Jen Jeffrey: Snow And Spontaneity

Sunday, December 1, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey
Snow and icicles surround the waterwheel at Cades Cove
Snow and icicles surround the waterwheel at Cades Cove
- photo by Jen Jeffrey

My "planned schedule" changed a little this week as it was Thanksgiving holiday.  I took the day to have dinner with family at my sister’s house in Harrison. With it being the month’s end I needed to work on my lineup for next month and try to get my stories in for the week, but I think the holiday and the turkey feast weakened my fervor to do my work this weekend and it was coming slow.

When my photographer friend Mark made the suggestion that we take a day trip to catch a little snow, it was without any hesitation that I said yes. I think my willingness to go surprised him because usually I will only get out after days of planning or I don’t get out at all. I like to leave room for the things that might go wrong with a story and have plenty of room to juggle what I need to, and, for a writer, sometimes creativity isn’t always there.

In my column, I just tell it like it is and I don’t mind living my life out loud. I don’t sugar-coat things or try to hide too much because I feel we all are on this earth making mistakes and experiencing growth spurts. I can share my experiences unashamedly because I feel that God gave me permission to be ‘me’ and I do that confidently with the learning curve that is given to all of us. But when writing honestly about ‘playing hooky’ from work (or at least veering from my schedule that I make for myself) and knowing that my boss reads my stories before anyone else does - that is the one area where I cringe as I write truthfully.

All that my friend had to say was the word ‘snow’ and the four-year-old child in me wanted to play. I had to do some juggling with stories this week and, normally, I would press to get everything done because I felt behind, but for some reason – perhaps with it being a holiday week, I just stopped juggling. I didn’t think about trying to fit something in a certain amount of time that I like to stick with – I just said ‘yes’ and I had one hour to get ready to leave.

On writing days, I literally have the ‘Oscar Madison’ look (of the Odd Couple) and I sit in my yoga pants and sweatshirt – I just don’t smoke a cigar to complete the look. Without planning, it is unlike me to just stop working on a project and shower and take off somewhere, but it was a holiday and I wanted to see snow! I knew I would just work extra hard over the weekend and catch up.

Mark came and we headed for the Smokies. He had heard that there had been snowfall in Cades Cove and he thought it would make a nice photo op. With only one hour to be ready, I did not have my ‘baby’ camera charged so I planned to use my cellphone cam, unless Mark had his extra ‘grown up’ camera for me to use.

After a couple of hours of driving, we hit a Starbucks to stave off any withdrawal symptoms Mark would have without his daily intake of his favorite caffeinated beverage.

Mark has a very small car and with having my purse (which is big enough to carry a small pet) in the floorboard, I didn’t have much leg room. My legs kept going to sleep and I kept shifting them and crossing them.  Before entering Cades Cove we decided to also grab something to eat since it would be hours once we began driving the trail. We stopped at this little place called “Miss Lily’s” on River Road in Townsend.

On the way up I saw several signs and license plates that had my God-sign number “22” but I didn’t say anything to Mark. When we parked the car, we were next to a car with a license tag that had 22 in it. I smiled to myself as we walked up the steps to this adorable place when I realized my left leg was asleep and it was painfully tingling. The only thing I can do when that happens (to avoid unzipping my body and jumping out of it) is to just ‘be still’. So I placed my hand on the bannister post and I quietly informed Mark we needed to ‘wait just a sec’.

As I awkwardly admitted my plight to him, I noticed the numbers on the post displaying the address of Miss Lily’s being 122. After that, I ended up telling Mark that I had been seeing 22s all day, but I only explained it away as being my lucky number. I didn’t go into the many stories where God gave me that special number and when I see a sequence of them one after the other, it usually is when something significant is around the corner, though I never know what. Mark said hopefully, “Well, maybe it means we will see some bears today.” He had taken some nice photos once before at Cades Cove of bears and he got fairly close.

