Beulah, my trusty red cargo van, needed a break halfway through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

And so did I.

There were many things behind me. Things like a freshly-framed college degree, part-time job offers in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia, a large close-knit family (who weren’t threatening to charge rent if I moved back home), and friends.

Everywhere, friends.

And so Beulah and I stopped at Lover’s Leap to catch our breath. The view, if you’ve never seen it, is breathtaking. Some might even say romanticgiving the lovers’ legend a nodor Romantic, if they’re of a literary mind. I sat on the overlook’s old rock wall carved with decades of hearts and initials feeling anything but romantic.

I breathed, rubbing the wall’s graffiti. Anonymous futures. Pasts etched out with pocket knives or slapped on with spray paint.

Looking back down the mountain into the flat Virginia piedmont, I thought about my past. Due east, my hometown. Farther north, the college town and the four years worth of life-building I’d left so abruptly with a slip of parchment paper and my life boxed up in Beulah’s cargo bay.

And now, on the road again.

This time, my life was slimmer—contained entirely in one small U-Haul box— and neither Beulah nor I knew the route. All we knew was that a community farm and a group of common friars in Athens were waiting for us—welcoming us for a summer internship writing for their website, learning how to weed and harvest and tend livestock, and sharing meals with community. I’d been to Athens once three years earlier to visit my closest friend and nearly-sister at Ohio University. She’d left Athens the week before and was packing up her own life back home, looking very far east toward a year in Israel.

Looking west, I knew no one in Athens. And I hadn’t farmed a day in my life.

I turned away from Lover’s Leap and the view of the land I knew.  Looking west, the road wound around a bend into thick forest. I couldn’t see the land or the life that waited. I breathed again and went back to Beulah.

We drove west, father up the mountains. We didn’t know what was coming, apart from new community and a fair amount of blisters, dirt, and learning.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Robert Meissner

2012 Summer Intern