by Justin Abell

     When ever I need to gather my thoughts I usually turn to the forces of nature. I have always been fascinated by the way the world works, but I have trouble opening my mind to this fascination when I am around other people or caught up in this crazy digital age that we live in. When ever I do get a chance to escape into one of my private roads of thought I have found that it helps if the elements of nature are unbalanced.

     When asked what my favorite place is to drift off into this state of mind I can only say the mountains. I have lived in Western North Carolina all my life and I could never choose a mountain more beautiful then the next. I suppose the Blue Ridge Parkway, with its windy roads and glorious look outs, could be considered one of my favorite places of solitude. The rain always seems to settle me down and helps me to put my problems in order. There is an extreme industrial silence when a storm hits the mountains. I can stand right next to the road at a look out and never hear a car or another human voice for hours. When a car does drive by itís not a terrible thing - itís more of a reality reminder that puts me back on track with my problems. When the rain becomes too much to handle I retreat to the safety of my car. I sit in my car and analyze the paths of raindrops racing down my windshield. The constant banging of water against my hood becomes music to my ears. I canít say exactly what it is about the mountains or the rain, but somehow I always leave with a better attitude and a clearer mind.

     The other place I can find peace is while snowboarding on freshly laid powder, no matter what mountain. The feeling I get from this is nothing like that in the rain on the Parkway. I believe thinking on a snowboard is powered by adrenaline. The sense of touch plays a big part in solving my problems in such cold weather. My face tingles as if a thousand tiny razors are pricking me in the face, my hands and toes are numb but not unbearable, and my legs are tired, but not about to give up. With all this going on it seems impossible that I can get any thinking done at all. But when I get back in the lodge I feel the same way as when I exit the Parkway.

     For me the relaxation of self and thought can happen almost anywhere just as long as the elevation and the elements are in my favor. Many people have a certain spot they can go and, no matter what, they can rely on that spot for help. I prefer to leave my spot in a mental state, because one never knows when that spot could disappear.

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