Experience the Fullness

Good morning, everyone! We are fast approaching June and, hopefully, another full month of Summer fun. Between hot days, starry nights, and the wide world of creativity and inspiration, the world is ours for the taking. I have been doing my best to take advantage of that creative potential floating around during while awaiting a new year of teaching and students to come flowing back into my classroom. I’ve been working on getting myself in shape – mentally as well as physically – and I’ve been writing and reading like mad. I actually got a novel completed, with a proof en route to me as I type this. On top of that, I’ve been working on several short pieces and other novels. Needless to say, it has been a busy month.

In the midst of the bustle of the every day, I have been trying to reach myself at a more peaceful mindset as well. Just last night I went out back and built a fire in our firepit, turning on some background music and relaxing. The night was immensely peaceful, with mostly clear skies, a cool breeze, synchronous fireflies dancing amid the leaves of the trees around me, and frogs serenading me. I found particular moments of near transcendant peace when, while staring at the stars and absorbing the wonder of the night, Pink Floyd began playing in the background. From Floyd, to Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Third Day, Jeffrey Munks and more, my brain floated on heightened frequencies until story ideas started flowing .

I took turns staring into the night sky, watching the heavens unfold above me, and looking deep into the flames of the fire, where the very fabric of reality was being torn asunder and sent skyward to join the particles of times past and future. It was a mesmerizing and humbling experience, and it brings me to the overall point I want to make here. During those moments, I wasn’t looking for creativity. I wasn’t bent over a keyboard or notebook hammering out ideas for my next story or novel. I wasn’t considering that part of things. They just came to me, because that’s who I am. Those stories flow from the universe right into me, making me their medium, their liason with reality. That is my purpose in this world, and it finds me in peace.

Too often we push ourselves so hard trying to accomplish goals, and while that is noble and fantastic, it should not be every second of our lives. Goals and dreams are of the utmost importance, but just as important is whether or not you are enjoying the journey. There are times I focus too much on my writing, and times I focus too little on it. I typically can recognize both, but my experience last night reminded me how important equilbrium can be. During an experience of true inner and outer peace, story ideas came to me from the world around me. I didn’t have to seek them, push myself to create something from nothing, pound my head against the wall to make the ideas flow. I didn’t have to.

How many times have you found yourself pushing yourself so hard in your work or craft – whether it be professional or creative – and just come up blank? You try and try to make something happen, to crack that next egg or break down that wall where you’re sure the next great idea lies, but nothing works. You are drained, exhausted, perhaps even find yourself disliking the journey you are on. It’s easy to do, but not always easy to admit. We tend to be single-minded as a species, to a fault. But I recommend breaking that habit.

Create for yourself an equilibrium, a balance between work and play. A set time for you to not only live in this world, but enjoy it. It is so important that we not lose sight of the fact that we are not solely put here to work. There are so many amazing facets of this world that we can use to entertainment as a crutch rather than a freedom. On top of the dreams and goals that help you set a path for yourself, you also have a varied list of interests that help you form your own individual self. Why would you ever ignore them?

That is the important thing to take away from this post, in my opinion. You are given passions and talents, as well as hopes and dreams, but overall forcing any one of these things while ignoring the others is not good. You must take life in your own hands and find the balance. By diving into the freedom of the world of interests at your fingertips, your brain might take the chance to relax and those ideas might flow through on their own, riding waves of peace and calm. Next time you feel bogged down and stressed by your journey, take some time to relax with peace. Or, if you really want to push the boundaries, relax every day and don’t let yourself get overburdened. What possibilities, eh?

Summer of Fun

Happy Summer, everyone! I hope you’ve all been doing well this year as things slowly slip into a semblance of an old version of “normal.” We have seen several changes lately, not the least of which is adjusting to a move and getting into the swing of Summer.

This summer has also seen plenty of book signings, with several more lined up, and I couldn’t be more thankful. I have been blessed to be able to share my work with a large number of my Appalachian neighbors and beyond, and it is fantastic knowing people are out there reading my work. I can only hope I am providing a good quality bit of summer reading material!

On another note, I am pleased to say I have been hard at work on producing a sequel to last year’s hit “Moonlight,” and I have been diving into round one of edits for my newly completed fantasy novel, for which I can’t settle on a title. Things are looking very interesting and productive in the near future and I am excited to continue sharing that progress with you all.

Finally, the biggest reason I am bouncing off the walls right now is that I am two days away from my one year anniversary with my incredible wife. She has helped make me happier than I have ever been. I can never repay the support and love she gives every single day. She has been by my side at every single event and signing I have had all summer and she continues to encourage me to produce new work and publish new material. She makes sure we are always looking at the positive things around us, keeps me on my toes, and never ceases to dazzle and impress me with the wonderful job she does every single day.

