wedding bells weekend

i’m gonna try to write words, but i know that my words will not do the experience justice.

today, i had the pure joy, honor, + privilege to perform my first wedding ceremony. and as if that wasn’t enough, there were many other factors that made it even more amazing…

about 2 weeks ago, i got an email from someone who had seen my officiant/minister profile online. she introduced herself and told me that she + her partner of twenty-six years (!) wanted to be married. they were from alabama and wondered if i could meet them in murphy – a little mountain town in north carolina that borders georiga, tennessee, and alabama – and perform their ceremony.

well,  of course i said yes!

so, today, after emails back and forth for the past 2 weeks and preparing a ceremony that that approved of, i hopped in my car and drove through the mountains, on windy roads, through colorful woods, and by a rushing river to get to murphy. i was excited, nervous, and so humbled to be doing this.

mountain roads

i parked my car on the main street in murphy and saw the courthouse, big + beautiful, overlooking the downtown area. suddenly, i realized that we were in very conservative, rural country and people might not look too highly on two women getting married. the ladies would have to go into the courthouse and apply for their marriage license, and legally they have every right to do that, but i wondered how people would react in the office. i was now nervous about any negativity that we might encounter.

murphy, north carolina

cherokee county courthouse

i made my way to the register of deeds (where you get your marriage license) and waited for the ladies to arrive. the elevator dinged, and two women appeared – all of us instantly knowing who the others were. one of the ladies gave me a hug, the other shook my hand. lesbian vibes bouncing everywhere in that little hallway.

me selfie

after a few moments of just meeting face to face, we walked into the office. they were nervous. i was nervous. and the lady asked what she could help us with. the two women proudly said that they wanted a marriage license, and the woman behind the desk said, “certainly. can i have your id’s?”. that was it!

apparantly, same-sex couples from the surrounding states had been showing up in murphy all week in order to get married. remember, it is now legal in north carolina, but illegal in every other southern state. so, the past 2 weeks, since it became legal, people have crossed state lines in order to fulfill dreams.

for these two women, it had been a dream that they both thought would never happen in their lifetimes, they told me as we stood there while the paperwork was being processed. they fidgeted, one more than the other, and they just wanted to get it over with. but, they were so elated to have this opportunity.

i can’t even imagine… being together all of those years and not able to openly show their love. alabama is even more backwards than north carolina. they described to me how they hid their love for each other for a long time, how they snuck about, and how they just confronted their bullies. they have been through a lot, way more than i have, and here they were, about to make their family legal – able to truly take care of each other. in this moment, they were being treated just the same as other couples seeking to be married. it was a huge moment.

register of deeds

so, with the marriage license in hand, we headed back upstairs to find a place to do the simple ceremony i had planned for them. we saw a staircase with a large window behind it – the staircase was the main one in the center of the big, ornate courthouse. we decided that would be the spot.

i stood with my back to the window and they faced me, side by side. and then… the words just flowed. they answered and proclaimed their love and promises to each other. i began to choke up as i got to the pronouncement part. they were beaming. we were all gitty. and then, i said it:

“You have each chosen this common road of marriage, and from this moment forward your intentions and paths are united.  You have expressed your commitment to one another and taken to yourselves the relationship of Partners in life and solemnly promised to love, honor, comfort and cherish each other for all the days to be. So live vibrantly.  Hold fast to your ideals.  Challenge one another,  and give each other new experiences of joy.

Therefore, in accordance with the laws of North Carolina and by virtue of the authority vested in me it is my honor to declare you married,  partners in life, spouses for life.”

ahhhhh-mazing!!

me married

after the ceremony and filing the marriage license (my other job as minister), i walked around downtown and found myself having lunch in a cozy cafe. i just sat, beaming, feeling like i was going to explode. knowing that i was fulfilling some of the things that i am meant to do in this world.

i basked in the knowledge that i got to be part of something huge today. and i am completely humbled by the fact that i shared such a special moment in the lives of these two, inspiring women. what an incredible, incredible experience.


now,  i’ve still not come down from my high. and, i am ready to keep on celebrating. gonna have some dinner with my brother and my wife soon – both of whom are super stressed and not at all in the same place emotionally i am in tonight. hopefully i will make them feel better.

then, tomorrow, we are attending a greek orthodox wedding for our dear, sweet friends in asheville.

and, get this, i am performing another wedding ceremony on sunday – for a friend and former co-worker.

that’s right, that 3 weddings in three days. love is in the air!

light + peace xx

the romance of the appalachian trail

recently i read the book wild by cheryl strayed… a memoir about a woman searching for a reset button on her life. she decided the way that she would do that was by walking the pacific crest trail, a wilderness trail that runs from southern california to the canadian border, through the sierra nevada mountains. and while she had been a fairly outdoorsy person growing up, she was in no way a couple of thousand miles hiker/trekker. however, she set off anyway, on her own, without any training, to hike the trail alone. crazy? yes. inspiring? totally.

but, hers isn’t the first long hiking, trekking story that i have read. years and years ago i picked up bill bryson’s a walk in the woods – his own account of his long walk… 2,200 miles to be exact… on the appalachian trail. i read bryson’s memoir because i grew up being near and criss-crossing the appalachian trail, so it made sense to me. and as i read it all those years ago, i found myself yearning to follow in his footsteps.

a map of the appalachian trail from 1974: covering part of the north carolina section. you can see hot springs there on the map. and the big river… that’s the french broad. the F M T W are marking food, motel, telephone, water availability.

appalachian trail in north carolina

look at this vintage 1974 awesomeness i found in my brother’s home. gaaaahhh. 

