Let Your Faith Be Bigger Than Your Fear

On my birthday five years ago my mother-in-law gave me a Daily Word on faith.  I found it in a book recently where I’d filed it away:

I believe that with God all things are possible and that God is expressing divine qualities through me.

With this faith-inspired understanding, I live life with a whole new meaning.

God is wisdom that reveals the wonder of the simple and the complex concern gin all aspects of daily living.

God is peace that restores my soul so that I can live fully in each moment – not in the past or the future.

Here in the mountains, where things move at a slower pace, I feel like I am able to pay more attention to that small voice within.  There is more direction, more understanding.  The scale of faith and fear becomes more balanced. The joy of simple being is there.

In church today the pastor talked about how there will always be worry and fear in our lives, but with faith we are empowered.  ”We will never be as low for as long. God is all powerful.” I love that.

I live life with a whole new meaning and with gratitude when the scales tip more in the favor of faith..... #quote

 

An amazing day can be measured by:

Fresh cut bales of hay:

Bryson City - Hay Bales
The loud song of katydids and a whip-por-will.

Meeting new friends at the pizza parlor (who happened to recognize us from church…and said “hi”…small towns rock.)

A night of stargazing.

A summer storm.

A simple “can I have a hug?”:

Let Your Faith Be Bigger than your fear

 

I live life with a whole new meaning and with gratitude when the scales tip more in the favor of faith…

 

 

The Ghost Towns of Hazel Creek

Note: This is a story that can’t be told in just one blog post but I did my best. Whenever I’m in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park I think about the people that used to live there and what their lives might have been like. Most people (including myself until recently) don’t realize that the land wasn’t just always empty and waiting for park designation.  85% of the national forest was owned by timber companies, and 15 % of the national forest was owned by small landholders, like you and me. These were quaint, self-sufficient communities….now ghost towns.

When we first moved to Bryson City in June, I started learning about Fontana lake and how when the Fontana dam was built in the 1940s it displaced many small towns in an area known as Hazel Creek. I’ve written about my fear of deep water before….lakes, ponds….ever since my dad told me when I was little about the “town” under the lake we lived on.  The Fontana story started to become a little bit of an obsession, especially after one night of sitting and listening to one of the cooks at the inn tell me the story of his father and grandfather, how they lost their land. He told me how his grandfather lost his farm, barn and home, receiving only 4 acres in return. Then he had to rebuild from scratch with no assistance. His father lost his land too….he got nothing in return for it.  He was overseas serving his country during WWII and the federal government took his farm using eminent domain. He came home from war to nothing.  Stories like this haunt me.

It wasn’t just a few people, hundreds of families were forced to leave their homes with the construction of Fontana Dam because their communities would eventually be submerged as the valleys filled up with water.  When the water from the Little Tennessee River rose it also covered roads including Highway 288 which cut off access to the Hazel Creek communities. Gravesites below the waterline were moved (although not all of them were actually moved….many Native American gravesites are still there….or if the families couldn’t be reached: graves remained). Gravesites above the waterline were left because the federal government promised the residents who gave up their land for the Fontana Dam that they would soon have a road constructed on the north side of the lake so that they could have access to their family cemeteries. Some families were told by authorities that they’d even be able to return to their land once the road was built so they left sites as if they were coming back…..but most of the remaining buildings were burned leaving only the foundations and fireplaces. You can still see many of these if you hike around the area. A ghost town for sure.

So about that road: despite the promise from the federal government, only about 7 miles of the road that would allow residents to access the old cemeteries and homesites was ever constructed.  The tunnel was the last thing constructed and the road project ended there in the early 1970′s due to lack of funding and environmental concerns.  (I wrote about visiting the tunnel and Road to Nowhere here.) Now it’s just a creepy tunnel that goes nowhere:

Things to do in Bryson City - The Road to Nowhere Tunnel in Smoky Mountains

It wasn’t until the 1970′s that the park service began to ferry families over to Hazel Creek a few times a year to re-mound the graves and decorate them.  These are known as decoration days. After hearing so many stories I desperately wanted to travel over and visit the cemeteries and “lost” communities. I’d been asking questions about it around town and had gotten to know Helene and Barry, the owners of the Filling Station, and one day when we were ordering Helene slipped Brett a post it note with a name on it and said:

Call this number….this is someone that will take you to the grave decoration.

