Georgia, United States
I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at riverrun67@gmail.com or lksorrells@hotmail.com.