AT map 1974

ok. to continue with my bill bryson comments… i have not actually followed in his footsteps, but i have read others’ accounts of their own journey on the AT (appalachain trail), each one making my dreams wilder and my desire to walk from georgia to maine even stronger.

the AT is, as i’ve mentioned now, a 2,200 mile trail through the entire appalachain mountain range. it runs from northern georgia through north carolina, virginia, maryland, pennsylvania, new jersey, new york, connecticut, massachusettes, vermont, new hampshire, and ends at the top of mt. katahdin in maine. phew. i get exhausted just typing it all… and yet, i still have this urge to do it. to take off for 4 months (or however long it would take me) with my backpack, my gear, my camera, and a journal to walk through the woods. confronting nature, myself, and whatever else would pop up along the way. i’m not sure if i will ever do it, but it is something that stays in the back of my mind. as a possibility. not quite a bucket list item, but not not a bucket list item either. get my drift?

at-map

i actually think of the AT quite often, seeing as it passes right close to asheville, but my interest was piqued even more last weekend while i was camping in hot springs. you see, the AT passes right freaking through hot springs, crossing the french broad river, and continuing onward and upward toward maine. so, when i walked into the town of hot springs from my campsite, i was walking on the AT. cool, huh? in fact, lina and i got so into it, we walked from our tent on one side of town, through town, and then right on out of town, following the AT up and into the woods. we just had to. i even heard her say that she might want to try and walk the entire 2,200 miles ones day. now, tell me, how unbelievably amazing would that be?! walking the AT with my love!

since the AT passed right through the town of hot springs, they mark the trail on the sidewalks with the emblem in my photo below. how cool is that? so, if you are ever there, and you walk downtown, you’ve walked a teeny, tiny part of the AT. think of all of the people who have passed through there on foot? walking for freedom, for themselves, to heal their souls, for charity, to get back to nature… so amazing.

hot springs Appalachian Trail

i mean, my heart skips a beat every time i see one of these signs…

hot springs Appalachian Trail

the AT community (those who walk the trail) are a special community. most people walk by themselves or with one other person, but one always meets people along the way, walking in the same direction. sometimes walking together, or sometimes meeting up in the next little town. one thing i have learned is that hikers support in other in many ways, by leaving notes and other things are various points all along the trail. here, lina and i ran across 2 different walking sticks that hikers had left for others to pick up and use. i read of the same thing happening on the pacific crest trail (PCT) as well. a truly amazing community spirit.

hot springs Appalachian Trail

the entire 2,200 miles is marked with these white dashes on trees. usually there is only one dash. when you see two, you know that you will be in for some tough terrain ahead.

hot springs Appalachian Trail

standing on the trail. ahhhhh…. such excitement and humility.

DSC_0082

i met a hiker headed towards hot springs. i am certain that he was so thankful to walk into the little town, just to see civilization again, refuel, rest, pick up a package at the tiny post office, and have a good, hot meal.

hot springs Appalachian Trail

he did leave the trail in town, most likely headed to a little hostel. see him there in the photo below? yep. that’s the trail. i told you it goes right straight through the town. then it crosses the river  and continues on up in those mountains in the background. my campsite lay just at the base of those mountains.

hot springs

so, we will see if anything ever comes of my dream of hiking the entire AT. maybe i will, or maybe i won’t. who knows? what i do know is that i love the romance of it. i will eat up any books/memoirs/etc. that people write about it. and i will always, always find myself making time whenever i am in these mountains near asheville to take a few steps on it every now and then. what an amazing place to connect with nature, with others, + with one’s self.

here’s to journeying on in life…

light + love. xx

the ancient french broad

before you enter hot springs from the east/north, you gotta cross the ancient french broad river – winding and cutting through the mountains all the way from rosman, nc to tennessee. it flows directly beside the town, just a few hundred feet away from main street. people say that this river is magical – and have been saying it for years… and i agree. there is just something about it that calms and stirs my soul all at the same time.

the french broad is known to be about the 3rd oldest river in the entire world. like… for real. here’s why people say that: it is devoid of any ancient fossils that newer rivers have, and has been in existence since before the appalachain mountain range (blue ridge mountains) was formed. the waters of the french broad flowed through the land when it was flat. and when the mountains were formed, the river kept on flowing through them, cutting through the hills and mountains. and these mountains are ancient in themselves… the third oldest mountain range in the world.

so, these are historical, beautiful, important mountains. there simply must be magical, healing powers in them, don’t you think? i believe it. just imagine of all of the people + animals who have lived and used these waters. the stories. the memories. the experiences. i feel connected to the world, to history, to nature, just being near the power and beauty of this river.

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

my view of the river from our campsite.

hot springs camping french broad river

each morning, i walked across the path from my tent and down to the bank of the river… just to breathe and soak it all in. the water rushed past me. powerful. mighty. relentless. strong. determined. and yet, peaceful. staying true to its course.

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

 let the magic flow…

love + light. xx