A sunny day, a hint of spring and a desire to blow the cobwebs out of my mind could lead to only one conclusion — a drive to my favorite pondering place, the Chota and Tanasi Memorials at Vonore.

One of the many blessings of being self-employed and working from home is that I can usually pick up and take off whenever the wanderlust strikes. Writing can be done any time, but the sunshine and unseasonable warmth of a February day are only here for a moment, so I chose to seize the day rather that rattle the keyboard.

No one was around to disturb my solitude as I sat beside Tellico Lake at the place where a sumac tree grows. No one living, that is. Perhaps it’s my fertile imagination, but I often feel the spirits of those whose villages now lie beneath the lake waters.

It’s as if they are welcoming me to this sacred place — at least, it feels sacred to me. Something draws me here when I feel unsettled, a kinship with the Earth and the water and the souls of those who have passed this way before. The serenity is balm to a troubled and weary mind.

The lake itself is soothing, as well. Ripples driven by the insistent breeze lapped the shoreline or slid on to meet the deeper waters beyond.

I had never before thought of how much influence wind has on water until I watched the ripples and waves being pushed from one point to another.

The undulating movement, coupled with the gurgling of the water, can be hypnotic.

Add to that the wind sighing through the branches of denuded trees and stirring the dry leaves on the ground beneath, and I could easily have fallen asleep.

The flutter of wings attracted my attention even as my eyes were beginning to close. A bird landed in the midst of the sumac’s gnarled branches, and I quietly, slowly, reached for the camera.

Even with the careful movements, the bird was startled and flew to another tree nearby. I bided my time, figuring he would be back to feed on the sumac’s dried berries. Soon he did, perching on a branch and pecking at the berries in a cluster beside his head before contorting himself to try the delicacies hanging below him. I couldn’t see him well enough to identify him other than to see a pale brown breast with black dots. When he turned his head, a small flash of red showed on top of his neck.

When I go out on excursions like this, I always pray on the way that God will show me something beautiful, open my eyes to some small blessing I’d otherwise miss. He’s always faithful to reward me with a wildflower, often hidden in plain sight, or a trio of deer or a colorful or fanciful bug perched on a twig. On this day, he showed me the “redneck” bird first, then a short piece down the road, a couple of other surprises. I always stop at the boggy area to ponder a bit when no one else is around and I can sit in the road in peace.

As I stopped the car, a flash of blue caught my eye.

It was a male kingfisher atop a branch of a dead tree suspended above the water, waiting for his supper.

As I was gazing at him, he cocked his head with its tousled crest and looked straight at me, but I was far enough away that he was unconcerned.

My eyes wandered to a fallen log in the water just below him. Another surprise!

A turtle was sitting on the log, watching the world go by.

He, too, was unconcerned about the silly human sitting in the middle of the road spying on him.

It was a good day.

John Muir said, “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

Amen, Mr. Muir. Amen.

Contact Linda Braden Albert with story ideas at Lindas Inkyfingers@comcast.net.

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