the love of thousands

remember how i said on monday that i was focusing on the value + emphasis that native americans put on families? well, i truly have been thinking about family a lot this week – it’s amazing how the universe seems to flow, connecting + bringing forth the exact things that you need, when you need them. in other words, timing often seem serendipitous as life unfolds moment by moment. well, this week i’ve been pondering the ups + downs of family. the sizes of family. the definition of family. belonging, history, land, and much more…

personally, i have a fairly small family. two parents. one sibling. three cousins. two aunts. two uncles. and my amazing wife. of course, i have her family – which is huuuuuge. but, right now, i am talking about my closest blood relations. it’s a small clan. and while we may be close, we are quite spread out. my parents + brother are nearby, however. in any case, i have never had this really big, loud, crazy family. however, my family is loud + crazy + unique (in a good way). it’s just that there are not that many of us. which, could be seen as a negative (and sometimes i wish for a big family).

however, when i think back to all of the grants (my mother’s maiden name) and reynolds who have gone before me… when i trace my roots all the way back to scotland + england in the 1600s, i realize that my family is quite large. i have a great number of people who are with me, if not physically present, then spiritually or emotionally. and that, is extremely inspiring.

lake junaluska

the other day, i went to visit my parents for the afternoon. just to hang out – and to help my dad with some computer things. but, before i arrived at their house, i took the long way through their “neighborhood” in order to pass by some places that hold special meaning to me.

you see, my granddad, who died when i was 11, was a minister/pastor. he had a house up here in these mountains where we would vacation during the summers and holidays. i never lived up here during my childhood, but i have so many memories of this place. summers at the pool. feeding the ducks. walking on the lake when it was frozen in the winter. weekends in the fall. thanksgivings + christmases. i remember sitting with my grandparents on their front porch, chatting with the people as they walked by. playing cards with my grandmother. watching the fireworks over the lake on the 4th of july.

and, later in life, when i was in college and my grandparents were long gone, i remember coming “home” to this place for holidays since my parents and my brother moved here. at one point, in my previous marriage, i lived in a house here for a short time, calling it home. and then, after meeting lina, i brought her here – to share with here the beauty + magic of this place. we got engaged at this lake on christmas eve 6 years ago.

all of this to say, i do not call this home. but, it is engrained in my history. this place is a member of my family. it reminds me of who i have been + from where i have come. it has imprinted its beauty on my soul.

lake junaluska cross

growing up, when i traveled here for the summer, or a weekend, or a holiday with my family, we always arrived at the lake and took the “long way” in… as i did the other day. we crossed over a rickety wooden bridge and then ascended a big hill, arriving at the base of this cross, which looks out over the lake (see the first photo in this post – that is the view from beside this cross). my dad always made me + my brother get out, no matter the weather or the time of year or time of day. and here, standing at the base of this cross, we had our picture taken. there are photos of me with my brother, some with my dad, some with my mom, and some with my grandparents. it’s a tradition that lasted year after year. and one i will always cherish. even to this day…

me cross lake junaluska

on this day, i took a picture of myself, as i was alone up there at the cross. but, i did not feel alone. i felt the company of my family – of all of the people who have come + gone in my life, blood-related or not. i felt inspired, blessed, lucky, and at peace. feelings that always creep up in me and settle in my soul whenever i stand or sit right here. so many memories. so many feelings. so much to be thankful for, as i look back over the past 40 years + wonder what the next 40 years will bring.

trees road

trees sunset mountains

as tempting as it has always been to simply stay right here, wrapped up in the safety + the memories of this place, i know that the story continues. we cannot stay in the same places, doing the same things. we can carry on traditions + revisit + remember, but time marches on. change always happens. so, it’s up to me to welcome that change + see the road ahead as another great adventure, or to stay stuck where i am, or worse yet, only yearning for the past (which i most certainly do not do. hehe.)

come what may, we cannot stay in the same place, repeating the same story. we may not know what lies ahead, but with confidence we can be sure that, as long as we stay true to our selves, the universe will continue to guide us as our lives unfold, moment by moment.

it’s up to me to continue my story. to not forget about the stories of the past + simply move on, but to continue to write the story of my ancestors. for wherever i go, whatever i do, they always remain with me.

lake junaluska

walking i am listening to a deeper way. suddenly all of my ancestors are behind me. be still, they say. watch and listen. you are the result of the love of thousands.

- linda hogan, chickasaw indian.

me cross lake junaluska

peace + light as you travel your road. xx

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 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