When I was younger – before I moved to North Carolina – this is what I imagined it was like here. The storied slopes of Black Mountain, covered in pine, maple and a soothing pallette of greens, welcomes us. As we pass through the gates of The Cove, we also enter upon a gently curving drive up the mountain that bounces our vision from left to right, then left again, as pockets of sunlight dapple atop the purest of moss along the roadside. And far into the woods the gentle sprinkling of a stream flows towards us, and begins to dance upon our hearts. In our minds it is a small bit of Heaven where, if only for a day or two, as husband and wife we can rest and renew our souls.
As we drive up the mountain we soon arrive at the Pilgrim’s Inn, our home for the next few days. Although it’s a modern facility, the generous use of stone and natural woods on both the interior and exterior blend it well into nature’s landscape.
“Fresh air” whispers my wife. “No television” I reply thankfully. Both much needed after the past few months.
As I write this, I am sitting on the Inn’s veranda, laid with stone, listening to yet another stream flow by. No cell towers hover above. No traffic mars the distance. Just the gentle hammering of a few workers making repairs on a nearby structure. Their subtle rhythm ticking off the seconds as I sit.
Where do you go after you see it all?
Throughout our marriage the mountains of Western North Carolina have been a retreat. A special place we go to remember why we chose each other in marriage and to renew our desire to be strong stewards of the world He created for us.
We honeymooned in Blowing Rock 15 years ago. That was our first real adventure together. Since then we have traveled the length of the Appalachian Mountains in the Tarheel state. We’ve been blessed to visit most every knook and cranny stretching from the dense national forests of Nantahala and Pisgah in the south, through the Great Smoky Mountains, and northward to Roan and Stone Mountains.
We’ve driven the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway – and enjoyed the wonderful variety of small and quirky communities running from Cherokee to Little Switzerland, Grandfather Mountain, and into the foothills of Mt. Airy (better known as Mayberry). I’m very happy (but somewhat sad at the same time) to say that – we’ve seen it all.
A happy little accident
Yet The Cove is different. While we quietly observed God’s echo in all of those places, The Cove speaks a deeper language. It has soul, so to speak. That’s why we came back.
As we walk the crushed stone path from the inn up to the dining hall, the breath of nature lowers our defenses – those we put up against each other, unknowingly, over the months. My wife smiles, I do as well.
Suddenly she stops. I hesitate but follow her lead. She lovingly reaches down and picks up a very small pine cone.
“I remember when I was a little child . . .” she tells me. And recounts a childhood memory dear to her involving similar small cones that littered the landscape of her native Thailand.
Then she laughs – something I adore in her but seldom see when we are alone due to the grind of daily life that often mutes our expressions much more than we realize.
I laugh. As God intended. And expand on her memories with my own. Back and forth we toss our thoughts, each volley landing sweetly. I grab her hand and hold it tight. We continue up the trail.
Again, as God intended
I often urge my readers to experience life, and their travels, as a series of happy little accidents. Each a singular moment on which our true purpose in life is partially revealed. But, when taken collectively, form the pivot on which the character of our soul is eventually shaped.
So it is with the tiniest of cones that litter our path this day. A singular moment. A happy little accident that breaches the barriers around our hearts. The time together is short but heals many wounds for me. An amazing feat: as God intended. I hope it does for her as well.
Love is a strange thing. There is God’s love for us. So much He was willing to sacrifice His only son in our place. But unlike Abraham and Isaac, there was no last minute reprieve. There is the love born of friendship. Which is often more shallow than we accept. And there is the love of a parent for a child. That one, I must admit, I can not fully understand since I’ve never fathered a child.
But then there is the love between a husband and a wife. I believe this is a sacred gift. It is from God. And it is eternal. This is the kind of love her laughter rekindles in me. One I understand.
I could write many things about The Cove; it’s warm and inviting people, the comforting architecture, and the Creation around it. But today I won’t. Today The Cove is something different. It is home to a simple gift of love, given to a husband, intended for his wife; born from my wife’s laughter. A happy little accident for the soul.
“Subscribe” and “Like” to follow our upcoming series on the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove.