Driving Home from Wildacres

After a week of teaching up at Wildacres, I drive home by the Parkway. How I always go home after a week up there. It's slow and gives me time to transition. I love the section from Wildacres to Mount Mitchell. I'm driving what was our mother's 2002 Civic, which works hard to climb these mountains. I drive with the windows down, letting in the cool and the mist. I look for the dead tree I like to visit, a gnarled old Druid tree that could be right out of Harry Potter. Today I don't see it. With a little pang I realize it's finally been taken down by the park service or toppled by fierce winds. When I come round the bend, there it is. Still with us. I pull over and walk around it, documenting another year. It's so so quiet up here as if the mist soaks up sound. I hear the click of shifting gears. A lone bicyclist comes around the bend, pedaling steadily. He's breathing hard but nods and says hello. Up here it feels like we're the only two people in the world. I watch him make the incline and disappear over the rise. It's all downhill from here.