The fragrance of wood smoke scents the crisp December air. The rosy glow of dawn creeps across clouds over the mountain top, raked by the bare branches of winterized hardwood trees. I grab another armload of firewood to carry it inside the workshop and lay it on the warming rack above the woodstove that heats the workshop. A bright fire is blazing inside the stove. It’s a good start; that will soon take the edge off the chill in the shop.
I pause to look out across my “front yard” which slopes down the face of Piney Mountain. The town of Newport TN, a collection of specks of light from here, occupies the valley floor. On the other side, English Mountain looms; shaped like a great sperm whale swimming lazily through the grey morning mists.
If, ten years ago, anyone had told me that I’d be starting my days chopping and carrying firewood in order to stay warm while I worked I’d have told them they were nuts. We lived in the bustling metropolis of St. Louis then. I had a small workshop out behind our house – with a propane furnace. We had an eighth of an acre city lot, and it seemed like a lot of space at the time. Our house was a comfortable two bedroom bungalow; nothing elaborate or pretentious, but quite nice. Marie worked as an Administrative Assistant, I did my woodworking.
Then God put the idea in our heads that it was time for a change. Consciously it seemed rash, impulsive. But in our hearts it seemed right. We stepped out on faith.
We gave away or sold most of what we owned in a matter of days. Except the woodworking tools; those we kept. Even our home sold to the second looker on the second day it was on the market, despite our real estate agent’s desperate pleas that it was way over-priced. We knew what we needed to get to finance the move… and we got it. With no quibbling, she just said, “I’ll take it.” and the deal was done; another sign that we were doing the right thing.
We ended up where we are by some intervention as well. We were looking for something completely different. We looked at a lot of possibilities. Only one was a serious contender, and that wasn’t ideal. Then, on a whim we stopped by this place because the listing said it had a workshop. We were curious, but not serious.
Here we met Earl, the property owner. He was perfectly willing to answer all of our questions, show us anything we wanted to see, explain anything we didn’t understand. This man of seventy some odd years even walked the entire property line of a nearly five acre mountainside tract with us. On some of the steeper slopes, I was lagging behind, huffing and puffing. Earl strode on ahead not at all bothered by the terrain, as if he’d done it all his life. Because he had.
Earl changed our minds about what we were looking for. Not because he was a slick salesman, which he wasn’t. But because our encounter with him helped us see the advantage in doing what was needed when it was needed, not when it was convenient or comfortable.
Earlier a chance conversation with a clerk at Wal-Mart led us to the Chamber Of Commerce, seeking a map of county roads. Here we met some very helpful folks, and were pointed to a particular bank.
We needed a bank that was willing to take it on faith that two middle aged people moving from out of state, with no jobs, little savings or possessions, but lots of desire could open a new business and make it work well enough to pay back a mortgage. None of the others we talked to would. This one did.
Marie and I came back here that evening to watch the sun go down over English Mountain from a spot we felt would be a good place to build our house. It was the most spectacular sunset we’d ever seen! That’s when we knew this was right. God had said so by painting His approval dramatically across the canvas of the western sky.
We planned to build a house in two or three years; it took eight. During that time we lived in a single-wide mobile home that came with the property. But our bills were paid on time, we were warm and dry, and we had food on the table when it was time to eat. That’s all we asked. When the time was right, that door opened and we built our home.
I drew a deep breath of the crisp morning air, and went inside with the wood. I love it here in The Great Smoky Mountains, you couldn’t drag Marie or I either one back to life in a city.
The fire blazed, the shop was warming nicely. Time to go in for breakfast.