Cherokee, NC & Ellijay, GA

Panda is extremely happy about our new location. She is currently reclining like a queen in our king size bed, listening to the sounds of the Cartecay River outside our third story cabin window, occasionally mumbling to herself about how she wants to feed the deer in the morning.

This evening we are in Ellijay, nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.

We were welcomed here a few hours ago by my cousin, Lisa. She is actually a second cousin of my mother’s, and they grew up together. Mommy is very happy to know I am safely ensconced here with family, not gallivanting about couchsurfing. It is absolutely gorgeous here, so I can’t deny that I’m content to be here, as well. First of all, the drive alone was majestic, traveling through the mountain ranges. My straight and wide recollection of highways could barely handle the curvy turns and twists of the narrow roads here; nevertheless they are termed as highways, and are the only way to get from point A to B. As I drove, I couldn’t help but to think how even a hundred years ago, a mile was a mountain, both figuratively and literally. No wonder people settled into the curves of the hills and never left; there were little options beyond that existence. There is something both tranquil and terribly isolating in that thought.

Before the Blue Ridge Mountains welcomed us, Panda and I briefly visited the Great Smoky Mountain Range, as well. I was thrilled to attend my very first Native American Powwow, right on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina. I woke up, relatively early (for me), said goodbye to Chris as he left for work, then headed over to Cherokee for the Memorial Day Weekend Powwow. As I drove deeper into the mountains, I could barely contain my joy – I could smell the husky smell of wood smoke, and almost drove off cliffs a couple times due to my absolute awe of all that was around me. I was tempted to pull off to the side of the road, and simply refuse to leave. For the rest of my life.

Nevertheless, I made it to the powwow, and gratefully so, for it was a wonderful experience. I sat next to a nice woman named Pat, who was also traveling alone, and we both enjoyed taking lots of pictures of the singers and dancers. As soon as the singers began drumming, I felt that burgeoning feeling in my chest again. I have felt so much energy, deep within my chest – first with yoga, then the mountains, now the music. It’s as though the air is pressing down upon my heart, and it is a perfect mixture of yin and yang, pleasure and pain. As the drumbeats started, and the players mixed their voices into the beat, tears formed in my eyes, and I could barely swallow. Again I was overwhelmed with profound emotions, spilling up from my soul. It is not only an awareness of joy and of life, but also of a deep soul pain, probably in a war between feeling and healing.

I’ve only been with Lisa for a few hours, and already we have had incredible conversations. She is a great representation of the kind of person I hope to be, and has accomplished many of the things for which I strive. At the very least, she owns this cabin, which is a perfect symbol for me of everything I dream of – the earth, a sense of peace, security, and authenticity. She might have to pry me off the porch to get me to leave.

Asheville, NC

After leaving Savannah at 10:30 AM, I drove five and a half hours back to Raleigh, North Carolina, to be comforted by my friend, Corey. As I told Rick this on the phone, he laughed and said “I’ve never heard of anyone going to such lengths to nurse a hangover.” Which, once I thought about it, was half-hilarious, half-pathetic, and completely necessary. I was a mess. After all that crying and all that feeling displaced, I needed to be somewhere where I felt safe, and could regroup and start again.

That drive was THE most painful experience of my life. It was never-ending, and excruciating. Everything hurt. I assumed it was a hangover, but then Kara Simpson reminded me that I was working off of about 5 hours of sleep in a 48-hour period, so that helped to explain the distinct feeling of slow death.

Finally, I reached Corey, and spent the next day recovering and trying to figure out what was next. I slept like a baby, in a bed by myself (not random Swiss guys and hot chicks), and consumed absolutely no alcohol. Thank goodness for straight-edge friends. And thank goodness for Corey. 🙂

As the title of this post infers, I am currently in Asheville, North Carolina. I drove here yesterday, and spent the night in my first hotel – not only the first hotel of my trip, but the first hotel I’ve ever experienced by myself. I felt stupid spending money to sleep somewhere, but it was nice to not feel obligated to anyone, and be completely alone.

Of course, being completely alone eventually led to me talking to myself, a lot… but it’s all good. These things happen.

Woke up this morning, not hung-over and completely alone, which was divine, and walked downtown Asheville. Lots of artsy people and stores, and it was relaxing and enjoyable. I had been communicating online with this guy, Chris, from couchsurfing.com, and he had told me where he was working, so I stopped by to say hi and make sure he wasn’t a psychopath. He was, indeed, a non-psychopath, and we ended up having a great conversation, and making plans to meet up later. And that’s where I am now – at his apartment, with the beautiful view of the mountains and the sunset, feeling comfortable and completely non-violated. 🙂

Savannah, GA – Part 2

Before I continue, I want all my dear readers to know that my idea of drunken debauchery is not nearly enough to make you swoon. And when I discuss my orgiastic, drunken times in Savannah, they are in fact, on the whole, innocent. For me, however, they were overwhelming and far, far out of my league.

