Life Is Not Rocket Science

I spent the morning in the Hemlock Inn kitchen with George, one of the cooks, and helped make peanut butter pies. I combed through an old box of handwritten recipes collected over the years from guests that have come and go. Coated in years of cooking:

Old Hemlock Inn Recipes - Inn located in Bryson City

I washed the dishes and George dried.  We concluded that I am not the greatest dishwasher because I like to “quietly” wash dishes. I don’t like to clang them around.

Washing Dishes at the inn

I spent the afternoon working on some writing projects. When school was out, as a family, we visited our friends Wally and Donna (who I always call Wonna and Dolly on accident). Boo wanted to meet their chickens:

Raising Chickens

And as I looked back on my day I thought about how George had broken almost every bone in his body after falling off the side of a mountain when he was a younger guy.  He has all the visible scars to show he’s been through more than I could ever live through. Add in a brain aneurysm and a stroke and he’s pretty much a walking miracle.  And Donna is a cancer survivor and a survivor of a lot more than that too. And Wally had a stroke a while back and can’t do everything he used to.  But Wally started painting gourds…and here’s one he made for me, a buff orpington. She’s the most beautiful gourd chicken I’ve ever seen:

And she will be named: Hatsy

Chicken Gourd - Buff Orpington

And these are just a few of the people who are so generous with their lives.  They invite us into their homes. They make pancakes so we can freeze them for later. They fix nail guns. They smile when the door swings open.

“Turn left at the EGGS sign” I told Brett earlier today and “make sure you gun it up the gravel driveway!”  Feeding a stale biscuit to a group of chickens is delightful and humorous and basically-the-best-thing-I’ve-done-all-week. I cock-a-doodled so maybe Rufus the Rooster would grace us with his presence and he did.

Me: You know those teeny tiny gourds called Tennessee Spinners?

Wally: Yep.

Me: How can I grow those myself?

Wally: Just plant a seed…

Just plant a seed?  This is not rocket science!  A year ago I would have just ordered them off Etsy!  Even talk of gourds stretches me to places I never even knew existed. The thought of growing gourds myself! Tennessee spinners can be used as toy tops, and I know this because I learned how to spin them at a farm festival a few weeks ago.

Did you know: a gourd takes 90 to 100 days to grow to maturity.  Good grief.  That’s like 400 years. 

Last night at dinner a woman said: if you lie flat in the middle of a cornfield, you can hear the corn growing. It crackles as it stretches upward.  What?!  How am I 37 years old and just now learning this information. Sometimes I watch the kudzu here carefully because it grows a foot a day but I’ve never seen it actually grow.  This is all scary but incredible news.

Sometimes, when people ask me if I’m local I want to tell them I’m related to Wonna and Dally.  And it wouldn’t really be a lie because we are all connected in a way I think.  Maybe I can just be related to everybody.  But I’m not great at remembering names, and birthdays, and I don’t cook Thanksgiving dinner…just putting that out there ahead of time.


 And all the colors I am inside have not been invented yet.

-Shel Silverstein, from Colors


P.S. Life is a verb.  One of my favorite books.  I would eat it if I could.  I’m going to Life is a Verb camp in November.  An early Christmas present. Because it’s right near here…and I can’t stop thinking about all the seeds that will be planted from it.  Time to explore, out of context. And I signed up to room with a stranger. To feel a little fearful and do it anyway. 


God is Kneading Me Like Clay

It’s been five days since the accident and I only feel a little bit of whiplash in the right side of my neck.  Thinking back it was like I was in zero gravity and the car was spinning around me.  I keep having flashbacks to that moment. But it feels like it didn’t even happen.  I mean, did it even happen?  Last night as I tried to watch a movie from my laptop, I found a piece of the rental car’s airbag stuck in the DVD drive.  So I guess it did happen.

