Linda, who owns Fiddlestix (the first shop to carry my art in Mars Hill) and her helpers, Billie, Jean and Anne, gave me a going away party Saturday night. We drank wine and good beer, munched fresh veggies and homemade chili and mingled the way good-natured people do at parties. Everyone is supportive and cheerful about my hiking trip. They came to pat me on the back and warn me about bears. Linda stayed after a tiring, busy day, uncorked wine and arranged crackers, cheeses and dip. Jean brought fresh veggies and hummas. Billie and her husband, Bob, brought homemade chili and wine from Michigan. Donna and Lawrence, from Common Ground, came after an equally tiring day with big smiles and hugs. My former landlord, Richard, came and reminded evryone he is still planning to meet me in Hot Springs –with beer! Shawn, another outdoor enthusiast made us all laugh with camping stories. Todd, who makes furniture from sticks, much of the time right there in the woods where he finds them, wished a safe trip. Susan and Bentley, who have been so encouraging and happy for me, gave me extra work to help finance this trip. Seth is caring for Annie and lets me sleep on the couch. Sherrye and Benson. Sherrye helped me get in my first major show here. She also gave me a bar of her wonderful handmade soap. Gyspybee.com is her soap company and you should check it out.
I made them all stand still for a couple of pictures. I don’t usually do that irritating picture thing at parties, but I’m going away for 6 months into the woods so it seemed …appropriate.
It was a fun party, it lasted just long enough for everyone to get to know each other a little better, and for me to realize how many good, solid friends I have made here. This is the place I think of now when I think “home”, I have friends to come back to. It makes leaving easier, and harder. Easier because I know they will be saving a place for me. Harder because finding a home as eluded me until just now. It’s hard to leave something you’ve just found.
My little house in Mars Hill was my first real home in the traditional sense, but after I made this decision to hike the trail I gave it up. The past 6 months have been teaching me that I carry my home inside me. It hasn’t been easy, and I fought it a lot of the time. I’m still learning to accept when old habits say resist, but I’m catching myself more often.
I’m still learning to step back, stop judging, stop bitching and let it go. I’m still learning to look inside for home, peace, self-worth.
Seth and I hiked yesterday, a trail that followed the Laurel River at Hot Springs. Even though there are places defiled with graffiti and trash (WTF?) the trail is absolutely beautiful. I realized I wanted to hike it again in the Winter, when the scenery should be spectacular. We talked about other trails, in other seasons, and I said “6 months isn’t such a long time.” I started thinking of what I want to do when I come back. I hadn’t let myself plan to come back until just then. I didn’t realize how much I thought of Asheville as “home.”
I understand that I carry my home inside me, but I also believe, because Asheville has taught me, that there are places that make keeping my inside home quiet, sane and peaceful. My hikes in the mountains have taught me that there is nothing more beautiful than the outdoors, nothing more interesting, nothing more fun, nothing more satisfying. I don’t go shopping for something to do, I go hiking; I don’t watch TV, I sit by a river and watch what happens. Here you can listen to the woods, smell the juniper and fir, drink spring water cold enough to make your head ache, breathe air so crisp it slices. I can feel my own blood and muscle pushing me up the mountains. All of this I have done here, and it will take me through the Appalachians.
For many of us, Asheville is a place you find, a place where you can truly live. It’s not a place you ever leave. Not really