Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mountain Magic

When I was working, tethered to a desk, a PC and an employer, I often found myself staring at my monitor,  overcome with dizziness. Woozy. 

I had forgotten to breathe

Do you ever think about it? About inhaling and exhaling?

We're now about 2,500 feet above sea level. I wasn't sure how that would affect me aerobically, but I'll tell you that it's taken some time to be able to climb a hill and complete a cardio workout without being winded in a scary sort of way. I was surprised by how my body responded and considered it a personal failure (eek! aging!) when my heart pounded and I gasped for breath. (A little Google-y research confirmed that when you hit 2,500 feet, the atmospheric pressure decreases and there's only 74% as much oxygen available as at sea level.) Fortunately, I've adapted to the thinner air, and feeling pretty good about hiking and tennis.

On the other hand, I often (sometimes several times in a single day) have a surprise of a different sort. I'll be in my car, and turn a corner, or strolling around the lake, even parked in front of the supermarket and WHAMO! there are the mountains. They are truly breathtaking.  It may be early-ish in the morning and they're wrapped in gauzy mist, or late in the afternoon, grey-blue through distant rain. It doesn't matter because each time I unconsciously exhale and relax. And then I laugh and think, it happened again!

Bill and I call it mountain magic, a sense of well-being and harmony that tucks around us like a well-worn quilt. We thought it was just us, and made little jokes about it. "There must be something in the water", Bill would say. Or we're heading home, west on I-40 after a trip out of state, or at least out of western North Carolina, and at the first distant glimpse of the majestic steely-blue peaks one of us will say, "Ahhh, see? There are our mountains." It sounds corny but we both relax and breathe a little easier then.

We learned it isn't just us - people around here talk about it.  I was hitting tennis balls the other night at the middle school courts with a group of women and one of them looked up at the mountains and said, do you believe it? Every time I see them I think I'm the luckiest person in the world. I heard almost the same words from a woman who moved to Black Mountain from Michigan a couple of years ago. "These mountains get to me every time," she said. "Even the water tastes better. And people are nice, genuinely nice." I was chatting with a local medical practitioner last week, who has lived here for about 15 years and she acknowledged the magic too. She said she knows people who came here - were drawn here - to recover from the stress and strain of everyday life and sometimes more complicated problems. Some stayed to make a home here and others found the relief they sought and then moved on, better able to cope with whatever life had in store.

I pass through an amazing canopy of trees, a tunnel of green, on my way to the lake.  It's only a block or two long, but it's another world filled with birdsong and gentle breezes. It's cooler there and wildlife rustles in the underbrush. Everyday noises like lawnmowers and backfires seem muted.

Funny. I thought it was my own special place and then a neighbor mentioned it. He said he walks through that patch of cool, dark forest and feels oxygenated. Sometimes he does it when he thinks he needs it. I knew exactly what he meant. The air is clean and soothing - you breathe slower and calmer and your senses are heightened, taking in the shadows and filtered sunlight and wildlife sounds.

Life has thrown us some curve-balls in recent months but I haven't once forgotten to breathe since moving to the mountains. Instead I'm often conscious of taking in the sweet mountain air deeply and letting it go, along with the concerns of the moment.


  1. Love this, true......I am headed to Colorado in about a month to spend a week for the same reason..I can't wait!!

  2. Delightful, mountain magic. Enjoy yourself, T

  3. Thanks, Tee...The magic lives on!