I felt kind of strange calling someone I’d never met and asking if I could tag along to visit their family gravesides with them.  I got a voicemail and left a message: hi, I was wondering if I could tag along when you go to the cemetery next week. The woman that called me back was named Megan.  I was surprised to learn that she was only 24 years old….she seemed wise beyond her years. She said I was welcome to come along with her and her grandmother Aileen (“Nan”). She even offered to pick me up and drive me to the cove where they would catch the ferry.

*****

On the morning of the decoration, I met Megan and her grandmother Aileen for the first time.  They welcomed me right in.  I even began calling Aileen “Nan” and on the thirty minute drive to Cable Cove they both gave me a quick history of the area and answered a gazillion questions I had. Nan’s mother was moved out of a town called Dorsey in 1944. Dorsey is now under the lake. Nan’s grandfather was the postmaster of Dorsey.

We met the ferry at Cable Cove and it took us on a 20 minute ferry ride through a winding route to Hazel Creek, one of the most remote areas of the Great Smoky Mountains:

Hazel Creek - Town of Proctor

The ferry parked and put a ramp onto the shoreline.  We hiked up a steep hill and it opened up into a small clearing where the Proctor cemetery was located.  It probably didn’t look anything like this in the 1940s….the trees have grown up around the cemetery, taking over as nature does:

Proctor Cemetery - Hazel Creek Valley

Every single grave was decorated. A few new headstones were put into place to mark graves that were indistinguishable.  James Calhoun, a genuine douser, was present to help locate them if necessary.

Proctor Cemetery Decoration on the North Shore of Fontana

I walked around and read each and every stone. A few of the stones really got to me….like this one that was hand carved into the shape of a heart.  It reads “our baby” at the top:

Coleman Johnson September 16, 1929

One corner area of the graveyard was primarily infants…most entered and left this world on the same day.  Many dates were 1918-1919 and I asked a man what happened in that year.  He said that it was the Spanish Influenza.

North Shore Cemeteries - Fontana Dam

Many of the grave markers are just stones and others are deteriorating to such a point that the names are unrecognizable.  The North Shore Historical Society has been slowly replacing them.

After the decorating of the graves we walked a half mile down a gravel road to the Calhoun house….one of the only structures that was left standing after the residents were forced to move. It was left intact so that it could serve as a bunkhouse for the park service:

The Calhoun House - Town of Proctor - Horace Kephart

The front porch of the Calhoun House:

Ghost Towns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Here’s a photo I posted on Instagram of the sink inside the house:

Instagram @lilblueboo

This was a bustling little community in the 1920′s.  The Southern Railway came in, the Ritter Lumber Company built a large mill, and there was a cafe, a doctor, train depot, school and even a movie theater.

CONTINUE READING

A Reclaimed Sign

We spent the day today finishing up some painting in Boo’s room. It’s taken us forever to finish her room because of the wood paneling.  It will be done soon and I can finish up that room and share some photos.

One day Brett was looking for some old wood in the inn’s barn and we stumbled upon an old rotting sign that was used years ago to direct guests to the inn.  I asked Lainey if I could have it and she said yes so Brett ended up hauling this huge awkward tangled piece of wood back to the house….wondering what I was going to do with it.

I hung it above the fireplace:

Artwork above my fireplace using a reclaimed sign

Years ago it was a 20 foot long arrow reading: TURN HERE ONE MILE.  The only part I could salvage was the “TURN H.” But I do think it’s awesome.  The arrow has a reflective quality so when it’s dark it glows slightly.

Upcycled. Reclaimed. Recycled.

