When people say, “go to your happy place,” where do you go? I transport myself to Highlands, North Carolina, a small town just south of the Georgia border. So just south, the winding roads dips in and out of each state. I went to summer camp on top of a mountain for most of my adolescence. It shaped me and taught me how to be and think for myself. I’m not nostalgic for much–probably a flaw stemming from how I’m always looking for the next thing versus living in the moment–I don’t wistfully look back at the Saturday morning cartoons from the 80s, I don’t long for the golden days of high school…but summer camp? I miss it.
During one of my last years there, I was on top of The Tower after we’d come back from a hike. The Tower was what it sounds like: a tower. A tower on top of a mountain. The summer camp was also called The Mountain. I like my nostalgia easily categorized.
Southern summer storms would quickly sweep through the curves of the Smoky Mountains. A downpour announced itself with a clap of thunder and campers would head from the field to the craft barn for shelter. After ten minutes of huddling, we’d emerge and continue on with a now muddier game of Capture the Flag.
I found myself alone on the tower when one such storm crept in. It was quiet and you could see the span of three states from up there. Sure, it all just looked like mountains, but it was vast. And in the distance was the storm. The clouds grey, staining the otherwise blue sky. Behind me, an oblivious clear day.
The clouds moved. Swiftly. And they approached me. I sat on the wooden tower staring at the mist coming at me. The trees picked up speed in their swaying. The wind carried the storm closer.
Then I found myself surrounded by grey as if I dove into a murky ocean of milk. No longer could I see the mountains that I knew were all around me. No longer could I see anything more than the railing that prevented me from leaping out onto the cloud itself.
I sat in that cloud as it moved past me.
Now, when I close my eyes to seek calm, that cloud brings me peace. There was quiet and stillness, but its fluid embrace continued to move through the mountains and past the tower. It didn’t stop for me, but I got to be a part of its journey.