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Tennessee Is the Place for Me—a Poetic Journey

Updated on April 22, 2024
Tamarajo profile image

Tamara is a mother of three and a grandmother of seven who finds great joy in sharing her life journeys, experiences, and lessons with you.

Pre-Vacation Ponderings

In 2005, my husband and I took a week's vacation for our anniversary in late September. Vacationing was not an everyday activity for us. I had rarely left the state of Minnesota other than one prior trip to Arizona in the first 40 years of my life.

Life at that time had been particularly stressful, with various life events that seemed to come colliding together. For ten years, it seemed to be one crisis after another. Going somewhere far away seemed like a dream, and it was.

We left for Tennessee in anxious anticipation, looking forward to life without phone calls, unsolvable dilemmas, and crisis events, which had become our norm. I found myself strangely nervous about letting go and being so far from my comfort zone. It might seem odd that one could find a comfort zone in such chaos, yet it was all I had known for so long. It took a bit to wind down from it all.

The Remnants of Hurricane Rita

Hurricane Rita, the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane, made landfall in the Gulf region the day before our departure, resulting in a rainy mist that followed us all the way to Tennessee. We would get ahead of it driving and wake up to it again the next day.

Camping in Cloverdale

We camped along the way simply because I was too cheap to pay to sleep in a hotel. Camping was once an activity I hated, but having a tent that pops up in thirty seconds helped, and keeping the menu simple made it very pleasant.

Our favorite spot was a small campground in Cloverdale, Indiana. It was quiet and peaceful, and I was thrilled to sit outside in the evening without being mauled by mosquitoes like at home, and it was warm.

The campfire was calming and mesmerizing.

Basking in the reflections of dancing flames

Rekindling dying embers

All but smothered by the relentless deluge of crisis and tragedy

Flames prophetically leaping in joyous revival

Illuminating the darkness that lingers in the periphery

It's radiating warmth beckons us to forget the darkness and the cold at our backs

Gradually penetrating the icy stares of the reproaches of our past and apprehensions of our future

Gently dissolving the fortifications against life's harsh realities.

It asks us only to behold it's moments and enjoy it's presence

Never to lament nor anxiously anticipate

Allowing us only enough light to comprehend that which is within our reach


We didn't plan a particular destination other than wanting to see the Smoky Mountains. We first arrived at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I could see the Smokies in the distance, but I found myself distracted from the natural scenery by all the human-made hype and entertainment created to lure the tourists. Every nook and cranny of free space was littered with beckoning signs to events, places, and shopping. The roads were clogged with tourists partaking in their offers.

I couldn't help but ponder on the spiritual application of this sight. The real and natural beauty of eternal life lies ahead, but instead, we get sidetracked and distracted by the lower things of this world. Things that rob us of our resources and leave us empty-handed.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, laying aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary, fainting in heart.

— Hebrews 12:1-3

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Thank God for All Your Blessings

We pressed on to Gatlinburg, which sits right at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance. It is a charming little town, quite unlike Pigeon Forge. Although tourism is the city's primary industry, it was not the circus we had seen previously in Pigeon Forge.

I had concluded at that point that I didn't want to camp. I am terrified of bears and didn't realize then that my home state of Minnesota has the highest population of black bears in the U.S.

We got a decently priced hotel room at the Microtel Inn with a spectacular view. I looked down at a little historic church down below that had a sign with a heart on it. It read

"Thank God for all your blessings"

I knew that God had blessed us with an oasis of a peaceful moment in time. I finally let go and truly relaxed, knowing it was all in His care.

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Overcoming Obstacles

I found myself becoming unusually adventurous and trying things that, for the most part, I fear, like heights and horse riding. My husband talked me into riding the skylift that took us to the top of a hill overlooking the town of Gatlinburg. I opened my eyes just before the camera took our picture.

Over coming things I fear

Like distance, height, and horse

Surrendering to each moment's dread

And finishing it's course

Rewarded with enchantments

Only courage is able to see

His orchestrated confrontations

Had gloriously set me free

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everyday is a winding roadShadow increase the perception of depthobstacles envelop its wonders
everyday is a winding road
everyday is a winding road
Shadow increase the perception of depth
Shadow increase the perception of depth
obstacles envelop its wonders
obstacles envelop its wonders

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I was a bit nervous about driving mountain roads. We don't have them in Minnesota, and my depth perception was easily dizzied. I was amazed at how gentle the curves and inclines were.

