Smoky Mountain National Park

Today was a wonderful driving day. Occasionally it became haphazard and awkward, but overall I really enjoyed my time by myself, in my car. It had been a while (about 9 days) since I had been on the road, so it was long enough that I could appreciate it again.

I said my goodbyes to Doug and Lisa this morning (okay fine early afternoon) and it was really bittersweet, because on one hand I was really happy and honored to have gotten to know them so well, but on the other hand I literally had to tear myself away. But it was time – time to move on, time to meet new people and see new things.

So in the spirit of seeing new things, apparently, I drove directly back the way I had came a week earlier, heading back to Cherokee. Haha – oh well, it was still a beautiful drive. I was actually really happy to drive it again. In fact, my favorite part of the day was very unexpected, and completely based on a whim. I was driving all the curvy roads, when I saw this abandoned farm-like place on the side of the road. I remember seeing it on my way to Georgia, and wishing I had stopped to take a picture. Well, this time I did exactly that, in abundance. I pulled over on a side street, walked down into the property, and took about 300 pictures (in fact, in total today I took around 800 photos!). The location was just so inspiring – everything was deserted, there was broken glass and boxes in one building, and bird’s nests and farm equipment in another… it was really a photography heaven. I’m hoping to get the chance to edit some of the pictures tomorrow and post them; I’m really excited about that.

Of course, that threw me off course by about an hour, so by the time I arrive in Cherokee, I was well behind schedule. I entered the Smoky Mountain National Forest, and before I knew it I had to start pulling over to take pictures, since everything was breath-takingly gorgeous. I stopped at the old Mill, and at a couple of the lookouts, and then did the hike up to Clingman’s Dome, where I stayed until the sun set.

Which, naturally, threw me more off course (that, and the adorable baby bear that was on the side of the road), and all that made me even later to arrive at my final destination .

Which is where I am now – in Knoxville, Tennessee.

On my way here, I drove through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, which were ghastly, haha. But more than that – it was the unbelievable way you enter into Gatlinburg. One moment I’m driving through beautiful bendy roads of light and trees and tunnels, and the next I’m bombarded with neon lights and fast-food restaurants. It was the STRANGEST thing – at first I was sure I was hallucinating, but alas, it was real. It was a like a mini, hick-filled Vegas. Oddest thing. And the worst part is I felt this incredible, morbid fascination with the entire place. In fact, I almost pulled over and decided to spend the night, but I kept myself strong and kept driving. But I’m telling you, I want to go back – the perversion of it all, the bright lights and tacky storefronts… oh man, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe that this was Tennessee.

But here I am now, in Knoxville, with Scott and his wife. I arrived later than anticipated (around 10:30), but Scott welcomed me so kindly; in fact, they both did, and we instantly started having fantastic conversation. Scott and I spent the last couple hours talking, about this and that, and it was great. I think, so far, my favorite part of this trip has been the fantastic conversations. How I have longed for profound, intelligent, humorous conversation -with people who are passionate and inspired and open-minded, and poets at heart. 🙂 It’s been wonderful. And I’ve had a beautiful fill of such conversations, and such people lately.

Which reminds me – as I was driving the last stretch of road into Knoxville, I had serious heart-pangs about leaving Ellijay. More than anything, I wanted to be sitting in my bed there, on my computer, listening to doo-wop and drinking sweet tea, and knowing in the morning Lisa and Doug and the deer would be there… but alas, I had to move forward. Regardless, it was bittersweet to miss something so acutely. It’s been a long time since something was that wonderful enough to miss.

Tomorrow? Well, I guess it involves a little boat, and traveling to the Gulf of Mexico.

But Scott might have been joking about that.


Last Evening in Ellijay

It’s two in the morning, and I’m far too tired for this (after two hours on the phone with Jason!), but I’m annoyed at myself that I haven’t blogged more lately. I’ve certainly had the time – sitting here, relaxing in the beautiful mountains. However, I have been lame and puttered away my evening hours rather than writing marvelous works of literary nonfiction.

The last few days have been delightful. Needless to say, my entire stay here in Ellijay has been heaven. Lisa and Doug are ridiculously wonderful people, and I couldn’t be happier here with them. I am completely at peace, and have spent more time talking about things that matter, and laughing, than I have in years.

This evening I looked in the mirror, and saw myself. It only lasted about 10 seconds or so, but there I was. I haven’t had that experience much in the past year – usually I see a stranger, and it saddens (often frightens) me, but today I glanced up, and there I was. And I smiled in a way I haven’t smiled in months, and I wanted to run outside and hug a tree.

Much like the way LISA hugged a tree yesterday at Amicalola Falls (okay fine I hugged the tree, too, I was just trying to implicate her). It was a gorgeous park, and we hiked up the 164 steps, and took lovely pictures, and all we needed was a picnic and a puppy and the world would have been perfect. 🙂

Afterwards, we headed over to Dahlonega, which was the location of the first gold rush here in Georgia. It was a quaint little place, and we went into the stores and looked at all the knickknacks, and Doug was our knave and carried our water bottles, and life was basically beautiful for the entire day. AND I bought myself a cowboy hat! And, yes, I am as happy about that as that exclamation point implies. 🙂

So tomorrow I’m hitting the road again – this time will be the hardest it’s been for me to leave a place. I could honestly stay here for the rest of my life, and be happy, but I know there is a whole entire world out there for me to see, and I’m looking forward to continuing this beautiful journey. I’ll have to make sure to keep in touch with Lisa, because her words remind me of all the peaceful, soulful things inside me, and our beliefs and dreams line up so well. I’ve never been more inspired to continue being myself, and to pursue all the things that my soul whispers for me to do.

Tomorrow is Tennessee. People have really rallied to my aid, and I have two people in Knoxville willing to take me in, and a writer in Nashville waiting for me on Thursday. I’m looking forward, now that I am well rested and rejuvenated, to meeting new people and feeling that feeling of randomness again. As much as I love security and comfort, it’s a great experience to push myself further, stretch myself into new realms. Much like the yin and the yang that I was talking with Lisa about the other day – that delicate balance between pleasure and pain. That point where one is stretching past the point of comfort, but at the same time feeling a beautiful balance and one-ness with the body, and the earth.

Oh goodness, I almost forgot to mention. This morning (which for me was the middle of the night) at 6 AM, the fire alarm went off, and I was shocked out of sleep. Simultaneously, strangely enough, a huge thunder and lightning storm was happening outside, so it seemed as thought my entire world was in chaos. I was completely confused, but after checking in with Lisa that everything was all right, I returned to my bedroom and proceeded to pull up all the shades and let the outside into the inside. There are six large windows in the room, so it felt like I was in the middle of the storm, and it was amazing to sit there with the lightning flashing and the thunder booming. I tried to pinpoint the place on my body where I felt the thunder (yes these are the types of things I’ve been doing) and I discovered that the thunder resonated deeply within my ribcage, spanning across my abdomen. It was powerful and wonderful, and completely thrilling. I stayed awake with Panda for as long as my eyes could manage, until I fell back asleep, the sound of deep rumbling in my ears.

‘Tis enough for now, I must rest. Tomorrow is a big day, and I need to be prepared for driving through the Smokey Mountain National Park and checking out the ridiculousness that is Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. 🙂


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.