Rumi and I leave Kituwah on our way to Cades Cove. After you get past Fontana, there’s not much to distract you from the fact that this is a land of water.
The old river carves through the formidable obstacles of rugged mountains before, finally, reaching the gentler hills of Tennessee. At one point, I see the early morning sun shining over a dam and a horseshoe bend in the river. I swerve into a small parking area and jump out to take a picture, while some cheesy Paul Winter New Age saxophone is still wafting from my truck.
If the motorcycle riders posing for photos with their bikes are annoyed by my choice of music, they don’t let on.
While I line up the shot, the poet ambles over toward them.
They’re suspicious. You know in a few minutes, after we go our separate ways, one of them will make a comment about "that raghead back at the overlook." The other will say, "did you notice the other guy shooting pictures of THE DAM?" And they'll both say, "we should have taken down their tag number. No telling what the hell they're up to."
Anyhow, Raghead asks the guys if they like to fish.
"Yeah," and they leave it at that, sour looks all around.
But Rumi continues. With his hands he mimes fish, swimming:
Each of these fish has a Jonah inside. They sweeten the bitter sea. They shape-shift the mountains, But with their actions neither bless nor curse.
They are more obvious, And yet more secret than that.
Mix grains from the ground they walk With streamwater. Put that salve On your eyes and you will see
What you have despised in yourself As a thorn opens into a rose.
I get my shot, fold up the tripod, and motion to the poet. When I open the door of the truck, the music rolls out across the parking area. Paul Winter has gotten to his duet with the whales. Paul Winter is tooting away on his horn and the whales are answering back. It’s pretty cool, but what else would you expect me to say, what with a quartz crystal hanging around my neck? Cheesy New Age saxophone or not, Paul Winter is OK with me, but I’ll bet the motorcycle guys would prefer Kenny Chesney.
Rumi and I roll on. It's still a long way to Cades Cove....