Pemberton: Just the tip of the iceberg

Joyce Pemberton Columnist

I love winter.

Not the harsh, brutal, bitter winters that our friends up north enjoy, but the crisp air and clear skies that winter brings here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

I love that the water in the water bottle in my car is ice-cold in the morning. I love that the cold air prompts me to move faster. I love wearing mittens and my soft flannel pajamas. Heck, I even enjoy scraping the ice off my windshield in the morning. And have you seen Lake Tomahawk after a fresh snowfall? It’s a sight to see.

Our gentle mountain winters are one of the things I look forward to all year long.

In my opinion, winter is also the absolute best time to take a walk in mountains, which I often do. The state of undress (of the trees, mind you) makes for miles and miles of open viewing that would otherwise be hidden if the trees were full of leaves. The earth is open and vulnerable. Stark and beautiful. Quiet and cold.

Recently, while on a winter hike to the overlook in Montreat, I found myself considering the trees alongside the path. They were grey and dull, with no leaves or any other sign of life.

Coming from Florida, where trees and their leaves never change, I found the trees and their lack of leaves interesting. As I looked closer, it was hard to tell what was going on. Is the tree dead? Or is it alive and just taking a brief break?

Later, while looking over the photos from my hike, I had a thought. The only way to know if the trees are alive is through its roots. The roots would know if the trees were alive or not. The truth of the trees was buried deep beneath what was visible to my curious eyes.

Only the roots know, and only spring will tell.

What lies underneath is always a curious thing, whether you are talking about trees, people … or icebergs, for that matter.

Did you know that the majority of an iceberg is unseen? When looking at the iceberg, you see this beautiful, blinding mass of ice that appears to just be floating on the water. But most of an iceberg lies below the surface of the water. The largest and most mysterious part of the iceberg lies underneath.

People can also be a lot like icebergs and winter trees. No matter how well we think we know someone, we only see a very small part of the whole person. The miracle and mystery of people - their dreams, desires, heartaches and fears - are hidden from us. It is a rare, beautiful gift when the veil is pulled back and we are given a glimpse of the secreted parts of people.

Isn’t it funny where your thoughts take you sometimes? In looking at the picture of the bare tree from my hike, I have to smile at where my thoughts had wandered. I love that it took a picture of a seemingly dead tree to remind me of all the invisible miracles of life.

And although I can’t see it with my eyes, I’m confident that underneath the tree, out of sight, life is happening, and in the spring, we will see evidence of the miracle underneath.