Ribbons laced through mountains

Gently gliding us along

Staging panoramic splendors

Like the chorus of a song

Wooing us up higher

In its delicate incline

Sporting occasional precipice

Of heights and depths divine

Inquisitively curving

About its genteel slope and grade

Provoking in us awed applause

Of the wonders, He has made

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Tulip Poplars

It rained on one of our exploration days, but the forest of giant tulip poplar trees sheltered us and kept the crowds away. Tulip poplars grow to 165 feet with no limbs or foliage until about 80 to 100 feet.

I thought the rain has come that day

To dampen our regards

But sheltered us in peaceful mists

Baring visible rewards

Embracing us in the quietness

Of those who turned away

Revealed to us the deepest hues of green

A forest could display

Towers in the wilderness

Reaching for the sky

Shelters all that lies beneath

Never asking why

Stoic in their posture

We hide within their strength

They conceal us from the outside world

As we admire them at length

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made ... " — Romans 1:20
"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made ... " — Romans 1:20

Mountain Rivers

I couldn't help but admire the gently flowing river that didn't seem to have a care in the world. It simply babbled over the rocks and carried on to its destination.

Oh gentle babbling brook of mine

What is it that you say

Caring nothing of the obstacles

Like boulders in your way

To tumble in abandon

To a place unknown

How is it that you carry on

Chaterring without groan

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Clingman's DomeAn east view from the tower
Clingman's Dome
Clingman's Dome | Source
An east view from the tower
An east view from the tower | Source

Clingmans Dome

Clingman's Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the highest in Tennessee. On a clear day, you can see up to 100 miles in any direction. We hiked up a steep 1/2-mile trail to get to the top.

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"Every Happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of Life is to get the message." — Malcolm Muggeridge
"Every Happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of Life is to get the message." — Malcolm Muggeridge
"Every Happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of Life is to get the message." — Malcolm Muggeridge

A God Moment

When we came down from Clingman's Dome, my husband surprised me with an anniversary ring that included our birthstones with a diamond in the middle. He told me he wanted the diamond at the summit of the ring to represent God. I couldn't help but notice that the setting was in the shape of mountain roads we were traveling.

Upon our return home, I looked out over our deck and noticed these very same flowers (blue asters) were growing next to one of the deck posts. On approximately 80 acres of land, I hadn't seen them anywhere else on my property.

A match made in heaven

A snapshot from above

Displaying heavenly romance

And set in frames of love

Captivating beauty

A glimpse of the divine

Packaged in the moments

Of experience and design

Invitation to the splendors

That reflect His majesty

Oasis from the storms of life

Held in silent Reverie

Mammoth Caves Kentucky

On our way home, we decided to visit Mammoth Caves National Park, home to the world's longest-known cave system. Interestingly, our vacation took us to great heights and depths. It reflects the season of life we were in at the time.

From the top of royal pinnacles

To the world below

Contrasting in it's images

Realities to show

Illuminated peaks of green

Bathed in limitless light

Darkness one can't comprehend

Obscuring every sight

The silence of the mountaintop

Invites a Holy hush

The quiet angst within the cave

Urges me to rush.

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Green River Ferry Ride

My husband was much more interested in caving than I was, so I decided to go for a ferry ride on the Green River. Because it was at the end of the tourist season, there were only two other people and me, so the guide turned off his microphone and let us sit up front. I just enjoyed the view while he quietly shared a few interesting points about the river. The river is green because of limestone rather than algae. Anyway, it was a perfect way to cap off a much-needed respite from the storms of life.

My eyes are bathed in shades of green

Soothing my despair

Tranquil reflections of the world above

Erasing all my care

The stillness and the calm it speaks

Whispers in my ear

To leave behind my anxious thoughts

Regretfulness and fear

A random fact: Ergonomically speaking, green is the most soothing color to the eye. Some hospitals use green in their patient room designs and surgical clothing with this in mind. It's by design, as recorded by the psalmist in the 23rd Psalm.

"He makes me to lie down in green pastures"

Keith Urban "God's Been Good to Me"

© 2011 Tamarajo


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