It seemed to me at the time that I had stumbled upon the Last Homely House.
That rainy, misty day, I wandered in my car like Tolkien’s Bilbo on his way to Rivendell. Upward through the North Carolina mountains, around one bend and still another, finally making a slow decent, I found this small stone-wood-built, 50-year-old house above 4,000 feet.
The property that day was deep within a rain cloud. Surrounded by close-knit Smoky Mountain peaks, it seemed to float upon a lofty, mystic sea. Like Bilbo, once I’d arrived there, I never wanted to leave. We purchased the home shortly after.
Today, I write you from a back porch where I can see and hear so many things.
I see tiny mountain homes embedded into the landscape across airy divides. I see the bulbous, green contour of hills rolling before me with some other-worldly symmetry. I see the hills change—under traveling light and shadow, beneath rolling mists and the horizontal passage of rain clouds. I’m actually immersed in the weather here compared to the distant sea-level spectator. The sky is more focused up here as well—the richer colors, the effect of light, the personality of each visiting cloud. It’s no exaggeration to say the heavens here are closer.
The wildlife is abundant as you might expect. I’ve seen a few black bears up just a bit higher. Around the house, there are several large, white-tailed rabbits that make me want to pick up the book, Watership Down to discover where they’re headed. I’ve counted at least ten species of birds who are not shy around humans when gorging on our feeders. There are chipmunks and butterflies and black snakes, honey bees, bumble bees, and benign wasps. I hear the rumor of rodents too, but they must keep to themselves.
The sounds are constant, but are in no way annoying like in the city. The wind sighs and saunters here and there, roosters crow well beyond the waking hours, hound dogs bellow, humming birds buzz, the other birds chirp and caw and chatter. There are the sounds of men, but they’re usually distant and often hard to place, whether above or below or from any certain direction: disembodied voices, lawn mowers, weed eaters, the slow roll of cars over gravel. It all seems a part rather than an invasive clamor.
As I’ve written previously, I moved to the mountains to pursue Thoreau’s deliberate, essential living, to discover what more direct contact with God’s creation had to teach me. Whether into the mountains or into God’s presence, I’m always longing to go higher and deeper. And now God has granted me a higher place to dwell, to stop and rest, to listen and know—about as high and deep a place as I’ve ever been able to call home.
Each step brings me closer—from the city to small town Main Street, from Main Street to this little piece of Rivendell up in the Smokies. Like Abraham, I have some sense of where I should journey next, but am never sure of the more distant destinations.
Discovering such a sense of place isn’t the end, of course. We also need a people and a purpose. Now that I’m here, I wonder what new people and purpose await me. Mostly though, I wonder whether this homely, heavenly place will have any lasting effect on my homely, wandering heart.
I’m patient to await such answers. For now, I’ll sit on this porch and rest in the certainty of gratitude—that I’d be so privileged to bear witness to this unfiltered glory.
This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.*
* Maltbie D. Babcock, This Is My Father’s World, 1901.
About John Michalak
An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.
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