I have a theory that in 2001, when I submitted my housing application for dorm accommodations to the University of Virginia, a butterfly flapped its wings in the Ivory Coast, which changed the wind pattern in the Atlantic Ocean and caused a storm to form off the United States east coast. This ultimately delayed the registrar from work one morning, and upon her hurried arrival, she dumped all of her belongings onto her desk to rush into a meeting. Unbeknownst to her, she caused a stack of papers to fly in the direction of an open window, one of which made its escape, never to be seen again. This piece of paper was my completed housing application.
The August semester commencement loomed heavily, and I – with no dorm assignment – called the registrar. I was informed that they had not received my application. I was hurriedly placed in a dorm on the other end of campus from my preference in replacement of a would-be student that had backed out of her commitment. Disappointed, I was quickly shooed away.
In my teenage angst, how was I to know that over eleven years later I would be driving to the bus station to pick up my dear friend Chris en route to one of our (at least) annual reunions, affectionately dubbed our Girlie Weekends?
Last Friday, Chris and I drove through DC rush hour down to Wintergreen ski resort, south of Charlottesville, VA. There we met two of our other close girlfriends, Mele and Mo – all of whom I have known since that fateful Fall semester – for two days of unwinding and recentering. As the years have gone on, we’ve all moved into different phases in our lives – two recently married, a third pregnant – but our weekends have followed a similar pattern: we talk and eat and laugh…and repeat. This weekend was no exception.
Understanding that resources on top of the mountain were scarce, we stopped into the grocery store in “town” before the ascent. If this were the well supplied store, I thought, closer to our cabin (over yon – thither aloft the distant peak) must be beyond desperate. We wandered the aisles with shelves laid bare. We managed to scrounge up enough for dinner-makings but little more. And yet, and yet, they had what appeared to be an intoxicating combination, the likes of which I had never seen: Jif brand mocha cappuccino hazelnut spread. And all was forgiven.
The last nine miles of the drive, directly up the mountain to Wintergreen, were blanketed in a dense fog. Going ten miles an hour around the tight corners, we eventually made it to the cozy cabin within a minute of Mele and Mo’s arrival. After the excited greetings and hugs, we settled in for the evening, cooking dinner, building a fire, and talking – forever talking.
On Saturday, the weather was a beautiful 65 degrees, so we mixed things up. That’s right: we talked in the kitchen, around the dining room table, in the living room, while out for a neighborhood walk, and even in the hottub.
At one point in the afternoon, in a frenzy of baking cookies, Chris and I went out to the nearby store (in the ski resort) for a few ingredients. On the way back we stopped into a parking area showcasing the beautiful vista of the surrounding hills and valleys. As if I didn’t already feel grateful enough to that butterfly for flapping its wings so many years ago, moments like those in which I am hit over the head with natural beauty stir me into a state of introspection. And my eyes sting with emotion at my great fortune.
As I project my experience of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I have no delusions of ease or transcendence. But I can look forward to the experience and only hope that I am moved frequently by the beauty around me and equally compelled toward gratitude, knowing that I am awash in support from friends and family…and mocha cappuccino hazelnut spread; I really hope that I’m awash in mocha cappuccino hazelnut spread.