 

 

High and Far Places (like Mount LeConte)

Life is Rich quote by Harold Broome - Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Mt LeConte and Lodge

 

I’ve been reading and re-reading the journals of Harvey Broome  (Out Under the Sky of the Great Smokies). They were written more than 60 years ago….and he has a profound way of describing the awe of the mountains. He writes over and over about Mount Le Conte but it was just another name to me.  A “someday” hike.

But then…a few days ago we had the opportunity to stay at the Le Conte Lodge thanks to a new friend we met at the Hemlock Inn (Hi Joe!!!).  It takes almost a year to get reservations so this was an amazing opening for our family. We didn’t even hesitate to say yes…even though we knew we’d have to hike a steep ascent to the top of Mt. LeConte to get to our destination. (Hike 5.5 miles uphill? No problem, right?)

LeConte Lodge Facts:
It was built around 1926, before the national park was established.
It’s only accessible by foot (i.e. a long steep hike).
A helicopter brings in the bulk of supplies each spring.
Llamas bring up supplies 3 times a week (linens, perishable food, mail!)
No electricity.

(watch this video to see the adorable llamas in action)

 

First, we had to figure out how to get up to the lodge. There are a few different trails that will take you to the top of Mount LeConte and we researched them all. We picked the steepest and most strenuous, but also the shortest: Alum Cave Trail.  It’s one of the most beautiful and scenic trails by far.  I had purchased a Scavenger Hike Adventures (GSMNP) that has scavenger hunts for many trails in the Smokies…the last trail in the book was the Alum Cave Trail…and it’s labeled “EXTREMELY EXTREME.”

The great part about the book was that it got Boo really into the hike right off….and it was as if the book was being written as we hiked….especially when it said to find the huge rock formation called Arch Rock and look for a salamander: we immediately found a salamander.

Arch Rock at Alum Cave and Mt. LeConte - Great Smoky Mountains

The first 1.5 miles of the hike follows the Alum Cave creek….a beautiful flow of water that twists and turns and churns over and around boulders of every size imaginable. At about 4,500 feet is a clearing (or heath bald) called Inspiration Point. There aren’t many trees at this location which makes the views extra breathtaking. The vegetation is a mix of rhododendron, mountain laurel and sand myrtle (nature is an amazing landscape artist).

Inspiration Point at Mt Le Conte - Alum Cave Trail

Alum Cave Bluffs is halfway to the top. Many people hike up to this enormous rock overhang (it’s pretty amazing) as their final destination before turning back. It takes about 4 hours roundtrip to just this point:

Alum Cave Bluffs - Halfway Mt. LeConte - Le Conte Lodge

After a brief stop at the bluff, we continued on to the top of Mt. LeConte. It’s a pretty steep and strenuous climb after the halfway point with steep overlooks but there are plenty of cable handrails:

Climbing to Mt. LeConte and Mount Le Conte Lodge via Alum Cave Trail

We knew there was rain in the forecast but mostly the thick mist just left us damp, but refreshed:

(umm….that kink might be why it was harder than usual to drink water)

Hiking Alum Cave Trail Mt. LeConte

The top of the mountain is where Alum Cave Creek starts.  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. Broome writes about it better than I ever could:

Water trickles from mossy overhangs. Here one finds the moisture and greenness of high mountains, great pillows of moss, flat carpets of oxalis leaves studded with modest blooms, glistening heart-shaped leaves of the rare Grass of Parnassus, the white blooms of thornless blackberries, and the lovely pink of the punctatums springing sparingly into being in these high woods. -H.B. July 1962

How to Get to Mt. Le Conte Lodge

Almost to the top of Le Conte, with the thick cloudy mist, it was eerie. The thousands of dead Fraser fir trees that were infested by a small insect from Europe years ago give a slight Chernobyl-like feel but you feel a quickening in your step… as if you’ve arrived somewhere mystical. (Note: It IS mystical.)