Four days ago, as I took a taxi back to the airport (a $192 taxi ride) the young female driver never stopped talking. I wrote down every word as she spoke because I hung onto every one:

See that pier over there? Those are my customers. I drive their Escalade when they need me to. They pay me to drive them around town. They invite me over to drink on the dock. I love what I do.  And my husband, well, he sells timeshares just to people who already own timeshares.  Basically my husband tells you that you bought shit and then sells you more shit. And what the hell is a timeshare? Just a hotel room that you share with other people. It’s not even really yours.  There is this one lady who bought a time share from him years ago and now guess what?  Her house got foreclosed on.  She can’t even afford her own house. And now she’s living with her daughter. My husband just shrugs and says that he helped bring the family closer together.  He’s just an actor! They are all just actors! Selling a scam! Hey, take a 4 hour tour of the property with me. Oh and I just got you the best deal. You have to jump on it now. I called the president of the time share company for you. They say the exact same thing to the next person! They didn’t talk to no president! I tell him: how can you live with yourself. And he hates that I drive a cab. Look babe, I’m hustling just like you! I go to work in sweats and a t-shirt and he goes to fancy-brunch-mimosa-shit. And I so don’t fit in with the people he works with.  I can go to work whenever I want to! I can make money TWENTY FOUR HOURS A DAY!

I got out of the taxi reeling.  And walked into the concrete jungle of the Houston airport, thinking: if we all descended from Adam and Eve, wouldn’t there be inbreeding?

Three days ago I had been getting into hot bath to soak my jolted body and as my head went below the water and all sound was drowned out except for my breathing I began crying and thanking God.  For keeping me in that place of zero gravity in that rental car. And at the same time jolting me back to life again, because maybe I’d been asleep the past few days.

Two days ago I had been on the plane with two crying little boys behind me, whose mother did not speak english. And I made little paper airplanes to swoooosh along the opening between the two seats and they giggles and pointed and laughed when I made dive-bombing crashing sounds. And I briefly made eye contact over the seat and the mother smiled with the kind of gratitude I understand.


Four days ago, it was Saturday night, and it was late as we drove up to the Hemlock Inn. All the lights were already off because 10pm is mountain midnight.   Three days ago, we woke up early for Sunday breakfast and as I walked onto the back porch a group of guests were there.  The Millers who I had met earlier in the summer and Ron and Eugene from  Washington, DC.  After asking how I was doing from the car crash, Eugene jokingly asked if I’d mentioned them in my presentation at the conference and I told him that I had.  He beamed.  And I really had….it’s not every day that you meet someone that worked at the Watergate Hotel for 28 years.

One day ago, we went to the local library for the first time as a family.  Brett and I sat and flipped through magazines. As I flipped through a random WNC magazine I fell upon an article about a project called Funk and Wag by artist Mel Chin.  I had just randomly met Mel in the Atlanta airport, where we were strangers but had a very awesome conversation about roadkill.

One day ago, after dinner, Brett had gone to hang out with some friends to watch football. And I watched 12 Years a Slave, and the scene where Salomon was almost hung from a tree was too much and I had to get up and walk around.  Falling asleep I was woken up by the sound of a large animal on the roof.  I listened carefully and determined it was probably a raccoon or a possum.  And I wanted to be brave enough to go outside and figure out which one it was but I don’t like confronting things when it’s cold.

And today, the air is getting crisp and the leaves are just starting to exhibit some colors.  It’s starting to get pretty cold at night and I’m learning to use our baseboard heaters.  We got out the down comforters yesterday.  My wardrobe has picked up a few flannel button downs that remind me of my love for Pearl Jam back in the day. This morning I was so happy to crank up Ruby this morning for the first time.  I love the gasoline smell and her rumble. I can keep her from stalling on a cold morning because I know how much time she needs to warm up. And I drove along the river and listened to her engine rumble against the mountain.

Row, row, row your boat. Gently down the stream. 

It all sounds so mundane but I can feel something bigger in it all.

There are little reminders everywhere.

This is not all there is.

I can be really stubborn sometimes. And I can then turn around and not care at all.

And I’m really good at forgiving and forgetting which some people view as being delusional.

And sometimes my insides feel like they are on a roller coaster.

And there are so many big life decisions always presenting themselves.

And Boo says: I want to be 11 years old.

And I tell her: Grow up as slow as you can.

I wanted to buy a box of Krispy Kremes today but I didn’t trust myself not to eat all 4.

Tomorrow I’m going to buy a box of 4 Krispy Kremes, and I’ll eat all 4, just spaced out throughout the day.

