the mountains are calling… and i must go.

i can hardly believe that it is the last day of october. we are officially unofficially entering the holiday season sprint now: halloween, thanksgiving (for us in the states), christmas/hanukkah, and new year’s. and i am super duper excited. but, before we launch head first into all of the frenzy, i’d like to celebrate the month that has just been – october. this glorious, height of the autumn season in the states.

this month, i have been enthralled by the words of a certain naturalist – john muir. his quotes pop up everywhere when you google “trees” or “mountains”. so, he’s always been a familiar go-to person when i need a good nature quote. but, this month he’s taken a bit of a larger role in my life…

when i was camping with my family a few weeks ago, i stumbled upon a book that he had written about a long walk he made from indiana to the gulf of mexico, crossing through the north carolina mountains. now, as a lover of these foot-travel journal/memoir type books, i just had to pick up this one and read about his experiences.

john muir was a botanist and a total lover of all things natural. for him, it was his way of seeing and celebrating his faith. he remarks over and over again at the wonder of creation and how nature inspires us, showing us who the divine one truly is – beautiful, diverse, loving, simple, organic, real, living. his writing (and this journal about his walk south) is simple, neat, and straightforward. but, it is oh so inspiring. he chronicles his days as he wanders through mountains, fields, and swamps, encountering new plants and foliage, and all different sorts of people. his meetings with the people of the south just after the civil war have been fascinating.

but what is really inspiring is how he soaks in every single little thing, paying attention to the smallest details, appreciating the beauty that is surrounding him. in the midst of all of his detailed writing of this plant or that plant and his record-keeping, you find nuggets of wisdom and inspiration.

so, in honor of the amazing october we have had here in north carolina, and inspired by john muir’s love for nature, here are a few photos i took throughout the month. it has been magical, dreamy, gorgeous, and oh so much fun!

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”
(John Muir)

mountains at biltmore

cold mountain

blue ridge parkway

trees mountain

the bywater tree

asheville fall autumn

trees mountain road

french broad river

appalachian trail

french broad river

home sunset

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red tree

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wow. i have had the pleasure of being immersed in a lot of nature this month. i had no idea until i gathered all of these photos together. and, geez…. the north carolina mountains are so gorgeous. so very grateful to call them one of my homes.

by the way, friends, happy halloween!!

light + love. xx

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

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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

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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 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.

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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