Up on the mountain, on the Cumberland Plateau, one hour and fifteen minutes from this North Georgia Piedmont, a man can take a trailhead through an old growth forest to a rocky outcropping called Kirby-Smith point. Ambling along on a short hike, the forest transitions from pines and mountain laurels to moss and lichen-covered sandstone. As the vegetation recedes, the forest opens to a grand view of geologic striations. Standing here, the wind nods at his appearing, and on a clear day, if he chooses to look eastward, he can wish into the horizon.

On this day, I impose my presence on this place, hoping to be imposed upon. It is winter. The temperature is hovering at 26 degrees Fahrenheit. The clouds are pleased and plump with moisture. Intermittent snowflakes are falling, remnants from yesterday’s deluge. The forest seems asleep, but I know it’s only dormancy. As I begin my hike, all is quiet until a few hundred feet into the woods the thrusting, rushing crescendo of waterfalls permeates the air. Entranced, my world recedes into nature’s cocoon.

In a warmer clime, I could stay here for hours. Today’s time will be brief. It’s a better day for hiking than solitude. God has presented me a nice surprise, though. This old growth forest is covered with ice, a glistening, crystalline delight. Even the moss, encrusted with this translucent pleasure, lifts its hue to a brighter green.

Nature has a way of signifying life or at least, drafting us into her purpose. Walks can be cleansing, but this trail confronts me with brambles and mud and fallen trees and slippery, deciduous carpeting underfoot. Contemplating my imposition on her, she promises me a harsh rejection. If there are answers here, she rejects my questions, too.

Reaching Kirby-Smith point, I can go no farther. My thoughts end here, too. Challenged by recent punctuated and fractious spiritual discernments, I am layered in disquietude. I came here to listen. Less symbolic problems have halted me before. Shrugging those concerns, I kept going. This time, answers strain but cannot reach my questions. I hear the rushing water, tumbling and raging, cutting the rock where I stand, asking me to flow along, cascade and fall, asking me to evolve my thinking. But to evolve seems more like acquiescing than transforming. I am who I am. I choose not to follow. Cold, exposed, I turn and leave.

I follow the path toward the trailhead owning some experience. True always, God is as close to me as He’s always been. Knowing God is sure, this hour compels me to rely on Him. I leave my spiritual issue where it needs to be – with Him. After all, does not God reserve to Himself the means of spiritual grace? One day, perhaps warmer and warmed, I’ll return, more answered than now.

I look at my watch and am reminded it is March fourth. and so, I do.

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at pgadeacon@gmail.com.