God is kneading you like clay
molding your stubborn will to be supple in his spirit
let him shape you

there is coming to you
the grace of a new self understanding

perhaps even the peace of a new self-acceptance

you will be learning who you are
all by yourself

-Robert A. Raines, Living the Questions

A Wedding in the North Carolina Mountains

NC Mountain Wedding at Hemlock Inn in Bryson City #wedding #rusticwedding

The innkeeper’s son was married a few weeks ago.  It was a beautiful wedding with a theme of gray and yellow:

mason jar wedding invitations and programs


JT and Alli:

DIY wedding decor ideas


I took some photos behind the scenes:

setting up wedding


Behind the scenes of the florist, Tony Whitlock of Acorn Home and Garden (Marietta, GA):

yellow flower theme for wedding

yellow and sherbet color flowers for wedding

Behind the scenes of the photographer: Love the yellow shoes. Ancelet Photography at work in the photo.

weddingedits22web copy
Behind the scenes of the decor:

Rustic wedding decor ideas DIY painted
The ceremony was beautiful:

mountain wedding bryson city Hemlock Inn

September mountain wedding bryson city Hemlock Inn


After the ceremony, the Hemlock lawn needed to be switched out for dinner.  A popcorn bar kept the guests busy:

Popcorn Bar at wedding Hemlock Inn

Behind the scenes of the reception set-up:

yellow wedding table centerpiece table decor ideas


yellow and coral wedding reception ideas

mr and mrs signs for wedding chairs

Guests mingling on the Hemlock Inn’s porch:

hemlock inn reception photos

A candy bar:

wedding candy bar photos

wedding candy bar photos


The reception was also at the inn the previous night.  The theme was sunflowers:

sunflower table decor ideas wedding
sunflower table decor ideas wedding rehearsal dinner

Behind the scenes of the hardworking kitchen staff as they prepared food for 230 people. That’s my buddy Wally in orange. He has chickens. These were not his chickens:

where to eat bryson city, hemlock inn

The rehearsal dinner toasts to the happy couple lasted late into the night….the lanterns and strung lights creating a magical atmosphere:

wedding string lights decor lanterns diy


A few candids:

Boo and Alli (the bride!)

hemlock inn wedding lil blue boo


A house fire was in the background!

wedding photo mountains bryson city hemlock inn


Me and hubs (I look really devious in this photo.)

brett and ashley hackshaw bryson city hemlock inn





Lights over the lawn.

smoky mountains hemlock inn string lights where to stay


 Congrats JT and Alli!  The wedding was amazing. Thank you for including us! 

See more beautiful photos of the wedding in this album by Ancelet Photography  

Where the Breadcrumbs Lead

I woke up early this morning and watched the sun come up. Brett has been out of town with his grandmother this week so I dropped Boo off at school and came home and took a cat nap. I watched Sense and Sensibility. And read a magazine. Then I watched a documentary about people that live in Siberia.*

Later I made some tea, sat on the step of the screen porch. The acorns were falling on the tin roof of the cottage. I watched Diesel walk around the stepping stones. So much to learn from a dog…he is so easily pleased. His short time outdoors is always unhurried and full of curiosity. I love how he sniffs the air and closes his eyes against the sun. I copied him.

It felt good, until there was that anxiousness and the voice in my head: you should be accomplishing something.  That voice that has been there all my life: you should be…. you should be…. This feeling still rears its ugly head on occasion and sometimes a brief panic sets in saying: Your husband left his job. You closed a successful business. Where will you go from here? By the world’s standards of success I should have stayed on the course I was on.  It’s hard to explain this new life to people without getting the third degree.

The highlights of my week last week were:

Sweeping the sidewalk at the used bookstore. Dusting and straightening the bookshelves.
Catching up with the cooks at the inn.
Learning the old man’s name that I pass in the park each week.
Buying a venus fly trap and fresh salsa from the farmer’s market.

Sitting by the river and writing it all down.

Such simple things. But yet…every once in a while I get sidetracked with new ideas, things that I think will impress the world. Business. Venture. Make the world happy. Those things are not really what I want to be doing. I know myself….and I would work myself into a shriveled shell of a me if I pursued those new ideas. And that’s when I pray really hard for God to thin my world out again, to take away what he doesn’t want for me…and to leave breadcrumbs going forward.

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it. -The Alchemist

The magazine I picked up today had an interview with Paulo Coehlo in it. Breadcrumb. 

