beyond asheville

the pals i stayed with on the west end of north carolina are some of the best people this world has set in my path. we shared good food. we shared lovely inspiring conversation. we shared quiet times on the deck watching trees, the light shift and change, the plants and botony adjusting to the heat, storms roll through, puppy adoration for a canine who is now part of their family, walks in the woods every day witnessing the constint changes of places people think of as consistant. there is something special that happens to this spirit when i see my pals, friends, buddies, those i love, doing what they love/building and achieving their goals: working on building the skills and practicing to make dreams come true, building the life they envision…lifting people up….there is so much here that i have no words for, but i will carry with me for a long long time.

these daily/multi-daily walks/hikes were so inspiring. we chatted about what it is like to walk the same paths on a regular basis through the seasons, to see all the changes. just in this one week we saw a change in where and what mushrooms were growing, or some new flowers starting to bloom on the trees and bushes.

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these walks and chats had an enormous effect on me. first i reflected on land and my relationship to place. where have i thought i “knew” the land because i walked it one day in one season in a particular year. was it a wet/dry year? hot? stormy? flooded? low river or high? somewhere in-between? migration season? north or south? for whom? even if it is for a week or a month, it is still only just one snapshot of a place. is that enough to build a relationship with the land or to develop a sense of place. i think that is part of why i do like to get to, and set up, camp early in the day vs. making the miles, passing out, and waking early to start it all over again. to walk. to sit. to listen. to watch. who moves through here? what grows here? how does the pollen move? do i have time and enough information to learn of the people who moved through here before settlers/colonizers/capitalists/agriculture/towns/mining? what story does the land have to tell me? what is the language of the land.

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the other piece of this experience is that now i have an even deeper desire to develop a sense of place. i want to be able to see some place if not every day, then every other day. i want to see the changes. i want to see those first red, yellow, orange, brown leaves of fall. the first buds of spring that actually show themselves in winter. learn the path of the sun/moon. i want to build and develop a relationship with at least one little piece of land. town or not wherever i rest again, it has to be convenient to get to some living piece of land. in other words, not have to drive an hour or bike too far. even better if i can just take a short stroll that leads me to a longer one. its all part of learning how to see/listen/experience/smell/noticing…all the things that make me a better animal, more feral you might say.

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one day, while one of them was in class, i borrowed their car and followed the road that followed the river. so beautiful. i went until i found a riverside park that people put their boats, rafts, kayaks, whatevers in to float. there are 2 signs here. one tells the history of how the “cherokee” hid in the rhoadundrum bushes to avoid being sent to the oklahoma indian territories as part of the indian removal act in the journey known as the train of tears. on the other side of the park is a sign acknowledging the white man who “gifted” this land for “the people” to enjoy. it is dedicated to his wife and children who died before he did. it is part of what i find funny (?) about public lands, that what was once stolen from people who had no concept of owning land can be given back to “the people to enjoy” but not to the people who previously lived on the land prior to european settlers/colonizers. public lands is a term that is being tossed around a great deal right now, and not a conversation to take lightly for many reasons. these thoughts are not meant to take away from the beauty of this land, but to add to just how wonderfully magnificent this river valley and mountain range is.

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after wondering around, i went back to the river center. they have wifi and thereby i could get some phone services to know when my friend was ready for me to come on back. i thought i might sit by the river and write, but all i could really do was watch. i watched the people, the rain, the boats, the water shift and move, people practice various moves in various floatations – it is like a dance. ever since i learned that water crossings are best to do earlier in the day because they rise as the snow melts and the mountain gives up more liquid to the stream, i try and watch it and see if i can notice it going up. i mean this is something i have witnessed but through a day as we crossed a stream early in the day to play and picnic in a meadow. when we came back late in the day, the crossing was indeed more difficult, deeper and more swift. for sure a more difficult, more technical crossing where we helped one another work their way back to camp. it indeed was a wonderful day.

leaving north carolina behind would not be easy, but that is the only way i was going to get up to philly for the next friend visit…so stay tuned as you are hopefully engulfing on a summer adventure of your own.

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