Hiking to Mt LeConte and Mount Le Conte Lodge

We arrived at Le Conte lodge mid afternoon…it appeared out of nowhere….almost as if an elusive monastery.

Staying at Mt Le Conte Lodge on top of Mount LeConte

After checking in we were given a quick tour on where to get cold water for drinking and hot water for the wash basins. There is no electricity at the lodge so daily activities run by the sunrise and sunset.  Our cabin had a kerosene lamp for light and a small propane heater in case the temperature dropped too low. (Note: the temperature dropped to 38 degrees…but we were snug in our comfy beds!)

Mount Mt. LeConte Lodge Cabin

Before dinner we hiked up to Cliff Top. There are no words for it. It was like entering a another world.

There was an encompassing witchery to it, as of high far places. -H.B. 1962

Mt LeConte Cliff Top

 

“There was no sight of man except the cramped trail leading through the north woods and the sand myrtle to the cliffs. There was no sound of man other than our own quiet conversation. What leisured sanity! No entertainment – except soft-voiced exchanges of experience, and this haze dimmed world of mountains. I have never gone to that cliff without exhilaration. I have never left it without regret.

The calm, the immensity, the forest with a million components – healing, covering, vitalizing every foot of the scene below, and before us! I have no fear for life. I fear only for man, who with his works and numbers is shutting himself away from life. -H.B. at Cliff Top in 1962

I took my time as Boo and Brett headed back to camp…lost in my own thoughts.  I still have a bruised arm, hip and leg to show for that…slipping on a huge rock and not thinking fast enough to catch myself. I fell with a huge thud and only the trees heard me utter a pathetic whiny “owwwwwww.”

Then I saw a perfect little toadstool:

Mt LeConte Toadstool

Back at the lodge we ate dinner with the other guests in the dining hall. The food was much better than I expected considering they don’t have electricity. Boo loved the beef stew but declared that the green beans were not the same as the Hemlock Inn’s because they “left out the seasons.”  After some hot chocolate and cookies, and great conversation with new friends, we turned in for bed around 8pm.

Mt LeConte Lodge Cabin 7

I woke up in the middle of the night (or what I thought was the middle of the night….it was actually only 10pm).  As I opened the door to our cabin I took a headlamp with me.  The cloud and fog was so thick I wasn’t able to see more than a foot in any direction. I followed the stone path in the direction of the bathrooms sure that I would run straight into a bear.  I’ve always been scared of the dark but for some reason I wasn’t this time.  There was no light except my own.  There were no sounds except for the rain and my own heavy breathing of the thin air.

No sound at all. I listened and listened. After minutes of this game, surely there would be something. But I heard no stir. Silence, stillness, and peace. – H.B. at Myrtle Point, 1962

We woke up early the next morning to hike to Myrtle Point (about 7/10 of a mile) to see the sunrise. At the top we were standing unsheltered on large rocks that have been there for millions of years.  The wind whipped around us and as I spoke loudly the sound was blown right back into my mouth. There are no words to describe this view except: wow.

The mist dissolved and re-formed. Vague shapes of mounting appeared and vanished. There were stupendous, formless depths around us.  [...] Looking out again, we saw slivers of color forming above the maw of mist. [...] The awesomeness of the universe and the awful loneliness of man smote me. -H.B. at Myrtle Point, 1962

Myrtle Point from top of Mt LeConte in the Smokies #sunrise #mtleconte #myrtlepoint

Sunrise at Myrtle Point on Mt LeConte short hike from Mount Le Conte Lodge

The morning view from the third highest peak in the Smokies:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Myrtle Point

We emerged into the openness of the cliff and gazed down into an undulant world of blue mountains. This beauty, this mastery of environment, was what we had come for; and when we retreated to the lodge is was with mingled feelings of humility and of self-respect. -H.B.  on Cliff Top in 1961

Then we headed back to the lodge…and ate the best pancakes ever. And biscuits and apple butter. And eggs brought by llama.

And Boo played with new friends.