I do believe that we know our reason to be here. We don’t know if we are taking the exact right steps toward it. But if you are honest enough, God will guide you. Even if you take some wrong steps along the way, God will recognize that you have a pure heart and put you back on track. -Paulo Coehlo, O Magazine, Oct 2014

I remember when I first picked up a copy of the Alchemist years ago…at a yard sale. I didn’t read it right away. Quick overview if you haven’t read it:  A boy sells his flock to pursue a dream.

A recent conversation:

Person: What do you do?

Me: Well….mostly….I write.

Person: My friend is a writer. She’s published like 10 books. Have you written anything I would know?

Me: Probably not. 

Person: And you are writing a book?

Me: I think so.

Person: How far along are you?

Me: Depends on the day.

Person: What is it about?

Me: It’s a memoir.

Person: You are too young to write a memoir.

Quick aside: My friend Donno is opening up a tattoo parlor in downtown Bryson City this month. It’s part art gallery…for outsider art. Outsider art: a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by those on the outside of the established art scene, such as insane-asylum inmates and children. -wikipedia

Quick epiphany (and breadcrumb): I am an outsider writer!


Person: Too young…to write a memoir.

Me: Then I guess I’m writing an episode.

Person: How long have you been writing it?

Me: My whole life? 

Memoir. Non-fiction. Episode. True story. What does it matter?  The dream is: to write. But it’s more than just writing.  To write things down so I can make sense of it all. To be truly interested in the world around me. To tell a story. And maybe someday it will be meaningful to someone else. That’s what the breadcrumbs lead me to. And they guide me away from things I thought might be opportunities, allowing me to say no without fear or regret.

Sitting here today I looked out the window at the mountains.  They are like sleeping giants to me, some lying on the side and curled up. Others are laying on their backs so you can see their distinct profiles. Sleeping giants covered with a blanket of trees and brush, and I see elbows and knees and foreheads and noses. Nobby clavicles and shoulder blades poke through a thick blanket millions of years in the making. Growth, decay, and growth. The mountains are living and breathing but barely stirring, in a state of hibernation, and they laugh at us with our tiny concerns. They laugh at me when I think my 37 years of life has been hard or easy or nothing or something.

Mountain: An episode? Ha ha ha ha. That’s 100,000 years.

Me: Exactly.

Mountain: Listen.

Me: To what?

Mountain: Your heart. 

Me: You are a talking mountain. 


The Alchemist Quote #quote

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity. -The Alchemist

I listen. I have to train myself to listen.  And tune everything else out.  Like the boy I sold my “flock” too. I know what my assignment is: To wander. And read. And write. And create. Lather, lather, rinse, repeat.  The more I do this, the less I think about what might have been or should have been.  I find my own voice. I let myself watch movies and read and just sit in solitude for a while.  I meet new people and actually hold conversations with them.  These things are not lucrative…they will not put me on the cover of Fast Company or get me promoted….but they are food for my soul.  I cannot have it all, but I don’t want it all. This is the ultimate promotion.

And not everyone will understand. The questions are endless. Health insurance? Life insurance? Insurance? How will you make a living? What is a living? These are all the rules. I’ve been reading Intimations of Mortality by Violet Weingarten….a journal she wrote during her battle with cancer. My copy is old and obviously from a library with the clear plastic cover and dewey decimal code: 616.994:

I live in a world, my world, with people who haven’t even glimpsed the door, however close they may be to me. Remember you have to see it with your own eyes. Borrowing someone else’s glasses won’t do it. So even if I wanted to change my life, the people I care about aren’t going to change theirs. If I want to toss it all away and scuba-dive off the Great Barrier Reef, I’d have to do it on my own, and that I don’t want to do. Because I know that the step from the iceberg leads back to an ice floe, and on that floe I’ll float, like everyone else, sometimes alone, sometimes along-side, sometimes making small talk, sometimes holding hands, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, always at the whim of the current. Human. Wherever I may be. 

Always at the whim of the current. An outsider.

For some reason that just made me think of the movie Rumble Fish.

I’m too tired to even read through this post again.

I just ate half a bag of Muddy Buddies.

Really all I wanted to say was: today was a good day.  

I wish good days for you too.

And don’t disturb the mountains.  They are all resting.


