She walked along the trail, her dog pulling so hard on his leash that her gait was a dance between pulling back and moving forward. Every so often she would tire of this game and jerk hard on the leash with a harsh demand to her dog. It changed nothing.
The air was cool, and the moisture from the rain was lifting, swept up from the dark firs. The low clouds were thinning enough in places to show the last blue of the day. She was glad for her sweater, and for the movement of her body. She pulled the mountain air into her lungs in long, slow breaths, relishing the scent of the firs mingled with rain-soaked earth. No wonder Boris pulls so hard on the leash, she thought, this forest is thick with new smells for his fine nose.
The trailhead sign said the hike to the overlook was 1.2 miles. She had grabbed a little flashlight, just in case. She had considered not stopping, continuing on to her aunt’s house some two more hours down the road, but it was so rare that she came this way, through these mountains, so rare that she visited her aunt anyway, that she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The storm was clearing and the light was fading. She guessed she had forty-five minutes before dark.
The clouds continued to lift, the dog continued to pull. The trail went over ledges of rock that jutted out of the earth, and there were puddles everywhere, on the trail, even in the little dimples in the gray rocks. Some of these caught the turning light like jewels. Behind the clouds the sky was turning yellow, and everything that could hold light seemed to want a piece of this sunset.
She began to quicken her step. She thought it would be marvelous to reach the overlook in this light. Her shoes were wet, and her toes were catching the cold. Boris’ slick red coat quivered with excitement. They began to run together, two animals, their breathing quickened, their bodies alert to the changes in the terrain, the movement of air across their faces stimulating. They had found their music.
The trail steepened, their gate slowed. They began to climb up the rocks, the dog clambering up, his claws scraping at the rock, she searching for footholds. Their eagerness did not dissipate. The light had become golden, and a cathedral of clouds opened up above them. The air was imbued with reverence. She breathed deep and hard, pushing herself to reach the pinnacle of the trail.
And then she was there. The trees thinned, and the wild blueberry bushes that had lined the trail parted. She was standing at the edge of a cliff, looking out onto dark green slopes stretching out far beneath her, licked with remnants of clouds, that shifted over the trees, then rose before dissipating in the clearing breeze. The Blue Ridge mountains stood as giants on the horizon. And everywhere there was golden light and above clouds holding the gold and laced with pink. The last drops of rain, caught on pine needles and grasped by the points of blueberry leaves, hung like tiny orbs of sun. The air was alive with light. Its cool movement kissed her cheeks.
She would not think. She would not try and photograph it. She just stood there, breathing the beauty into her body.