And then it was time to leave this mysterious, beautiful place.

I have never wanted to leave the top of a mountain. -H.B.

Mt LeConte Blog and Trails

 

After 60 or more trips to Le Conte, I sensed again, as though for the first time, the exhilaration which goes with the thin air a mile and a quarter up and the grand mystery of the wind ripping through a concealing fog on top of the mountain. I have never wanted to leave Mt. Le Conte. There is a pointedness to every experience. The world of business and of tense endeavor is absent. The mountains are dominant. -H.B. June 1960

 

We made it down the mountain in a little over 2 hours.  All three of us exhilirated. I used to wonder why people would give up everything just to be able to spend time in the outdoors…now I get it.  On the top of Mt. Le Conte a few days ago, 6,593 feet above sea level, I felt that adrenaline.  It’s mixed with a kind of homesickness or “mystic stirring” and “a feeling of foreverness” as Harvey Broome would say.

I wish I could bottle up that feeling and share it with people who I know need it.  Like with the woman at the lodge who insisted that her husband had dragged her up the mountain against her will.  As she complained about the hike, the rain, the lodging and everything else I felt a profound sadness about her.  I suggested she walk up the 1/10 of a mile to the top…through a portal to another world…but she wouldn’t.  And there was once a time where I wouldn’t have ventured up either.  But despite what they say: people can change. And then that change compounds. And everything has a point.  And there is no fear of life.

 
Resharing this from an old post: CONTINUE READING

The Sun Also Rises

I’ve gone twice to a little church now called The Grove.  Today reminded me why I go to church each Sunday…because it grounds me and puts me right back on track.  When we dropped Boo off at Sunday school the director told us that the pastor was out of town and that the youth pastor was going to be preaching for the first time.  We seem to always be a part of people’s firsts….the tornado in Kansas it was the clerk’s first day of work, yesterday our tour guide at Tuckaleechee Caverns was giving his first tour ever, and today a first time sermon.

The theme at church today was Leap of Faith. The pastor talked about how not long ago he was working 4 jobs and still couldn’t seem to make things work out financially….but eventually he realized that it was God’s way of telling him he couldn’t just rely on himself. Long story super short: he took a leap of faith into mission work and everything worked out. I wrote so much of what he said down:

“we sink when we take our eyes off him”

“choosing to trust God saves us”

“give up your fears in prayer and let God know you are ready for him to catch you”

I even noticed Brett taking down notes and we kept glancing at each other during the sermon….because we took a leap of faith.  And sometimes, because we are human, we question that leap. Our lives have changed in almost every detail: We live in such a small space we are practically tripping over one another.  If we try to brush your teeth while someone else is taking a shower we’ll hear a scream as the water turns frigid. We have a “pet” mouse family that lives in the wall of our cottage that I’m too chicken to do something about. I walked over a small snake last night on our front walk (it wasn’t the first). Wasps and spiders seem to like our area of the property way too much.  We don’t have central air conditioning.  Our roof leaks and rusty nails are popping through the ceiling.  I have nightmares about trees falling on the house. Brett isn’t working this summer so he’s home all the time.  I don’t have one little ounce of space that I can call my own….. Oh and I bought a lemon of a truck that needs a brand new engine and just about everything else (but at least she’s pretty!). Plus, a rock went through Brett’s windshield a few days ago.  We spent $3,000 on a new septic tank the first few days we moved in.  A mole dug up all the landscaping Brett put in (but then it mysteriously died and I felt so bad about wishing death on him…):

 

This morning a woman at breakfast told me that she’d signed up for my weekly letter and I remembered that I actually HAD a weekly newsletter…..and that I hadn’t written one in 4 weeks. Then I realized I’d only written a handful of blog posts too in the last month.

Before our move this might have felt like things were falling apart.

Now it feels like we are participating in life.

Plus…..the Smokies have cast a spell on us.

