the many ways to celebrate love

well guys, the weekend of weddings is over. it was wild and amazing. and each of the three weddings were completely different – unique and beautiful, all in their own ways. for two of the weddings i was the officiant = i performed the wedding ceremony (a freaking awesome honor to have!). one was fairly short and quick, yet still meaningful and ground-breaking for the women. the other one was a little bit longer, and totally + completely inspired by the autumn nature around us. the third one was a greek orthodox wedding of two friends – complete with rituals, traditions, a reception and an after party. what an eclectic, fun time!

wedding # 1: long time love

i posted about this wedding the other day, so i won’t go into all of the details again. (you can read my original post here). but, i did have to include some photos from the day. my drive down to cherokee county, in the far western corner of north carolina, was amazing. it was just me and the open road for 2 and half hours both ways. that’s a lot of precious “me time”. and i loved every second of it.

and then there’s the photo of the happy couple and me. we were all smiles, all giggles, and all nerves. it was a moment of pure elation and joy. filled with the power of a love that has stood the test of time and hate and discrimination. but, finally, these two women married – something they never thought they’d get to do. and they chose me to officiate. humbled to the max. i get goosebumps just thinking about the whole day now.

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LGBT wedding

wedding #2: my amazing, fun, beautiful greek wedding

on saturday, i had barely come off my high from friday’s wedding experience, only to be ready for another amazing celebration. lina and i dressed up and headed to the greek orthodox church on a second absolutely gorgeous autumn day. it was warm + cool all at the same time. perfection.

we experienced so many new traditions and rituals at the ceremony of our friends, chris + andrea. rituals like wreaths crowning their heads in the middle of the ceremony, symbolizing that they are now the king + queen of their own kingdom. and their first steps as a married couple, a slow walk, wearing their wreath crowns and holding candles, around the altar three times.

there was so much tradition in the entire ceremony, chanting, singing, and praying by the priest. it was beautiful and mystical – something that i have always loved about the orthodox church – their focus and continuation of belief in the mystical divine nature of spirituality. though, there were a few theological things that i disagree with (man is the head of the household + spiritual leader scripture readings, and such). still, i can completely appreciate the ancient context of these readings and celebrate the commitment + love that our two amazing friends share. and, let me tell you, these two friends are two of the biggest rays of sunshine in the world that i have ever met – loving, accepting, fun, and so very down-to-earth. they are real people. beautiful souls. and it was an honor to watch them begin this part of their life together.

soon, it was reception time! we met downtown in a venue called on broadway. it was amazing! so beautiful and breathtaking when we walked in. we ate delicious, local food. drank lots from the open bar (thank you andrea + chris! hehe!), danced, sang, mingled, laughed, and generally just made merry the whole night long. lina and i kept saying to ourselves that we were so honored to be invited to be a part of this day. what a joy!

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my love and me

greek orthodox wedding

greek orthodox wedding reception

greek orthodox wedding reception

greek orthodox wedding reception

andrea bride and me

party

greek orthodox wedding dance

my love and me

wedding #3: of nature + love

after sleeping off all of the festivities from the greek orthodox wedding extravaganza, i awoke to yet another captivatingly gorgeous autumn day. it’s as if nature has been celebrating with us for three days now (as i type this on monday morning, the perfect weather continues).

the third wedding was to be celebrated by my former co-worker (and friend) and his fiancé. they are the ones who actually got this whole ordination/wedding officiate thing started for me. back in september at lina’s + my 70th birthday party, these two asked me if i could marry them in december. they knew that i’d considered getting my ordination done before and simply asked me if i’d go ahead and do it. so, i did! then, they moved the date up to october, thinking they’d love to have an autumn wedding. the ceremony was to be at their home, which lies on the swannanoa river.

lina and i got dressed, i had all my my wedding stuff with me, including a nature-inspired ceremony, and we drove over to their place. as we drove down the curvy roads, the sun glowed through the leaves of all colors. it was gorgeous. then we came upon their house, which sat directly on the bank of the river, with a deck overlooking it. the water was clear, sparkling and glistening. lina + i immediately declared that we would love to live right there. the colors, the river, the entire setting was indescribable. and the day… well, it was the. perfect. autumn. day.

it was a small ceremony with a few family members friends, a photographer, and a few people with us via FaceTime from England (the bride is british). how cool is that?! lina became the impromptu FaceTime videographer. hehe.

i stood in the sun on the porch, with my back to the river, facing these two people as they began this next journey together in life. i was so filled with joy and inspired by the spirit of nature that was with us. birds chirping, water gurgling, sunshine dancing. as if nature was celebrating + blessing this marriage as well. of course, as soon as i said:

“and so, by the power vested in me…by the state of north carolina, it is with great honor and joy that i now pronounce you…”

i got all chocked up again. damn. that is so tough to say. it’s so powerful and meaningful – not because i have any power, but only because i am standing looking at two people who declare their love to each other and i have the insane honor to be there to witness it. it is such a beautiful gift and it makes my soul sing.

sunrise autumn

autumn trees

autumn house

wedding autumn nature

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swannanoa river autumn

wedding

Congratulations to all three of the happy couples!! ♥

Transforming Power by Lau Tsu

Your love contains the power
Of a thousand suns.
It unfolds as naturally and effortlessly
As does a flower,
And graces the world with its blooming.
Its beauty radiates a transforming energy
That enlivens all who see it.
Because of you, compassion and joy
Are added to the world.
That is why the stars sing together
Because of your love.

(a poem i used in yesterday’s wedding)

light + love to you all. 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.

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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