*Happy People, A Year in the Taiga (*  <—— virtual breadcrumb)


The Language of Frogs

Midday it started raining and I just sat in my truck on the bridge to kill time before I was supposed to show up at the used book store. I sat on the passenger side and people probably thought I was waiting on someone but really I was just letting 45 minutes pass. I pulled a book out from under the seat to read a while and thought it was a weird coincidence that the book was Extremely Loud and incredibly Close, a book about September 11. Downtown Bryson City I’ve read that book over and over again but from all different starting points.  Never in order. And parts like the elephant crying get to me because I see things like stonehenge in a plate of potato quarters and I like walking the cemetery at night but get sidetracked trying to piece together broken headstones: Bryson City Cemetery

I took the world into me, rearranged it, and sent it back out as a question: “Do you like me? -Jonathan Safran Foer

Recently I saw a ghost at the cemetery but that’s a story for another day, so back to sitting there reading in the truck: I saw at least four people I knew walk by.  Small town USA. Then I saw a man with a hunting rifle walk by but he’d just come out of the guns and ice cream shop. Totally normal. As I sat there I realized that I could tell when a truck was coming over the bridge, not by the sound it made but by how much the concrete would shake. A freight truck and a beer truck crossed simultaneously and the bridge pretty much went all earthquakey. The speed limit on the bridge is 20 mph but people are always going much faster.

When it’s not raining I like to walk along the shops and the river.  Here it seems like they used to build old buildings against old buildings so when a building comes down sometimes the inside of the building is left on the exterior of the one next door. In other words: if you build the first building you have to build 4 walls…but if you build the 2nd or 3rd etc you only have to build 3 walls.  The wall on the side of the building near the river says PRO with tan, orange and brown racing stripes all the way down the side…it reminds me of a bowling alley, but I don’t think it was. Buford’s Barbershop is on the corner of the bridge across from the “bowling alley”. Everyone swears it’s structurally sound but I’m worried Buford is going to fall in the river one day. Every few days I visually measure the crack between Buford’s place and the flower shop next door to make sure it’s not getting any wider. I’ve only seen Buford cutting hair once or twice. I think he’s only open when he feels like being open. He’s got a TV with rabbit ears and so I look forward to meeting Buford one day…but maybe outside of the barbershop.

At the bookstore I decided to sweep outside and get some of the cobwebs down. While sweeping I ran into a man I’d met at the coffee shop a few weeks ago. He’d been talking about Kerouac and I oddly enough had brought a book of Kerouac’s journals with me (Windblown World). I gave it to him and told him to just drop it back off at the coffee shop when he was done with it. I didn’t even know his name. But then running into him at the grocery store I recognized him and we said hey and he thanked me for the book. And after talking about Kerouac for a few minutes he told me this haiku he’d written. I can’t remember it word for word so I’m butchering it and it probably isn’t even a haiku anymore since I didn’t even think to count the syllables or phrases or whatever a haiku consists of:

Credit or Debit. The girl at the grocery store speaks to me in frog.

Flipping through the old books in the used book store I end up looking for handwriting. I found this little mouse drawn in a book dated 1898. I could tell it was written with a fountain pen: mouse On the next page was this handwritten poem:

Love is painful it is true, but not to love is painful too, But oh! it gives the greatest pain to love and not be loved again.

bookI sold a few books today and bought even more.  They were books I was looking for so I figure that I technically saved money. One of the new employees at the inn stopped by to say hi and I sold him a magazine. Tonight my friends gave me directions to their house and the directions consisted mostly of: turn left at the gas station and right at the huge rock and when you see the chickens you’ve found us.    Walking down to our cottage tonight I dodged a few frogs but spoke to them: credit or debit. credit or debit. Perhaps that’s what they’ve been saying all along.  Accounting 101.

We could imagine all sorts of universes unlike this one, but this is the one that happened. -Jonathan Safran Foer

Where the River Meets the Lake

I found where the river meets the lake yesterday. Well, actually a friend took Brett and I there. But still, where the river meets the lake. The mouth. The basin. The convergence. All of the roaring and tumbling ends almost instantly.  It’s like it just runs out of steam.

