Challenge & change

Today you’re gonna see more images from our Monday on The Mountain. It was a good day, a particularly photogenic day, and we did a few things we hadn’t done there before. We had ourselves a grand ol’ time, worth the remembering.

The hammock thing was big fun. It was new and it was different. With a little practice (and tree straps to replace the slippery cordage), we’ll be able to hang them almost as quickly as we unfold our camp chairs. The payoff will be worth it.

After finding the sweet spot in my hammock yesterday afternoon, I reached over the side and picked up a dry stick. Snapping it down to three or four feet long, I used it to push against the ground — just an occasional nudge to start a gentle swing of the sling. The rocking motion was pure heaven.

We’ve explored quite a bit of The Mountain since committing over a year ago to make it Home. Much of the 20 acres remains unfathomed by us, as we focus (for the time being) on places we know already.

It’s been about expanding awareness more than pushing boundaries.

The private track up The Mountain, leading from the gravel subdivision road to our homesite and Deb’s cousin’s cabin beyond, greets us each time and, naturally, is our most common experience. It’s a rough and jarring mile (and we mean to keep it that way), but the woods lining the roadside and the views in front of us continue to draw our attention.

Our property rises to the south. Across the road is a steep, densely wooded slope falling away toward Crooked Creek. There’s a long valley to the east, receding toward high points along the far bank of the White River.

When we venture into the cedars and oaks and rocky landscape of The Mountain, as we’ve done many times, we do what you might expect — we set out to discover. What may surprise you, especially since we’re neck-deep in building a house (and all that entails), we also enter the woods looking for places to escape.

Our vision, away from the homesite, includes a couple of fire rings in secluded spots — one at “Dancing Tree,” certainly, where we were yesterday, another at what we call “Split Rock” near the old horse trail. And we’ve scoped-out two sites for regular overnights.

Yes, I said overnight. Totally not kidding about that.

It may be nothing more than a three-season wall tent pitched on a platform. Ideally, though, what we imagine is a small off-grid structure we’ll build ourselves. It’ll be outfitted with a compact woodstove to make it hospitable all year. Right now we’re thinking of nestling our getaway either just west of the summit or on The Mountain’s eastern slope.

All of the refuges we create will be accessible by buggy — if not to the spot, at least close by. That’ll require serious work, but we look forward to it.

And so as we explore less territory, we explore more possibilities.

When we stop and think about it, those possibilities are limited only by our imagination and our resources. We embrace the challenges. While rhe homestead still is our top job, The Dream doesn’t end there.

Only folks who’ve known Deb and me for a while can grasp the changes in our American Life. The transformation started three years ago, really, with a few long weekends in our Bumper Bunker, gained momentum as we wheeled around the country in search of The Real America, and at last is taking shape on The Mountain.

Often we notice (out loud, usually) that the path we’ve chosen — a simple life on a wooded mountain outside a small Southern town — wouldn’t’ve appealed to us 30 years ago, perhaps even more recently than that. That alone is a sign that everything, or so it seems, has changed.

We see the world in fresh ways. We speak a different language. All of it — what we read, eat, consider, prize and dismiss — is new to us. We’re wrapping our arms around it, challenges as well as changes, fixin’ to do Country our way.

By now it’s clear that Smudge views me as an “alpha” of our little pack. We’ve developed a great relationship, full of play and affection, but she knows her place and I acknowledge mine.

This morning I asked her to sit. She complied. When I leaned down for one of her trademark kisses, she nipped at my nose. I pulled back.

What did you just do?” I said sternly.

Deb captured the puppy’s priceless, precious reaction in the photo above.

Notice, please, that she’s not cowering. Her ears are down but her head is up. There’s no fear in those big eyes — regret, perhaps, but not fear.

Our happy Heeler didn’t mean any harm, of course, and she didn’t do any. She was only being playful. I barked at her to correct, from what she perceives as my alpha role, and she got the message.

And that look was cute as hell.

Smudge is a great dog and getting better every day. She definitely belongs with this pack.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB