When I initially decided to leave, it had come to my attention that an acquaintance I had worked with a few years prior was planning to leave on a similar trip with a similar trajectory. We had worked together at one of the Jack O Lantern shows, and met again more recently at a very close friend's event in Binghamton, NY, coming to find that we shared a lot of mutual friends, one of which was very near and dear to me. I contacted him and we made plans to keep in touch and meet a long the way. I was nervous about traveling alone, but being the introvert and self proclaimed lone wolf that I was(am?), I felt as secure as I could. Low and behold, he contacted me the weekend before I left to inform me that his partner had called off the trip, and of course I was happy, if a little hesitant, to take on a road companion. He came and stayed with me for a few days so that we could become more familiar with one another, and we seemed to get along well. My colleague also had contacts and friends throughout the country, particularly a college friend living right outside Asheville. The first destination was set, and boy, I had no idea what I was in for.
I said good-bye to my family friday, July 31st, and that was the last I saw of Orange County. I left the all too familiar driveway with tears rolling down my cheeks, Stevie Nicks claiming "I'm never going back again" over the speakers. I cried for my parent's fear mostly, I cried for my inner child, I cried for everything I was leaving behind. Then, I smiled for the future, and hauled ass down that all too familiar street and hit the Highway, first stop, Brooklyn. I said good-bye to the man I had been dating, I said good-bye to one of my dearest friends. I spent that Saturday night sleeping on a remote beach in Montauk, determined to see the sunrise on the east coast before I headed West. On Sunday I met with my travel companion and his family, finished packing the car, and got a full night's sleep before we left Monday morning.
We drove like bats out of hell all the way to North Carolina, neither of us looking back. We arrived at Lindsay's home at about 3AM, and despite the hour she was more than welcoming. I woke on Tuesday bewildered and misplaced, unaware of my surroundings or how I got there. Once I gained my footing and an idea of where the hell I was, the anxiety subsided and gave way to an extremely peaceful and spacious feeling, some kind of inner confirmation that I was in the right place, on the right path.
We spent the week exploring downtown Asheville qnd The Blue Ridge Parkway. Lindsay had grown up in an area only twenty or so minutes northwest of where my parents live, which I found uncanny, but what was really surprising to me was how quickly I felt welcomed and a part of her little household which consisted of the host, her boyfriend, and two other roommates, a couple. They all shared a small, very comfortable home in Woodfin, a little mountain town just outside of Asheville. The group had originally migrated North from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where we would spend the weekend for JerryFest. We spent Thursday and Friday crafting, the host putting final touches on her beautiful crocheted clothing, I made jewelry, lino printed t-shirts, and painted a washboard I imagined someone could use as an instrument or decoration. With all of our festival wares packed, we headed south for Myrtle on Saturday morning.
The Myrtle beach extension of this family was just as warm and welcoming. They called the home base the "Mothership", and it was a truly fitting title. It seemed that all the like minded folk in the area seemed to gravitate there, and most individuals within this group of friends seemed to have lived there at some point, for some period of time. Once again, I was shocked at how quickly I assimilated and felt accepted into this close knit group of people. Saturday night we toured the Myrtle Beach watering holes, but stayed up well into the morning at the Mothership, sharing our stories and our beliefs and our political views. Laughing and dancing, hugging and smiling, talking and relating and drinking and smoking. The following day we set up our wares at JerryFest, all participants were relatively successful fiscally, but the real success was in the collective enjoyment of one another. I was introduced to more members of the Mothership clan, and the more people I met the more my heart expanded. We spend this evening at the Mothership, also, now with the extended family. I also met a professional tree climber who offered to take me up to Michigan for the "Tree Jam Camp", to learn not only how to climb but potentially get a jump start in a career as an arborist. It was certainly tempting, but perhaps something I would look back into after I have finished chasing myself around this country and back.
In the wee hours of the morning I walked the mere two blocks to the Atlantic Ocean with a very sweet male companion. When we arrived, we witnessed a strange animal scurry down the shoreline at incredible speed, too big to be a fox but too small to be a coyote. We shrugged it off and walked down the not yet dawn shore, moonlit waves hushing and breathing and purring. He read me his poetry and rubbed my shoulders. I showed him my artwork, and we laughed and smiled and shared until the run rose. Returning home, we bumped into other Mothership sailors, on their own various journeys to breakfast and work and home.
When the time came to return to Asheville, my cheeks were sore from smiling and my heart was in the brink of busting. The current Queen Captain of that Myrtle House bid us farewell, and we were ever grateful of her hospitality and her warm, wonderful spirit. After a day of decompression from those endless Myrtle days, it was time to go to work. I went into downtown Asheville and 'busked', drawing portraits of people for money, meeting some amazing characters, hearing some amazing stories and conversations that either directly related to something I was experiencing or inspired me into a new train of thought. There is some kind of strange magic in downtown Asheville, some kind of divinity circulating among the vagabonds and the self proclaimed priests.
