It’s been a while since I’ve referenced the movie, Cold Mountain, in one of these posts, but if you’ve been reading here for long, you know that it may be my all-time favorite movie.
The setting is the Civil War and the story centers around the relationship between Ada, the daughter of the pastor of the Cold Mountain, North Carolina country church, and Inman, a young carpenter, reluctantly caught up in the excitement of war.
Before the war’s outbreak, Inman and Ada barely have an opportunity to become acquainted, but in their few brief encounters, they experience a depth of emotional intimacy which binds their hearts together. She promises to wait for him.
During the years of war, a war expected to last only months, difficult times turn to desperate times. Ada’s father passes away, and with the slaves freed, and most of the men off to war, Ada struggles to maintain a food supply, lacking practical skills to keep a farm running.
She writes to Inman: “Wherever you are . . . come back to me. Come back to me is my request. Come back to me.”
Months later, Inman finally receives her letter while lying in a makeshift hospital bed, recovering from a bullet wound to his neck. When he’s barely well enough, he endeavors to meet Ada’s request, and begins the journey across the war-torn South, on foot. Along the way, as you can imagine, his troubles are compounded until finally he collapses in a heap, expecting death.
A rag-tag, guru of a mountain woman, collects him in that state, and drags him to her humble home, where she gradually nurses him back to health. At one point, after feeding him a prized goat sacrificed for the benefit of his recovery, and medicating him with her wild-grown, herbal concoctions, she asks him about his story – the home to which he’s headed, and the woman awaiting him there.
In the course of that conversation, as Inman succumbs to the weariness induced by relative comfort, a full belly, and the herbs, he offers words that stir my heart beyond expression:
She got me a book, Ada Monroe. A man by the name of Bartram, he wrote about his travels. Sometimes just readin’ the name of a place near home – Sorrell Cove, Bishop’s Creek . . . those places belonged to people before us; to the Cherokee. What did he call Cold Mountain?
How could a name, not even a real name, break your heart? [Sobbing] It’s her. She’s the place I’m headin’. And I hardly know her. I hardly know her! I just can’t seem to get back to her.
I’m not certain I can explain why those words resonate so strongly in me. I’m not certain I want to explain it.
Of course, if you know me, you know I’m relating that to a spiritual desire – a desire for Jesus. I’d apologize for always coming back to that, but I don’t want to.
I think the theme of my heart’s response to such poetry comes from a desire to keep my head and heart clear about what I truly desire, about where I’m headin’.
It’s Jesus. He’s the place to which I travel; a place that has belonged to generations of people, long before me. His name, a name that isn’t even real, in the sense that’s it’s just English letters strung together to convey an idea dimly visible in my mind, and barely carries a drop of him, breaks my heart.
And I hardly know him.
I believe he’s worth the journey; worth all of the risk and turmoil. He’s the place.
Perhaps another movie quote will help explain such stirring. In one of their few stolen moments together on a dark, rainy night before the war, in a moment of exasperation at broken communication, Inman and Ada have this conversation:
Inman: This doesn’t come out right. If it were enough just to stand without the words.
Ada: It is. It is.
Inman: Look. Look at the sky now. What color is it? Or the way a hawk flies. Or you wake up and your ribs are bruised, thinkin’ so hard on somebody. What do you call that?