SUP Paddleboards Fontana Lake with Bryson City Outdoors

Our friend Ben from Bryson City Outdoors took us out, dropped off the boards, and gave us a quick paddle boarding lesson before we set out on the lake. I did not take my phone with me…this was taken with a Go Pro (a waterproof one):

SUP (paddle boarding) on Fontana Lake with Bryson City Outdoors

As we paddled we stumbled upon old Hwy 28.  The water is low enough right now that you can see the top of the bridge. Brett paddled through it….I stayed back. Reminds me of What lies Beneath…or the end of the world….what it would be like if we all just disappeared one day. These mountains do tend to emit the feeling of ancient-ness.  (You can read about what’s underneath the lake here).

Hwy 28 on Fontana under water

As we paddled back towards the boat ramp, from a distance, we saw another truck pull up.  Two men backed a truck and boat down the ramp.  They took off to the other side of the lake creating huge wake.  I waved to them and they hesitantly waved back.  And then we realized why:

Brett: They took my shoes.
Me: What? I’m paddling over to them to ask for them back.

He wouldn’t let me.

Me: He has a Jesus fish on the back of his truck. Maybe he actually has a conscience…

I decided to leave a note on the man’s truck instead.  I didn’t accuse him directly, just said if he found a pair of shoes could he please leave them at our church.  God Bless. Hubby is unemployed.  Hope you found some fish. Etc. I signed it something like: from someone who refuses to lose faith in the kindness of humanity.   It just didn’t seem worth more trouble than that.

Me: Desperate people do desperate things.
Brett: I’m over it….he probably needed the shoes more than I did.
Me: You are barefoot. 

And the truth is that we had just had such a wonderful time on the lake, not even stolen shoes could have put a damper on it.

I’m sorry fisher-man.  This is where the river meets the lake. And we came here on purpose.  It’s the lowest spot.  You can’t take us any lower. 

When I placed the note under his windshield wiper, I realized that I’d written the note on the back of one of Boo’s Sunday school drawings: a large heart with the words “God is Love” written in dainty little letters.  I chuckled at the not-so-subtle message I was leaving him. Who knows….maybe the shoes will turn up. Maybe not.  The most awesome thing in the world is that no one can steal my peace and joy from me. And I take all these little snapshots to remind me of that going forward because life has those peaks and valleys.

Late last night, after sending out my Dear Friend letter, I finished watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.  I had watched it over a period of two consecutive nights.  A beautiful film and so well done I felt myself in Jean-Do’s claustrophobic diving bell throughout every scene.  My eye began to hurt as I watched him blink out the letters to his manuscript and I vowed I would never forget it for the rest of eternity (or at least for the next day).  A powerful film that I recommend highly. Subtitle alert.  But Jean-Dominique Bauby’s situation was an extreme one, but so many able-bodied people are caught under that Plath-like bell jar.  I know sometimes it may sound like I’m trying to sell life to you….because I am.  Buy into life. Life. Love. God is love. Love your life. Be kind. Do stuff. Let your soul breathe it all in…deeply. And it’s all your story. Her-story. His-story. History. And history:

It is the centuries of systematic explorations of the riddle of death, with a view to overcoming death. That’s why people discover mathematical infinity and electromagnetic waves, that’s why they write symphonies. Now, you can’t advance in this direction without a certain faith. You can’t make such discoveries without spiritual equipment. And the basic elements of this equipment are in the Gospels. What are they? To begin with, love of one’s neighbor, which is the supreme form of vital energy. Once it fills the heart of man it has to overflow and spend itself. And then the two basic ideals of modern man—without them he is unthinkable—the idea of free personality and the idea of life as sacrifice.
- Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago


Oh, and I forgot to tell you: this summer I found the beginning of a river.  When we hiked Mt. LeConte: This is where the river begins. It’s being born. The mist begins to condense onto the vegetation and then it begins to drip and then a trickle turns into a stream. As it’s filtered through moss and rock it gets funneled into tiny waterfalls across the trail…which eventually compound into the larger streams below. I imagine that all the veins eventually begin to find each other until they have enough water to form a creek, and the creeks eventually merge into rivers. The water always hurries along, finding it’s way to the lowest point. A very humble trait of water.