I’m learning that nature is so much more powerful than I ever realized.  I can feel my heart constantly responding to the mountains and scenery. I’ve forgotten about TV and Target and so many other things that ran my day before.

And the rain. It rains all the time.  Someone told me that it’s nature’s blessing. I can’t think of anything more reassuring than clean water and fresh air…and random encounters with wildlife and running across things like wild fruit (blackberries!).

Yesterday morning we woke up and drove up into the park to get to Cades Cove. On the way we saw a bunch of camera tripods set up on an overlook to photograph the sunrise. I decided I’d join them:

As we drove away I thought: all of these people had driven up to this spot above the valley where they were certain that the sun would rise. And it rose. From the east. Exactly where they expected it to rise from.  How convenient. And miraculous. And completely breathtaking.

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly our whole life would change. -Buddha

 

Then we biked 11 miles around Cades Cove before the cars were let in at 10am.  (I haven’t ridden a bike in like 20 years.) We saw deer, a bobcat, a wild pig and beautiful scenery.

 

I’m learning that the only true adventure in this life is faith.


 

A Place of Refuge

There’s a thunderstorm in the mountains tonight.  The clouds roll in so quickly up here…it can be sunny one minute and the next minute:

 

The past week was a blur of activity as we explored the Smokies. I don’t know how it will be possible to see everything we want to in just a year’s time. At dinner each night when we tell guests where we’ve been many are surprised at the number and range of activities in the area, most of which are free.

There were 2 highlights to my week…and both firsts for me:

1. I went to a decoration day (which deserves its own post)

2. Donna, one of the cooks at the inn, invited me to a revival at her church.

Of course I showed up to the revival.  And who did we sit in front of?  The sheriff and the local bail bondsman. Donna introduced me to both of them in case I ever get in trouble. (wouldn’t THAT be an awesome post….)  So, I’d never been to a revival before….and had no idea what to expect….but I’m always up for anything remotely interesting.

Fact: the revival was overflowing with interesting.

It was led by Bill Saye….who was sent to prison in 1982 for first degree murder….and then completely turned his life around.  I pretty much wrote down everything he said in his testimony…including his description of “old fashioned holy ghost preaching.”  At the end of the night I was kind of sad that it was over. The revival singing was beautiful and haunting….true mountain church music.  As I left a man said to me:

You need to know….that in these mountains…..you are in a place of safety and refuge.

It was strangely profound because I’d just been thinking that moments before he said it.  It could have been coincidence or maybe it was God trying to hammer something through to me. This place is a place of refuge. And yes I feel that here.

We stayed up at the inn late tonight so that Boo could play with some new friends.  Brett stayed down at the cottage because we’d had a roof leak and he wanted to check his handiwork (almost narrowed down!).  Walking home with a small flashlight and jumping over puddles Boo and I weren’t so jumpy as we’d been in the past few weeks. The darkness wasn’t something to be feared so much anymore.

 

P.S. My little sister Perry went into labor tonight.  Please pray for her and her sweet baby…and an easy delivery!

 

A Rustic Wedding in the Smoky Mountains

One of the perks of living at the Hemlock Inn is that we get to watch beautiful weddings take place.  The 3rd weekend we were here a couple named Becca and Jake were married on the property. We were lucky enough to be seated for dinner with Becca, her parents and friends two days before the wedding and get to know them a little. Such nice folks.  Boo said Becca is her new BFF (and Becca sealed the deal by leaving her a bouquet of flowers when she left the morning after the wedding….)

