Tonight, I begin the drive home...
It is 1,600 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Asheville, North Carolina.
Someone here in New Mexico once asked me about what the mountains of North Carolina are like.
"It's a wonderful place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit there."
It was the most true answer that I could give. I've only been home once in three years. I remember gazing out the window of the Greyhound in childlike wonder at the beautiful green carpet of plants growing heroically from the patches of soil on the granite cliff faces. I remember the electric charge in the air, and the smell of an impeding thunderstorm. I remember the smell of moist, rich soil deep in the forests. I remember the sight of honeysuckle, the plant that will always be associated with my childhood in my mind.
I just hadn't been there in so long... And it hurt so much when I had to leave.
The mountains of North Carolina are my home. I grew up running through the valleys, climbing the rock faces, eating blackberries straight off the plant, and finally throwing my sweaty young body into a mountain creek before I went home to sleep to the sounds of summer thunderstorms pounding against the tin roof of our house. I grew up reading books deep in the woods, lying in the shade next to a bubbling waterfall. I grew up in a place where I could learn to enjoy my own company. Where you can trek through the mountains for days without encountering another human being. Where the nights aren't lit by harsh sodium streetlights, but by the soft glow of the moon, the stars, and the clouds of fireflies blinking their mysterious messages into the night. There is an energy that fills me there that I have never been able to find anywhere else.
Tonight, I leave here to go home. But I can't stay. Yet.
My future wife is going to finally meet my family. She is going to get to visit the places where I had lived and laughed as a child. She'll see the creeks I used to swim in, the cliffs and trees I would climb. She'll see the rolling, blue-tinted hills on the horizon that will always bring the warmth of home into my heart.
I'M GOING HOME!!!
And this time, I'm not going alone.