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Which Direction of the Sky Is This

Right down the road from the inn is Darnell Farms. You can’t miss the signs: Free Picnic Area…Bikers Welcome…Farm Tours…Hoop Cheese, Greasy Beans, Cold Drinks….  I have a picnic table by the river I like to sit and write at.  The river has a subtle roar to it, almost like a whisper. The river is always a murky olive right by the shoreline where it slows down and ripples and whirls. Elephant skin, that’s what it looks like. But it quickly erases itself to start again. And tiny leaves float like boats adrift and they are safe until they encounter the treacherous rocks. The trees grow out over the water at a 45 degree angle, defying gravity, and making themselves available for rope swings. And the bridge in the picture? I get to cross that at least twice a day….and I have to catch my breath each and every time…especially when the “smoky” mist is still there in the mornings:

The Tuckaseegee River in Bryson City, NC

It’s a working farm and I love seeing the big John Deer tractors emerge from the field. It doesn’t matter who is driving…they always wave. Right now they are growing tomatoes and peppers:

Fresh Produce from Darnell Farms in Bryson City

They are also growing flowers: mums and sunflowers. But the sunflowers hang their heads in kind of a sad way, at least they look sad to me.  Deflated.  And just a month ago they were harvesting squash. Before that strawberries.  And they are growing corn but that field makes me anxious and I don’t spend a lot of time looking at it. The stalks stand there so straight and narrow, high and mighty, the opposite of the sunflower. Their husky leaves grow straight up to the sky like taunting fingers.  Horror movie anyone?  But this wood shed reminds me of The Boxcar Children so it technically cancels out the Children of the Corn:

The Box Car Children

As I sat there today and wrote this sweat bee kept checking me out…hovering with his tiny beady eyes and invisible wings. He was only as big as a grain of rice. He landed on my arm a few times but I wasn’t sweating so he didn’t stay there long.  Then he landed on my computer and just sat there like he was posing for a picture. A few weeks ago a sweat bee stung me, her stinger getting stuck in my forearm, and the stinger was still attached to her backside. I knew she was a “she” because only the female sweat bees sting. I watched her struggle trying to break free from my forearm and imagined her saying “take that you big meanie.” And I literally felt like a big meanie. So I made friends with this one:


And sometimes I lay on that picnic bench by the river and stare into the blue sky….


….and just let my mind wander:

The sky goes on forever. And ever. And I live on a big, round ball right smack in the middle…because in forever: everything is in the middle. There is no end or edge of anything. And I don’t even know what direction of the sky this is. Is it forever forward or is it forever backward? Is it forever right or is it forever left? And the river reflects the sky, until the water hits the rocks and turns on itself, and breaks the picture into a billion pieces. Forever reflected into forever.  That must involve infinity and fractals and Pi.  And there are like a billion acres making up this ball I live on, and somehow I ended up on this particular one.  That must count for something…

And then I realize I’ve been daydreaming for hours and I’ve been gone all day. And I haven’t really gotten anything done.

But I wrote this.



The Soul Can Split the Sky In Two

I think the sky is bigger here. I took this tonight as we were driving to a friend’s house:



I wrote this in my journal a few weeks ago as we drove the same road:

I’m looking through a wide angle lens.
The clouds billow and plume and stretch to an invisible dome.
Like a snow globe.
Or the Truman Show. 


I’m not a poet, so here is an excerpt from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem Renascence:

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat–the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

No higher than the soul is high.

Me thinks….I will never leave this place.

I took this photo right after the one of the sky:

Boo: We get air conditioning when we go fast on the highway.


Three cheeseburgers wide.

I think that might have to be our Christmas Card photo.


I rode the train by myself yesterday. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Train Tracks in Bryson City

I was late (and almost missed it) because I chatted with the parking lot attendant too long about how locals with season passes should get free parking….my idea, not his.

I was assigned boarding section 5 and when I asked someone where that was they said:

Well it’s after 4….and if you get to 6 you’ve gone too far.

I never got as far as section 4 because I was forced to board at section 3.  I walked through all the train cars to get to section 5.  When I reached section 5, the woman I sat next to was worried because an older man had just suffered from a heart attack as he boarded.  I told her that luckily the hospital was on top of the hill next to us so he would probably be okay.  She seemed relieved.