On top of doing all that, and working tirelessly with me to move and get everything set up in our new place, she planned our upcoming honeymoon/anniversary cruise that we’ve been yearning for! Because of God’s grace and my wife’s tireless dedication, we are embarking our first Carnival cruise on the exact day of our one year anniversary! We will be seeing most every state in the southeastern U.S. on the journey to port, and we will stop in the Bahamas as well as the Dominican Republic on the ship! We are so thankful for this opportunity and I can’t wait to share the experience with my favorite person in the world, and share the memories and inspiration it brings with all of you!

Needless to say, the last 12 months have been the best of my life, and I absolutely can not wait to see what the rest of our lives have in store for us. From travel, to laughter and great days at home, every second with you is an adventure, honey. Thank you for being amazing!

So what do you all have in store for the rest of the summer? Any vacations coming back to the schedule, or are you taking some time to relax at home? Feel free to share anything at all, and be sure to check out my events page to see where my next appearance is going to be. As of now I’ll be spending 3 days at the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, VA. during the week of July 25-31 so come on out!

To the Top of the World

Hello there! As we prepare for some lovely travel experiences this year, we would love to share a short tale of our trip to, well, not the top of the world, but to the second highest peak in the state of Virginia. Whitetop Mountain, that colossus who thrusts his mighty peak up to a whopping 5,520 feet above the Commonwealth of Virginia, offers multiple hiking trails, nice picnic areas and photo opportunities, and an astounding view of three states. The view alone includes a good chunk of the Blue Ridge Mountains, beautiful farm land and mountainous wonder as far as the eye can see, and brings the sky so close you feel you could reach out and touch it. Whether you want to see Virginia, Tennessee, or North Carolina, you are in luck on Whitetop Mountain.

We started our journey, as many would, coming in off Interstate 81 at the edge of Chilhowie and driving past some beautiful farmland, climbing ever higher on state maintained roads until we reached the gravel turnoff to our destination. Immediately the thick forest closed in on the road and we rolled down the windows to breathe in the fresh air that, honestly, brings me so much joy I can never get over it. The higher we climbed, the rougher the road became, but we made it over the worst of the conditions and finally broke free of the forest to see the first of the vast views the site has to offer. Looking out over the farms and forest that surround nearby Grayson Highlands State Park (a visit for the near future we hope) we felt the awe of the height we had achieved already.

The main parking area, just short of the peak, was our destination, so we carried on up the mountain, watching as the view just got better and better. Once we reached the parking area, we were eager to get out and get our adventure moving. Despite the warm weather the air was obviously much cooler at such a high elevation, which probably helped some in the long run.

Right away we made note of just how close the sky looked to us, how intense and beautiful the clouds were, and how far we could see thanks to the clarity of the day. Amanda and I, no stranger to mountain and forest hiking, made our way through a short forest path that gave us some lovely views of the flora and fauna of the high elevation, with thick pine and brilliant green ferns galore, it was like falling into an ancient wilderness. As multiple signs will tell you on your way up the mountain, Whitetop is really its own ecosystem. There was no shortage of lovely flowers, brilliant colors, and the scent of deep forest air to enjoy high above the nearby towns and cities. As we trekked our of the forest again, we saw our immediate destination in a rock and grassy outcropping a little further down from the peak.

It was a relatively easy hike down, the shin-high mountain grass blowing gently in the cool breeze with giant cottony clouds floating just out of reach overhead. The sun played on the grass and stone as we approached our area of interest. We could see for miles, the gorgeous haze of the Blue Ridge Mountains standing broad in the distance. The clouds sent enormous shadows scurrying over the land below as they played across the bright blue sky, the colors of the world around us shining in mesmerizing clarity as we snapped pictures at first, and then just paused to admire the beauty. We explored the outcropping for a while, sidling through the tall grass, climbing stones for better views, and just breathing in the air high above the every day world.

The hike back to the vehicle was a bit exhausting once we were ready to leave. We quickly got a bit warm as the breeze died down. Thicker, darker clouds moved mercifully over the sun as we climbed back up the mountain and got closer to our return to reality. With what seemed to be a potential for a nice summer storm, a lot of the people who had been enjoying the mountain’s sublime beauty began flocking to the parking lot as we were. Many people were leaving as we reached our vehicle, taking one last look at the scenery and getting one last breath of fresh air before we started our return to the lowlands.

In short, Whitetop Mountain is an incredible destination for anyone with a passion for beautiful scenery. It can be a bit of a daunting drive, sitting at around 40 minutes outside of Chilhowie with some pretty quick changes in elevation, but it is absolutely worth the wait. While there aren’t attractions per se, there are several places to rest and take in the beauty of the natural world around you, which is honestly something we could all stand to do every now and again. We would highly recommend this trip, and hope if you all take the time to go here you will share your experiences as well. A word of caution we can offer is to remember to take account that however far you hike down the mountain, you have to come back up! It’s easy to become enraptured by the beauty of this incredible place, but don’t exhaust yourself to the point of misery. That’s no good for anyone!

With warm weather hopefully here to stay, we hope to have plenty more adventures to enjoy and share with you all, so keep your eyes open for the future posts. If you have a suggestion for a place we can go or an adventure we can leap into, share them with us! Check The Mathews Experience out on social media for more pictures and some videos of our adventures!