When my dog Roadie and I leave the front door behind at 6:05 a.m. for the morning walk, it is just a shade lighter outside than pitch-black. Here in the Nantahala National Forest — a temperate rainforest — virtually every morning begins with the mountains permeated by mist.
The fog is cool and luminescent, providing the only light. As dawn encroaches and the pupils dilate, the sourceless light becomes only slightly brighter. Using a penlight only makes matters worse; like headlights in dense night fog, the result is only brighter fog.
Air is humid and fresh with a thousand scents: conifers, deciduous trees, ferns, wildflowers, mushrooms, molds, decay. Roadie’s nose tells him a hundred thousand things I would never understand. He pokes. He prods. He investigates.
I breathe it in. I walk. I walk by faith; not by sight — because there isn’t enough light to walk by sight. Roadie is simply a pure-ebony smudge in a setting of charcoal grey. I can barely make out his goofy-looking sideways walk when he reaches the end of his leash. Oddly, even the blacktop appears lighter than tree-trunks or leafy plants. It’s a darkness that tells lies about light, but shares sweet secrets about the wild.
Unlike the views from a few vistas on our evening walk, no distant hills or peaks are visible.
But they are alive, because you can hear them. Crickets, at first. A few peeper frogs who have unsuccessfully dragged the mating call on all night down the hill by the stream feeding Scott’s Creek. Occasionally, the sound of a rig downshifting to climb the hill on distant 441; or a sleepy driver wandering momentarily onto the rumble strips at the side of the pavement. Once in a while, the notes of the first-awakening songbird of the day.
Before the day begins, the world is new. The morning’s bad news has not been seen yet on the television or in the newspaper on the front walk. The tweets and facebook posts of loneliness, pain, stupidity, regret, anger and orneriness have not yet been read. The uncultured wails of country, rock or rap have not yet been heard on the car radio.
Each day has a chance.
Each day has potential.
Each day has a warm, waiting home with sleeping, loving family still tucked cozily under their covers at the end of the return trail.
The woodland light continues to brighten as Roadie and I pause so I can close the front door behind us to grind the beans and perk the coffee.
Whatever the day brings, each day is going to be a good day.
We’ve decided, Roadie and me.