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Posts Tagged ‘Great Smoky Mountain National Park’


The perfect antidote to the election debacle blues is being part of a group of humanity volunteering to help come back from the catastrophic fires that consumed thousands of acres of Smoky Mountain wilderness, devoured homes and stole the lives of people and animals, while creating homelessness and unemployment. Helping others restored my spirit today.

packing1People helping people is the gift of disasters, if there could possibly be one. My heart swelled with admiration at the hundreds of people who labored today to be of service.   We unpacked bags, built boxes, sorted and stuffed necessities into the new boxes and helped to traffic them through to those in dire need. We were a human assembly line that had one purpose in mind. Get it done quickly and efficiently so it all can be used.packers1

The first stop is registration at the volunteer center where we filled out forms, showed official identity and were then given numbers and assigned to locations. I am #04016 sent to the distribution warehouse.

titanicSurrealism begins when we pull into a warehouse provided pro-bono by the owners situated across the street from the “Titanic” attraction in this popular tourist city of Pigeon Forge. It’s the honky-tonk Vegas of Tennessee, part of the triad of visitors’ destinations that includes Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Or most recently known as the home of the devastating fires.

The National Guard is here in their military attire. shrinkwrappalletsThey’re the transportation system of the highly organized operation at the warehouse. They’re the guys unloading the trucks filled with donations and sending them through to the warehouse. Then they pick up the finished sorted goods, take them out to reload trucks then sent to the “department store” building for a deeper re-sort into children’s clothes, men, women, warm weather, winter, food, necessities.receiving

Our jobs in the warehouse are to unload the bags and sort the contents into food, beverages, toiletries, used and new clothes and winter clothes. Dave somebody is in charge of the warehouse and he’s a volunteer who’s turned that warehouse into a well-oiled, efficient assembly line of stuff and volunteers.

packers1 createboxAll our materials have been donated, including the building centers of organization. Then there are pallets, boxes, dollies, tape, magic markers and food for the volunteers that are plentiful. Since this disaster has not been officially declared a disaster area, there’s no money to spend. So generous people are rising to the occasion. It’s truly awe-inspiring.

My friend Jo and I first taped together boxes. And when there were none left we joined the groups who were filling the boxes with sorted materials. First beverages and food and then on to clothing. These groups were all self-gathering. We just went to the marked areas and started working, strangers becoming friends united by a cause. Newly stuffed and marked boxes get stacked on pallets and when the stack gets about five feet high, National Guardsmen shrink wrap the pallets and take them outside to be loaded into trucks. In it comes through the back, and out it goes from the front. I talked to a man from Cincinnati who used a week’s vacation time to work in the center. He’s been coming to Gatlinburg since he was a kid and he felt driven to participate in the restoration. Companies sent their employees to help. Private citizens gave their time. We were all equal in this mission to serve.packers3

packer4I am overwhelmed by the generosity of neighbors. No partisanship, no religious affiliation, no discrimination. Just compassionate humans who recognize that there but by the grace of circumstance go I.

stuffedboxes

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As I substituted my Capri pants and tank tops for long jeans and sweaters, I realized that October is a month about transitions, especially here in East Tennessee where we’re most fortunate to experience four distinct seasons.  Fall here is exquisite and lasts longer than the hiccup it takes for our northern neighbors to go from hot to cold.  Here the leaves tease us before bursting forth in splendor.  The days surprise us with their fickleness between hot and warm before adding cool into the mix of “guess what you’re getting today?”  And now that it’s my job to pay attention to what this month offered my life, I’ve realized how this season created transitions of all kinds that define the rhythm of life.  October means I take one more shell out of my bowl of 12 that bids farewell to another month of my life.  Amazing how they’re flying by.  The older I get the faster they fly.  Hmmm, didn’t my  mother always tell me that?

Let’s start with the colors because our landscape of forested mountains and meandering rivers invite tourists from around the country to leaf peep with us.  I often marveled to my hiking partner, Jo, that “we live here!”  After calling ETN home for 16 years I’m still breath taken by the kind of scenery most people vacation to see.

Autumn in the Smoky Mountain National Park should be considered among the natural wonders of the world.  Each Thursday in October Jo and I drove an hour to reach a trailhead for our 7 plus mile hike.  The most talented landscapers in the world would be challenged to match the natural magnificence we experienced each week.

The streams, wildflowers, forest and waterfalls offered the kinds of pictures that inspire great painters.  It’s awe inspiring to recognize that no human put this landscape together, other than to clear out debris blocking trails.  In fact, cascading falls are so impressive that a tourist was rumored to ask a ranger when the water gets turned off.  Surely something so impressive couldn’t have just appeared!

Paying attention put me in touch with the awe-inspiring power of nature and the recognition that we are of it too.  Like the natural landscape, humans go through changes when we allow our bodies to dance with the season.  So do animals.

Horses at the Rescue started growing their winter coats.  Their turnout shifts changed from staying in to escape the daytime heat to going outside and loving up the chill.  Horses become quite playful when temperatures drop below 50 as though their sleeping pills wore off, freeing them to kick up their hooves in glee!

My 11-year old dog Pogo came alive too.  He had a resurgence of energy on his morning walks, running up and down hillsides as though his joints no longer ached.  Nine years ago he was the canine version of the Energizer Bunny, running all day only to finally collapse into sleep.  Crisp fall mornings allowed me to experience this joyful pup again.

I also found that my interest in heading to a favorite greenway with my bike seemed to wane, even on the warm days.  Instead, my walks grew longer and my yoga classes more frequent.  Beverages changed from ice water to hot decaf, and for lunch, soup replaced a sandwich.  I traded my sandals for shoes and socks and pulled my jackets out of their hiding places for those chilly mornings.

Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have long recognized body changes with the seasons.  So do yoga practitioners.  I’ve found that by paying attention, I’ve felt those transitions too.

What did October bring you?

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