Chasing A Five Year Old Me
This weekend I found myself alone at the foot of Stone Mountain in Georgia just outside of Atlanta. The area has become a tourist trap of crappy shops, rides and turkey legs, but behind all of that remains this ancient and amazing piece of granite.
As I child I spent a few years growing up literally in its shadow, and my love of hiking mountains was surly born there. I caught my first fish at four years old beneath the mountain. The history of my family was revealed in the carvings of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. A picture of the mountain was placed above my bed as a child, hence Don Williams' lyrics resonate with me. My mother took us for picnics in the trees and my father insisted we climb to the top when I was five.
The hike is not strenuous. You remain flat footed on the granite the entire gradual slope and anyone from a three year old to an 80 year old should be able to summit. But, when you are five everything seems bigger, longer and more difficult. My memories from five years old would have me to believe we spent the entire day forging the hike, though I'm sure it was nothing like that.
This weekend I was at the top in under 20 minutes. After only climbing Colorado 14ers in the thin air, cold, and snow the last few years I laughed at the time to climb just under a thousand feet.
I hiked with my ear phones on and listening to my iPod. Don't ask me why but I was listening to New Zealand alternative rock bands as it seemed to fit my mood, melancholy and reflective. Certain views along the trek seemed to bring back old recollections and I smiled and laughed several times on the way up as I chased the steps of a five year old me.
At the top I found the shade of a old tree that had forced it's roots through the rocks and offered some needed shade from a hot and humid late Georgia afternoon. I looked at the city and thought about the past week of meetings and the current pressing needs of next week. I looked below the mountain and thought about the countless lessons learned and moments lived from 35 plus years ago. I thought about my father who was turning 70 the next day and his commitment to constantly taking me outdoors. I thought about the dozens of evenings my mom spent with my brother and I having dinner at the base of the carvings.
I heard the still small voice of God that whispered His great pleasure in what He created; much in the same way He did to Job. His words in my mind started with, "Have you considered..."
I had taken the kids up the cable car at Stone Mountain years ago to share with them a little of my past, but the reality is, there is no way for anyone to understand our personal pasts. Our historical moments, their impact, and what we do with them is up to each of us.
I played the old Don Williams song "Good Ole Boys Like Me" as I drove up to Northern Georgia and each phrase seem to speak of my past: growing up in the south, my lost accent from time in Chicago, listening to old disc jockeys like Larry Lujack, and my carrier in radio. Sometimes you have to wonder if we don't try to unintentionally live out the songs we hear.
When time allows, go chase the five year old you. It's an interesting hike.
The lyrics from Don Williamsn"Good Ole Boys Like Me":
When I was a kid Uncle Remus he put me to bed
With a picture of Stonewall Jackson above my head
Then daddy came in to kiss his little man
With gin on his breath and a Bible in his hand
He talked about honor and things I should know
Then he'd stagger a little as he went out the door
I can still hear the soft Southern winds in the live oak trees
And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me
Hank and Tennessee
I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be
So what do you do with good ole boys like me
Nothing makes a sound in the night like the wind does
But you ain't afraid if you're washed in the blood like I was
The smell of cape jasmine thru the window screen
John R. and the Wolfman kept me company
By the light of the radio by my bed
With Thomas Wolfe whispering in my head
When I was in school I ran with kid down the street
But I watched him burn himself up on bourbon and speed
But I was smarter than most and I could choose
Learned to talk like the man on the six o'clock news
When I was eighteen, Lord, I hit the road
But it really doesn't matter how far I go