It is so funny how things connect to memories in our brain. Seemingly unrelated things are connected by strange, oft forgotten, little triggers from our past that stir up memories of those times who framed our being.
I seldom remember how much I love sitting on a porch in the morning, sipping coffee, while a light rain comes down until it happens again. It isn’t an experience I ‘crave,’ but it is one that I always cherish when it happens. This morning was one of those moments and I was overwhelmed by the flood of memory connections that started to occur as I quietly let that moment happen.
I know that one of the reasons that I love softly raining mornings is that we had them a lot when I was a student at Milligan College in the mountains of East Tennessee. The rain would fall lightly as we walked or biked to class, coffee in hand, trying to wake up for an 8a lecture. Normally, when we came out of classes for lunch, the rain and fog would have burned off and we’d have a view like the one in the picture above greeting us. For some reason this morning, the temperature, fog, and soft rain were exactly right to trigger a very specific memory of a fall day of my junior year when I rode my bike to class in such a rain from my first apartment to campus. It was a glorious day, rain or no rain. I was so excited to be able to ride my bike to class with my new Mountainsmith backpack (which I still have), no longer an underclassman, time on my hands since basketball hadn’t started yet; a man with the freedom of living off campus!
And the memory connections continued…as I recalled that rainy mountain bike ride I remembered that a song popped into my head that day that took me even further back in time. When I was growing up my parents listened to the ‘new country’ of the time – The Carpenters, Barbara Mandrell, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Ronnie Millsap. That fall morning as I rode my bike to class, the song Smoky Mountain Rain popped into my head right off of one of my parents’ 8 track tapes and wouldn’t let go. I sang it over and over all the way to class that day. I’m singing it again this morning.
I was profoundly impacted by my time at Milligan College. In some ways it was the mountains, which I fell in love with and have been a place I’ve loved ever since. In some ways it was the lifestyle; an outdoorsy, laid back approach to a life lived in pursuit of knowledge and beauty. And in all ways it was the people – my best friends, my roommates, my first loves, my coaches, my professors, and my classmates who made up an environment that shaped me from a boy with few of his own thoughts and values to a young man who had figured out how to learn, question, search, and find what he needed to be successful in life.
I’m so glad that the brain finds ways to connect those little things in our lives to one another in amazing ways that allow us to recall and give thanks for moments in our lives that have made us who we are.