By Sara Huffman
I’ve lived in Western North Carolina for almost my entire life. The mountains are my home, my medicine, a part of my soul. And so it amazes me that I am still learning and discovering new things about this home I love. Witnessing blue ghost fireflies, for example. Electric blue and drifting lazily just above the forest floor, blue ghosts are abundant in the Green River Valley, and they show up for about a week at the end of May or beginning of June. I saw these blue ghosts for the first time last year. As I stepped into the darkness of the woods at dusk from the dimming light of our back field, I stared up the hillside in awe as an ocean of tiny lights flowed around me, giving the impression that the woods had become a glowing, slow-moving river. I stood in silence, and my only thought was to reach for a hand to hold to confirm that I was not experiencing this natural magic alone. I needed to feel a connection to someone else in that moment.
Now, a year later, it has happened again. We were night hiking with our Senior Mentors during staff training a few weeks ago, and Senior Mentor Star pointed out foxfire in the trickling headwaters of the Green River. Another light producing phenomenon, foxfire is dull brown in the daylight but a soft blue at night. How is it that in all of my days spent playing in the piney woods behind my house or my 17 summers at camp I have never seen these details? Were they under my nose all along? Or does Green River produce an abundance of these small natural miracles?
One of my favorite poets, Mary Edgar, once expressed these sentiments:
“Youth sometimes outgrows the thrill of surprise, or assumes a blasé attitude, while adults often lose completely the glory and lustre which wonder gives to life, and it becomes for them dull and monotonous. Yet there are many fortunate individuals who continue to experience all through their lives the adventure of living. They behold a universe so vast and amazing that the only possible response is an attitude of surprise and expectancy.”
At GRP, we are a community that serves “bright, curious, and creative” beings. In my “adult” life, I have uncovered my own sense of curiosity and wonder. I’m pretty sure it was always there, reaching out and searching for discoveries, but I was only formally introduced to it in my most recent memory. I study new subjects and attempt new hobbies to challenge myself and grow, and I do this consciously and willingly, rather than begrudgingly as is typical in youth. And then there are those times when I stumble across rare finds during an evening walk without looking, proof that the earth still keeps secrets.
How thrilling and pleasantly unsettling to know that life will never be stagnant, that we can always learn new things, and that we can still be surprised with the life we thought we knew? I hope that you still wonder about things.