My leg recovered and the hostess seated us right away. This place was so precious! I wish we had a restaurant like it in Chattanooga. I got a grilled Portobello mushroom sandwich but was still sipping on my Starbucks (I am not a grown up coffee drinker because I wait until it cools off before I will drink it). My sandwich was the most awesome sandwich I had ever tasted – it beat any burger, any ham or turkey or anything else on two slices of bread.

After leaving that place, we were soon entering the park at Cades Cove. The temperature had gotten colder and there was snow. It wasn’t a lot of snow but it was enough to have a nice wintry feel just a couple of days before December. Ice cycles were adorning the rocks and the fields were covered with a thin bed of snow. Mark turned the seat heaters on, but the sun was out so I wasn’t really that cold. I was wearing a thick sweat shirt hoodie and a T-shirt underneath. We drove along following the trail of cars in the park and we were going so slow that I suggested to Mark to put the top down on his car.

We got out and took photos of a small white church. Just being out in the snowy atmosphere chilled my bones just a tad and the heated seat felt nice when we got back in the car. Mark put the top down and I was able to snap a few photos as we drove. The sun was so bright, we put on our sunglasses. Mine were prescription sunglasses that I use to drive because I don’t see things far away. I don’t like wearing my glasses because of the frustration of having them blur things if I want to see up close or from side to side – so I really do miss a lot of clarity as I view things without my glasses and my life is a blur. With my sunglasses on, I could see everything so clearly. I saw every shape, every contrast down to the bark and the moss on the trees overhead as I looked up! I saw snow in the shadows and valleys of the mountains where the sun wasn’t shining. There were trees that had fallen from previous storms with snow resting across them - it was so beautiful!

On my last outing to a beautiful area near Hiwassee, it was ‘the best day ever’, but I was beginning to think this was the ‘other best day ever’. There were deer scattered in the fields and some would even come close to the passing cars. I looked far out into the woods to see if I saw any bears. The sun still kept us pretty warm, even with the top down. Mark turned the heater off on his side but left mine on.

I didn’t know that he turned his off and my buns were getting a little beyond toasted. I finally told him that my buns were flame-broiled. He told me how to turn it on and off. I am not one to take liberties with other people’s things, so this was one of those moments that I chose discomfort unnecessarily had I just spoken up to begin with. Another moment was when we got out to photograph the deer. Mark handed me his spare camera, but after I turned it on I could not see anything with it. Mark noticed me fumbling to figure it out and asked if I wanted to use the viewfinder. I said yes, so he fixed that for me and he began taking photos with his camera.

I still didn’t see anything on the viewfinder and thought that maybe I was supposed to push a button. I didn’t dare touch any buttons on that expensive camera for fear I could mess it up. So I just kept snapping away with my cell phone. When we got back in the car, I told Mark that I still couldn’t see anything on the viewfinder. He pointed out that in order to see -I must take off the lens cap. Ah. Yeah, I missed that one.

We pulled off to the side again to take pictures of a water wheel and of an old farmer making sorghum with real sugar cane and with a mule on a circular pulley contraption (for lack of the real terminology). We both gravitated to the mules but then separated on our own creative paths. By this time, my fingers were numb. It was in the low 30s and after being out in the snow-covered grounds near the water, we were both freezing. We headed back to the car and put the top back up. The sun was beginning to fade and we took a few more shots of cabins up the road before leaving the area.

Mark went in one direction and I headed toward an old barn with a loft. There was a ladder and I had to be careful climbing up to the loft with my loaned camera. I made it and snapped a few photos from above. Mark came by just as I headed back down and I asked him to hold the camera while I got down.

We didn’t see any bears, but we saw plenty of deer and the highlight of the trip for me was the snow (and Miss Lily’s). The drive back to Chattanooga was dark and quieter as I pondered all the sights I saw. Mark has been a good buddy to me for the past few years, but as we share these explorative outings being a part of the things we both love - he is becoming a best friend. To add to last week’s ‘thankfuls’ I am thankful for snow, spontaneity and socializing.

jen@jenjeffrey.com


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