Rustic Wedding Ideas - Hemlock Inn - Bryson City, NC #wedding #rusticwedding #ncwedding #brysoncity

 

I loved all the rustic touches like this pitchfork sign to greet guests as they came up the drive:

DIY Rustic Wedding Ideas and Smoky Mountains Venue - Hemlock Inn - Bryson City, NC #wedding #rusticwedding #ncwedding #brysoncity

 

Here’s a little before and after animation. Jake, the groom, and his step-father and a friend made the arbor:

 

I hid behind a tree to take this photo. It was drizzling during the ceremony but only for a few moments! CONTINUE READING

Meet it and Live it

I love this:

Waterrock Knob - Harvey Broome - Out Under the Sky of the Great Smokies "A Year at the Hemlock" via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

 

That photo of the Smoky Mountains is one I took yesterday….I’m pretty sure you can see all the way to Tennessee.  Brett has been researching the nearby trails and natural wonders. We are working on some printable “day guides” for the area of our favorite places….that could be an endless project. On the suggestion of a friend we went to visit Waterrock Knob yesterday. It’s a short trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Don’t Boo and I look really outdoorsy?

Waterrock Knob off the Blue Ridge Parkway via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

 

The real truth is….I am not very outdoorsy….yet. I used to be. When I was in high school I wanted to work for the National Forest Service. Now I cringe when I walk through spiderwebs or tall grass. (and when do the spiders realize they can’t build a web on a path?! It’s endless rebuilding! Unless they are actually trying to catch a human….) Boo and I are getting a little braver each day when it comes to nature. Brett on the other hand has already found a riding group and ventures out to Tsali on his own to go biking.  He was really patient with us yesterday when he took us on a “secret trail” and Boo and I were both almost hyperventilating at the sighting of fresh bear poop (scat?!) every 10 feet.

Waterrock Knob Hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

Brett and Boo are putting together some more office storage today so I can get myself out of boxes. All my bookshelves are put together and my books are unpacked. Brett’s looking for some old wood tomorrow to build me a desk so there’s a place to put my desktop computer and printer.  Then I have endless tutorials and home decor photos backlogged from the past few months that I never got to before our move….that will take a little catching up.  And I can’t wait to share our revamp of the cottage we are staying in here at the Hemlock Inn.

I’m still trying to find my rhythm here with writing. There is so much to see and do here that I get easily sidetracked.  I’ve been working on a book now for 2 years and I would love to finish it in the near future which will require some serious discipline soon.  Everyone asks me what kind of book it is and I used to say “memoir” until a man told me I wasn’t old enough to write a memoir so now I just call it a “totally true episode”….that leaves room for multiple episodes right? So if I don’t hear from me for a few days I’m probably 1. wandering or 2. off writing for the episode…  (or I’m probably on Instagram @lilblueboo)

I went to the library today to get some work done.  As I was sitting there an older man meandered in, grabbed the newspaper and said to no one in particular in a thick southern drawl:

Well, let me sit down and read some of this here propaganda.

I lost my souther accent years ago but I hear it coming back.

I found the below passage in a magazine in the library. It was written originally in 1919 but was republished in Smokies Life Magazine recently (Volume 5 #1):

First I came here for health’s sake and peace of mind. The grand old hills and forests gave me both. I return to then a fond affection.

Then I got to liking the people. They are a plain, honest, brave and independent folk. They are pure Americans, with true American ideals. They are hospitable, with genuine good will, and not for the sake of gain. They judge a man from his own deeds and bearing; not from his pocket book or family tree.

Towns are few and small. Outside of them, the people are quaintly old fashioned, with ideas of their own, not borrowed ones. They are original, these mountaineers; nearly everyone is a character.

-Horace Kephart, published in All Outdoors magazine, October 1919.

 

“Then I got to liking the people.” There’s something about a small mountain town that you can never find anywhere else I think.  Everyone I meet is itching to tell a story.  And the buildings too:

Two Silos out of Bryson City off the Tuckaseegee River

 

I can’t wait to show you what I see. I could spend a whole month documenting the roadside motels that have closed down and are slowly being reclaimed by nature.  I could spend another year sharing some of the stories from the locals I’ve met so far.  And most of them have had some hard lives but most of them make me think of that Thoreau quote:

However mean your life is, meet it and live it.

It will be interesting to see how my perspective changes or doesn’t change over the next year.

I just realized I haven’t been to a Target in over a month….and I can’t think of anything I could possibly need from there anyway.  I’d have to drive to another town to find one if I did.

