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Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find that going to the mountains is going home.

~ Naturalist John Muir, 1898

Every time I see a new report, a new picture, a new video of the fires in Gatlinburg, something in my soul lurches. All that life, the plants and the animals, the beauty, the serenity, the spirit of the mountains themselves, the whispers of the water over rocks… I see it disappearing before my very eyes. Something sacred is vanishing and we’re powerless to stop it. The time needed to recover, if life can recover, is unfathomable. I feel like we’re witnessing a great divide of time – The before and after. When we’ll all start sentence with, “Remember when it looked like this…?”

I don’t know the reason the fires started. I can’t bring myself to see in black and white that it was something preventable, something stupid, a careless accident that we ourselves created. The more I see the world, the more I’m angered and heartbroken over the amount of destruction man can spread. The Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the mass extinction of animals and cultures and plants across the globe. Why? Because of greed? Because man has elevated themselves so far above life itself that we no longer recognize how we are destroying our own lives? If we wish to play God (not that we should or even can truly), we should live as God does, creating and not obliterating, loving and not killing. All these things are unhealing cuts that only ache more every time I go surround myself with the Earth’s love. The breath in my lungs is the winds off the mountains, the fire in my soul is the heat from the volcano, the strength in my bones is the rock under the tundra, the water of my being is the wave that kisses the shore. My brothers and sisters are not just human but also the fish in the seas, the birds in the sky, and the animals that roam the land. I am the land and it is me. This is why my heart breaks and why I’m angry to see the fires.

In July, my family and I visited the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg. I wasn’t able to spend as much time there as I would’ve wished but I’ll forever carry those moments in the mists with me. For those that have never been, those from other countries that may only be seeing the all consuming flames, or those that wish to hold on to something amazing, something the Goddess brought forth for all Her children to enjoy… I want to share my pictures from that trip.

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The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

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The Mountains are calling and I must go.

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In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

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I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

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Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

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Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

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Keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

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When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

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Clingman’s Dome is a sacred mountain to the Cherokees, where the Magic Lake was once seen. The Great Spirit told the Cherokee that, “If they love me, if they love all their brothers and sisters, and if they love the animals of the earth, when they grow old and sick, they can come to a magic lake and be made well again.”

For Cherokees, these mountains have meant a refuge, homeland, and a mythical and spiritual foundation for their people. During the Indian Removal Period of the 1800s known as the Trail of Tears, the mountains meant safety from pursuing soldiers. Today these slopes provide a refuge and offer inspiration for visitors from a hectic modern society.

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Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.

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How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!

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God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But He cannot save them from fools.

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Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.

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The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.

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There is that in the glance of a flower which may at times control the greatest of creation’s braggart lords.

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Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~ Albert Einstein

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Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~ Mother Teresa

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Just living is not enough… One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. ~ Hans Christian Anderson

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Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley. ~ Theodore Roethke

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One earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it. ~ Jules Renard

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Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence. ~ Hal Borland

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Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature. ~ Gerard De Nerval

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Man has created some lovely dwellings – some soul-stirring literature. He has done much to alleviate physical pain. But he has not created a substitute for a sunset, a grove of pines, the music of the winds, the dank smell of the deep forest, or the shy beauty of a wildflower.

~ Harvey Broome, Naturalist

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Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises. ~ Pedro Calderon de la Barca

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There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and the music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more. ~ Lord Byron

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Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. ~ Langston Hughes

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Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light. ~ Theodore Roethke

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Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. ~ William Wordsworth

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One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. ~ William Shakespeare

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The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be. ~ Anne Frank

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Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Khalil Gibran

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I hope you have enjoyed these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them. Humanity can never truly divorce itself from the Natural World because the Natural World lives within us all. If I could charge you with any one thing today, I’d ask that you take a deep breath and look around you. Acknowledge the blades of grass pushing through the concrete, the rustle of leaves on the wind, the scurrying of insects and animals, the movement of the clouds and the rays of the sun. It is in these things that we are all connected. Race, religion, sex, nationality, politics, and any other social construct that Man has created mean nothing to the great outdoors. Let’s not destroy that love and unity. Please.

(All quotes not otherwise marked are by John Muir, one of my favorite Naturalists and Heroes)

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