At the start of the trip, I bought the $10 book because the man on the train said it was the best thing I would come across all day.  And it was. I sat and followed the map mile marker by mile marker. I slowly learned how to read a topographical map by matching up the scenery outside to what was in the book.  Like this adorable gingerbread farmhouse:

Old Farmhouse in Lower Alarka, Bryson City

I met a couple in their 70′s that were on their honeymoon.  We had a discussion about hickory nuts and pontoon boats. I listened to the train musicians sing an amazing rendition of Rock Me Momma…but then spent 20 minutes contemplating what “rock me momma like a wagon wheel” meant.  A lady with hot pink lipstick asked the musicians to play a song for the newlyweds.  Her mother had matching hot pink lipstick.

At the train’s “intermission” point I ate a huge BBQ sandwich by myself at a picnic table. I threw an animated fit when I brushed a red ant off my neck and the red ant WENT DOWN MY SHIRT.  A couple next to me stopped sipping their cold beers for a second to ask me if I was okay.

I watched a little boy pretend to talk on a police scanner in a foreign language. He had a toy gun in his holster and looked ready to use it.

I refilled my Diet Coke and asked a couple if they would watch it for me so I wouldn’t have to take it into the bathroom.  They looked like my grandparents….and the probability of being roofied at the Nantahala Outdoor Center is very, very low.

I asked three different people what time the train was going to leave. They each replied: when the horn blows.  Well thanks for nothin’….

I walked by the Nantahala River and collected driftwood. I spotted a shoe that had washed up at the bottom of the rapids. I thought about the fact that Deliverance was filmed on the Nantahala.

Nantahala River / Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Stop

I observed a man sitting on a rock in the middle of the river deep in thought.

I restyled my hair using the cool river water.

I walked along the edge of the train in awe of it’s underbelly. I wondered if anyone would survive laying on the track as the train rolled over (i.e. is there enough space for a human underneath). I was tempted to leave a few coins on the track to come back for later.

The train blew it’s 5 minute warning, and I definitely flinched.  I hopped back on, in the wrong car again.

On the way back I eavesdropped on a conversation concerning Ferragamo shoes. They sounded very expensive.

I talked with the man who had been sitting on a rock in the middle of the river and learned he was a landlord in NYC.  I also learned that he used to live in a bus year and years ago that he’d outfitted with a fireplace.  I asked if he still had the bus (because I might be interested in a bus).  He said he had just abandoned it and that someone else was probably enjoying a sweet bus right about now. (Hey Craig!)

The rocking of the train was so peaceful I thought about coming back one day for a nap.

As I got off the train, I saw a house for sale right in front of the depot and thought it would be a great place for a lemonade stand.

It took about 4.5 hours round trip. And that was that.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Departing from Bryson City Railroad

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself. -Henry Miller

I do forget myself…but I remember everything else.



I Can’t Say No To Jesus or Mayonnaise

I love finding little places like this:

I think everything in here came from my childhood home.

Stuff n Such Thrift Store Shopt in Whittier

I tend to show a lot of restraint when it comes to buying things but sometimes I cave when it comes to artwork….like when I saw this embroidered Jesus portrait.  Really, it wasn’t my fault…the “lion mane” hair hypnotized me:

Jesus Art and Vienna Sausage by The Crafty Cowboy

The Vienna Sausage painting that hangs above Jesus was a piece I picked up a few weeks ago.  I was in Gainesville and came across a disabled vet selling his paintings.  At first I was drawn to the Duke’s Mayonnaise clock…and then I got to know the artist and listened to his story and, well, I just ended up buying half his tent:

Artwork by The Crafty Cowboy

 The Crafty Cowboy

The mayonnaise clock hangs above my desk.  (I just realized I haven’t shared photos of how we’ve decorated our cottage yet….I’ll try to get to that!)

Mayonnaise Clock by The Crafty Cowboy

I figure I’m just building an amazing art collection to donate to the Getty or the MoMA one day.  I don’t even like mayonnaise…or Vienna Sausage.  But I do like Jesus. And he has a-may-zing hair.  It all evens out in the name of great art.

Oh, I also picked up these tiny “caution” cones for 25 cents.  The squirrels above our house have been pelting me with acorns. I confiscated one….not that it will make any difference to them.

acorns and cones

I wanted to buy these from a box on the side of the road but luckily another lady beat me to them:

puppies for sale in Bryson City

Just kidding. Diesel is an only dog.  But…Donna says there are miniature pot bellied pigs for sale nearby.  I’m going to have to take a look. Just a look.




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