It’s all allegory in the mountains: the elevated view of the world from the top, the struggles we endure to get there, the things we take away. You can’t spend five minutes on a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway without having a mind-bending insight smack you right between the eyes like a wet wad of toilet paper.

So it was appropriate, at this intersection in our lives, to take what lessons the mountains had to give on the weekend we dropped our eldest child off at college. In the mountains.

It’s not like it came out of nowhere — we’ve been planning for this day pretty much since he came into the world. But still, the feels caught us a little off guard as we brought him to his dorm room, unpacked his stuff and then said our goodbyes: happy and proud, sad and empty, confronted with the reality of the passing years while bursting with hope for someone else’s future. We needed a good mountain allegory to make sense of it all.

The next day we rose before dawn, headed south on the Blue Ridge Parkway and hopped on the Linville Falls Trail.

At the first perch at the upper falls, about a half mile in, we stood on a beach made of rock and watched the water run from twin falls into a shallow pool, then rumble down a stone chute to disappear, roaring, into a deep gorge. At the next outpost, more than half a mile up, we could see the water’s violent introduction into the gorge. And from the very top, Erwin’s View, we understood that that the rushing waters leveled off into a placid brook that meandered through a mountain panorama so beautiful that even now as I type, I pause to close my eyes and remember the view.

The trees. The rocks. The water. The sky. It all comes together in an ancient symphony to remind us that the water always flows, the rocks slowly give, and that the further you get along the trail, the more it all makes sense.

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