I woke up in bed with Angelo the Swiss and Tess. Miraculously, I had no hangover, and other than feeling a bit misplaced, I felt great. Tess, Angelo, Felicia, and I all eventually woke our groggy asses up and headed over to “the island” – a long discussion ensued about what “the island” really was. It is in fact, a number of islands off of Savannah, but the one they mean is the one to which they refer… if that makes any sense. Anyhow, we headed over there to Tess’ mother’s studio, where she teaches yoga. I had never experienced yoga before, although handfuls of people had told me it would be perfect for me, so I was looking forward to a new experience (yes, another).

The hilarity of the moment hit us all as we were sitting outside her mother’s studio, waiting to go in for the yoga class. Tess was sitting on the curb, and the rest of us three were squished on a bench outside the studio. Angelo was in the middle of us two girls. In fact, Angelo was in the middle of us two girls – smoking a cigarette and drinking a Red Bull! Preparing for yoga, apparently, hahaha. Him and his quiet confidence made me smile a lot during our time together.

Tess’ mother was delightful – she was French, and the exotic sound of her voice mixed with the ting-ting music and the smell of lavender was enough to slay anyone. As soon as she started speaking softly about the tenets of yoga- the re-connection with the body, the releasing of pain, etc. – well, I started to cry. It was ridiculous – I almost had to get up and leave so I could sob for a while. We hadn’t even started the yoga part! So that was a sign for me that I was feeling some turmoil in my soul, but I kept myself together and completed the hour. And I really enjoyed it – hope to do more yoga in the future. It is very empowering.

Fast-forward. I don’t have time to relive too much of this.

Tess went to a fashion show with Fletcher, to watch his boyfriend Xavier. Tess looked hot, Fletcher was delightful, I didn’t meet Xavier until later. Meanwhile, Felicia, Angelo, and I went downtown to meet up with three bicyclists who were traveling from Florida to Virginia, on bike – which is totally rad. Yes, totally rad. And they turned out to be exactly that way, as well. Jason was basically incredible, John was yummy and delicious (and no, I don’t know from actual taste), and then there was Andrew.

As soon as I heard his name was Andrew, I was like ‘ugh.’ And if you know me, you know why.

It always happens that way though. And after we all went to a sushi restaurant, had a quick meal in our bright yellow spandex (okay that was just Jason), we returned to Tess’ to get ready to go out for the night. As I’m doing my thing, my phone rings. Everyone’s laughing and having a great time, so I don’t think twice about the random number, or try to analyze the voice on the phone. I ask who it is. “Someone you don’t want to talk to,” he replies, so I say “Why are you calling me if I don’t want to talk to you?” to which he responds that he’s graduating on to the next step in the army, and I go “Holy shit! Why are you calling me!?”

At least I was a bitch (and me being a bitch is like the average person trying to be nice) BUT I tried. Anyways, it was Andrew, which shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me, because he always shows up when I’m either delicate or growing stronger – either way, it’s never good.

Enough of that. A blip in the radar.

Shakespeare in the Park; Forsyth Park, to be exact. Shakespeare on Love, to be precise. Terrible acting, some pretty music, hilarious companions, couple glasses of wine.

River Street, Savannah. Known for it’s bars. Let’s just say I got to know that street well. And I didn’t even drink that much (swear to Jesus) but I ended up on a bench sobbing my eyes out (pent-up from yoga, perhaps?) and eventually with my head in a trash can.

First, and hopefully the last, time that happens.

6:00 AM finally welcomed us back to Tess’ place, where I was numb and definitely sensing the “fight or flight” instinct. All I wanted to do was leave, and I shared this with Jason.

In fact, that was one of my favorite moments from that night. Everyone else had left my car (I drove half of us home) except for Jason and I. Jason, who is about 7 feet, haha, was curled up with my pillow and panda in the passenger seat, almost falling asleep, but being all doe-eyed and trying to talk to me at the same time. It was adorable, and when he asked me if I had a good night, I sort of said no- that it wasn’t my thing. But when I shared that I might be leaving, he assured me that he wasn’t going to let me, that it wasn’t safe, and that he would be very upset if I did.

Looking back, that was incredibly sweet.

Between Jason and Tess luring me into the house and away from the steering wheel, I eventually came inside and got ready for bed (yes, at 6 in the morning). However, not before I quietly returned to my car, put some Patsy Cline on the stereo, curled up myself with panda and my pillow, and sobbed my eyes out. It was one of those rare bouts of sadness, where your soul expands, contracts, and empties out of you into the air around.

It was something I apparently needed.

That night I fell asleep to Tess and Angelo giving each other full-body massages. Oil and all.

I left at 10:30 AM, after a couple hours of sleep.