Wednesday, the first day I set up to busk, I went to the park in the center of town. A hooping workshop was materializing there, and a toddler quickly approached me with the intention of putting everything I had set up quickly into his mouth. He mother was not too far behind, and we began talking. She told me about how herself and her husband had left their home and renovated a bus to live in, parking it on a local farm along with another gaggle of tiny houses and yurts and air stream trailers. She explained to me how it was difficult to maintain a job, motherhood, and also pursue her creative ventures. We commiserated, and shared our views on communal living situations, a subject that had become a running theme in a lot of the conversations over the passed week. She wished me luck on my journey and returned to her duties. Shortly after she had departed, an older man approached me.
The wiry white haired man sat beside me, and asked me what I was doing. I explained that I was drawing portraits, and he would be my first, the warm up. He proceeded to tell me about himself and his life, and shared with me that he was a wizard of sorts. He informed me that the world was going to experience a great shift on September 22nd where the economic structures of our society would collapse, and to stay away from large cities when this happens. I drew his portrait for free, and he brought me across town to introduce me to someone he was sure I would like to meet.
When we arrived, two men clad from head to toe in every kind of bauble you could imagine stood, deep in some conversation. The one went on his way, and I sat to paint the other. He told me he was some specific kind of priest, and that the ails of the world could be cured with song and dance, and he smiled and giggled often. Meeting him and hearing his story was inspiring and unique. I left feeling different from when I arrived. He was very pleased and surprised when I gave him the portrait I had done of him, and he gave me prayer beads, advising me not to take them off until they break, and when they break, not to be sad about it. I smiled and bowed to him.
In the days to come I did not see the Shaman I had painted, but the other two I bumped into frequently. On Thursday I went back into town and did three portraits, grossing a little more than $30. I only charged five dollars for a portrait, but my subjects were generous. The first subject recommended someone I could go to to have subaRUBY looked at, the second was a pair and I was able to listen in on a great conversation about listening, relationships, and fear, and the third was a young gay couple on their first date. Beyond making some gas money for myself, the interactions I had with these people was truly deep and rewarding. In my own state of vulnerability and openness, I was able to manifest sincere connections with these people. One strange occurrence that I feel I need to share happened somewhere between the second and third portrait. I was trying to find a particular restaurant that gives free rice, bean & salad plates to travelers. I asked one of the less intimidating looking street kids, and he happily told me where I could find someone who would know better where Rosaletta's was than he. I smiled, wished him a good day, and started to continue, when he said "Enjoy your day, as well, Miss Light". I stopped in my tracks and looked at him. I knew for sure that I hadn't even been close to mentioning my name. I asked him how he knew, he expressed that he was afraid I would hit him, I assured him I wouldn't. He lifted his hat and pointed at his temple, grinning, "The Wisdom tells me things".
Every Friday night at the park in the center of Asheville, there is a drum circle. I had arrived downtown early to busk, but was feeling particularly tired and hesitant to approach anyone. I set up my easel and began painting across from the Asheville Museum of Art, a popular spot for buskers of various talents. A gentleman and three companions approached and sat on a bench near where I was painting. He began talking to me, and purchased two of my original paintings that I happened to have on me. Feeling successful, and considering it was about time for the drum circle to start, I headed back toward the center of town. Parked on a brick wall in the outskirts of the park, I painted my face and struck up a conversation with a gentleman who made and sold flutes. I rolled him a cigarette and carried on, closer to the drum circle. I stayed on the outside and observed, until I was beckoned down to dance. It started to rain and a lot of the people cleared out. Despite what I was told was a relatively small attendance, the joy and the sense of primal energy and connection amidst the community was palpable. Slowly but surely people approached me, asking me where I got my face painted. Initially I did not ask for money, but they offered. Once the rain subsided the circle picked back up, gaining drummers, dancers, and bystanders alike. The sense of energy and community filled my chest, I couldn't help but smile and dance and feel free. Each person I painted I asked them about themselves, they asked about me, and I picked a unique feature in each of them to compliment, and OH, how they would beam! How strong they felt to go and dance unafraid with their new identity, their war paint! From young children to old women, everyone became a warrior or a princess or just a different version of themselves that night. I felt like I did some great service. I felt so inspired to bring this concept of the drum circle back home, back to Newburgh, for the Renaissance, whenever it may be that I would end up there again.
Over the course of my stay in Asheville I met so many amazing people, heard so many unique and incredible stories, and saw so much potential for a life there. I was inspired by the community and by the landscape. I have to keep reminding myself that this is only the first stop in a long, long journey. I leave here having gained a family,and a destination to return to.
I leave tomorrow morning. Until next time, Asheville.
Colorado, here I come.