The Miracle of Darkness

“The sky above you goes on forever, and the landscape appears as endless as the sky. The world is expansive and you are tiny. All of your problems shrink down to the head of a pin,” writes Melina Coogan. “This is why places like this matter–places like Great Smoky Mountain National Park: they give us perspective.”

Just months after Melina got married, she walked out of a doctor’s office with a sobering health diagnosis. Today, for the second episode of our Mileposts series, we travel with her to Great Smoky National Park to see what perspective we can take home.

You can find more of Melina’s writing at:


Music: If Walls Could Talk by Jacob Bain & Nis Kotto    •    Labyrinth by Kai Engel    •    Sunset by Kai Engel    •    paranoiaXI by The Fucked Up Beat    •    Something by Kai Engel    •    Past the Sun by The Cassettes    •    I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor by Chris Zabriskie

Tracks provided by Free Music Archive and Jacob Bain.


7 Comments on “Mileposts — The Miracle of Darkness

  1.  by  kenaann

    This was very thought-provoking. By far my favorite episode- I’ve been sharing it. Thank you for sharing.

  2.  by  Zeto

    Just picked up listening to The dirt Bag Diaries and this one blew me away great story

  3.  by  Elizabeth Wepler

    This. This is what I wish I could articulate to my friends and family. I haven’t had quite the same experience as Melina with my own medical adventures, but there are some striking parallels in the same feelings of loss, isolation, alienation, uncertainty about the endurance of relationships, etc. I talked myself out of going camping solo in the mountains several times last year in some of my loneliest moments, but my fear of being alone was just too paralyzing on top of the anxiety about being too far from home with all the pain and physical challenges. I never really wanted to camp solo, but the idea of solitude by choice versus the other way was a very real way of processing all of it. I am meeting more and more women in similar circumstances here in Colorado. Thank you for sharing.

    •  by  Melina Coogan

      Elizabeth, thank you so much for this comment. I am sorry that you’re going through something that sounds so painful and challenging. I understand and I see you. You’re not alone. Please feel free to reach me at if you’d like to connect. Thank you so much for listening. – Melina

  4.  by  Old Fart

    I found The Dirtbag Diaries this past Summer and have enjoyed listening to episode after episode. Melina’s story is the most emotionally moving episode I’ve heard, so far, Her story has woke me from the state of auto-pilot I’ve been in renewed a sense of gratitude in me. Thank you, Melina, for sharing your story.

  5.  by  Elaine

    Your story is very compelling and well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed it! And I’m glad to see I’m not the only northerner who has some strange and indescribable infatuation with the south. What are some of your hiking/camping recommendations for the Smokies? I would love to hear your input!

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