Ok, enough rambling for today. I still have a letter to write.  If you haven’t signed up for the weekly letter….click here.  A few recent letters if you missed them:

A Little Space to Dream

More Than Resting

The Weight of the Centuries

To Be Yourself

 

P.S. I’d love to know if you live in a small town. What is your favorite part about living there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Ruby

I made it three weeks as a one car family.  Then I realized I need my freedom to wander on my own, without worrying about the rest of the family being stranded.

Meet Ruby, my new 1982 Chevy C10:

I knew Ruby would need some work….and she did.  16 seconds after purchasing her she died.  I’m not kidding. It was a scene out of a movie. Yay I bought a truck!  And…. I broke it.

Here’s my brother-in-law Justin, Brett and the sales guy Mike pushing her back to the garage:

 

I had to leave Ruby in Charlotte for a week while she gets fixed up.  She needs a new speedometer and a horn. A rearview mirror too.  Oh and her engine needs to start….she starts when she’s cold at least and runs perfectly until she gets warmed up.  Maybe she’s lazy.   I’ve never been excited about a car before….but I’m excited about this one.  I tried to get her to start by telling her how much fun she’ll have just sitting by the river with me.  Maybe she’s nervous about small town life.  She’ll come around.

 

 

Beautiful Things Don’t Ask For Attention

It was a rough day for Boo yesterday…she was grounded. I don’t know what got into her….maybe it’s all the freedom. There’s a wedding tonight and the bride and her family were here yesterday setting up and Boo was so excited to help…and she was a great help…but then she began to get a little snooty, too big for her britches as they say, and then she was disrespectful to the inn’s intern Harper and that was the last straw.  I confined her to the house and then witnessed a full blown tantrum and I’d never seen her so defiant before. She is well beyond her years in being able to turn arguments around on a dime.  After being grounded and realizing that her actions had serious consequences (like not being able to run freely around the inn) she turned back into my sweet, down-to-earth child.

But she is me. She wants to do and see everything.  She craves freedom and independence. She wants to disappear and wander aimlessly. She never tires. I get it…but when it affects others it’s time to reign it in.  I guess that’s why we need boundaries, right?

I stayed up way too late last night…reading Thoreau of all things.  I hadn’t touched Thoreau since being forced to read it in high school but something deep down was urging me to revisit it. I kept having to turn on the light to write down page numbers of quotes to share:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest.”

“It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.”

“In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

“The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats.”

 

let us spend every day deliberately - quote by thoreau

*****

Yesterday was the first day I took my big DSLR camera out…and I only took a few photos.  We watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty the other night and there’s that scene where the rare snow leopard emerges from its hiding place and Sean O’Connell doesn’t press the shutter button.  Watching it I’m thinking: PRESS THE BUTTON. PRESS THE BUTTON!

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.

(loved that movie…except I have been singing the line non stop “This is Major Tom to Ground Control….I’m stepping through the door.”)

I’m in these moments…I haven’t felt like I needed to capture them all for the first time in a long time.

******

I was a little uncertain for the first few days living here….the moisture of the mountains, the spiders and healthy insect colonies of the forest. It was all so new. I wondered if maybe I just wasn’t made for the outdoors. But yesterday, as Brett and Boo were skipping rocks into the river yesterday afternoon (her request) I found this place along the shore where the powerful Tuckaseegee river was flowing backwards because of the current. He leads me beside the still waters. I’m in awe of this place.  The richness of the land and the area. It’s humming with life all the time.  I find strength in the trees and peace from the water.

A year ago I would have needed the perfect office to write from, now I’m writing from the floor of my bedroom huddled next to the dog for the best sunlight. It’s quiet here and Diesel’s sweet panting breath is soothing. And other than that there is no sound whatsoever except for an occasional bird song. I could be the only person on earth right now…..except I know there is a flurry of activity up the hill for a young couple getting married on the property tonight:

rustic wedding

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