The smell of pine and wet earth punctuates my childhood. Hours were spent journeying through the acreage attached to the home of my youth, building forts, chopping down saplings, playing pretend. When that wasn’t enough, we took to the local Parks. I grew up enamored with the history of the Bankhead National Forest, Oak Mountain State Park, Paul M Grist, and Desoto State Park. Sometimes it was just a day trip. Others, it was a weekend.

I’ve passed on a similar love of the outdoors to my oldest son and eventually, hopefully, my youngest as well. This weekend we took to Oak Mountain, a park I’m overly familiar with. A drive to the top of the mountain along a road paved decades ago, barely wide enough to fit two cars, was a conversation piece. “The road is older than I am,” I told him. I don’t know when that became a reference to time, but apparently I’m old enough to be a marker through time. Going by that, though, the road is way older than I am.

When we got to the top of the mountain, and the parking for Peavine Falls, we grabbed our lunch-packed bags and headed down the mountain. We were one of two cars at the top. We took our time, stopped to smell the roses, as it were, and climbed a few boulders.

When we finally reached the bottom, we were the only souls at Peavine, and the water was better than I’d seen it in years. Rushing over the surface of the rocks, and crashing into the clear pool below. It was truly an honor, and in that moment, my son and I just quietly watched the water splash down around. It gave us a cool breeze, and the moss and plant life that grew around it was gorgeous. Watching the water run away, down the valley floor, was enlightening. I saw the green plants, the trees, and the animals that came to drink.

People talk about their events and their emotions, and particularly as a young man I remember talking about being at “a low point.” The Bible mentioned it as being in a valley. But why is the valley the bad point?

Valleys are cut by streams, creeks, and rivers. Nutrients roll down the mountains to the soil below. Fields, forests, and farms that rest in valleys are the most lush. Why, then, are we not?

Perspective is a heck of a thing.

Being in the valley often means having shadows cast over us by the mountains, or perhaps the trees, that loom above us. But all too often we overlook the nutrients we get while we’re at the bottom. It’s in the valley that we get watered. We grow stronger. And we can summit the mountain again.

So, we spent that day in both a physical and a metaphorical valley, resting, recuperating, and soaking up the nutrients we would need to face the next mountain climb.

And we’re both all the better for it.

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