Magic in the Mountains - A Trip to North Carolina

September 9, 2021

North Carolina found its way into my heart by happenstance. It unfolded softly over time, in trips to the Biltmore, in the breweries and salt cave of Asheville, in a girls trip to Charlotte. So when a little Airbnb with a yurt on a farm nestled in the mountains of Leicester, NC found it’s way to my iPhone screen, something in me said, “This place. There’s something here for you.

Hearing this type of voice is nothing new to me, the further I’ve progressed on my healing and spiritual journey. It’s the unearthing of an intuition and higher self that’s long been ignored, and the more I connected to her and the parts of me I had lost over time, the more she felt safe to step from the shadows to be heard; she knew I was finally listening. When I saw just how many reviews this place had and how they were booked solid for the next 3 months but just magically happened to have the exact last minute availability for us to visit the exact weekend we needed a getaway, well, that’s what they call kismet.

So we journeyed the 3 hours from Chattanooga to Leicester and arrived late on a Friday night. When we arrived, we all went to bed and as I stared up at the blue glow of stars of my daughter’s projection nightlight dancing across the ceiling, illuminating the actual stars peeking just beyond the glass dome opening of the yurt, calm washed over me. It felt good to escape into nature, to climb through the trap door of my repetitious everyday routine and fall into another life. I felt relieved in a sense, to know that my phone didn’t get service out here. I felt the magic unfolding all around me and couldn’t wait to explore.

The morning found me bright and early at 6:00am and arrived in the little pitter patter of feet across the wood floor and tiny tugs on the blanket from my side of the bed. “Mama,” Lilly said. “It’s wake up time.”

I can only describe what I felt that morning, stepping onto the porch of the yurt, with its little bridge extending over the creek that flowed past, as something like a bit of a homecoming; a feeling of knowing you are exactly where you’re meant to be in that exact moment in time. The sun filtered through the forest canopy in a play of light dancing across the stream, and I sat on the porch and sipped my coffee from a mug, letting the rich brown liquid warm me from the inside out, creating its own magic within my bloodstream, waking me up a little more to the seemingly ordinary yet extraordinary unfolding around me.

We roamed the grounds and were greeted by the official welcoming committee: three precocious dogs with tails wagging in a fierce display of instant affection. The sweetest and most gentle of the trio was Porter, whom I can only imagine is an old soul that has known nothing but kindness over the course of his many lifetimes. I could see it in his eyes and in the way he was so gentle with Lilly, letting her run her fingers through his fur, coupled with the occasional playful pull on his ears. Porter came to greet us every morning, already staking his claim in the middle of the bridge, and patiently waiting for us to emerge from the yurt, coffee cups in hand & little Lilly in tow. He was by far one of my favorite parts about this trip.

As we wandered further down to the flower garden, I stopped for a photo on the bridge to catch the sweeping mountains in the background, the meadow illuminated in the gentle glow that can only be captured in the early dawn; that time of morning where peace and stillness permeate everything around it and give your soul sustenance in the form of inspiration. It was in this moment that an idea came to me. I had been carrying around a little teal notepad, filled with blank squares of paper and a gilded pen. I knew I wanted to do something with writing, putting some poetry on paper and maybe merging my love of photography with my love of language. It was in that moment that I decided to start my next greatest adventure: self-discovery and healing through writing.

The magic of this place just spoke to me and inspired me with its rolling hills, the hops field dotted with wildflowers, the little yurt in the middle of the woods that reminded me of Hagrid’s Hut. You can learn a lot about yourself once you really stop to listen, and so I penned a lot of poetry that weekend.

We decided to make the short drive from the farm to the nearest town of Marshall, venturing out in search of baked goods and a need for further exploration.

Marshall, NC is a sleepy two-stoplight town you wouldn’t know existed if you weren’t looking for it. Part of its charm is that this town exists half in the past and half in the present, progress without compromising its rich history, slow paced life, and simplicity; like I could blink and turn the entire town sepia toned, slipping backwards through the years to when it was more of a destination rather than a small pass-through town.

It feels like stepping back in time as you wander through the old brick buildings, and it’s in the way the worn wooden floors creak, like if you tilt your head to the side and really listen, you’ll hear the stories they have to tell. You don’t need a compass here - the idea is to just get lost, to just be, to let things find you. And as we wandered, we absolutely let them.

What found me was nostalgia, simplicity, and a familiarity I couldn’t place. The little riverside town pressed up against the French Broad river was dotted with shops, cafes, and buildings to explore: fresh espresso and crumbly blueberry muffins at Zuma Coffee, Mad Co brew house buzzing with excitement and the slight smell of burnt pizza crust wafting through the air, a used bookshop with that undeniable intoxicating bookstore smell, and a spiritual shop beckoning me with an array of crystals, tinctures and tonics, little salves for the soul.

We had only planned to spend an hour or so wandering the town but got so swept up in its charm that we lost all sense of time. Don’t believe anyone when they say time travel isn’t real - it happens when you least expect. One minute you’re having banana nut muffins at a sidewalk cafe and three hours later you’re pouring over pages in a dusty bookshop. You blink and suddenly you’re having grilled salmon drowning in lemon butter at Star Diner followed by too many glasses of wine at Addison Farms Vineyard, getting caught in a sudden rainstorm but being so in the moment that you don’t even care - you welcome the rain and let it wash over you, cleansed in little pieces of sky.

On our last day, I buried my feet in the soil, covered up in dirt as the end of summer traveled the length of my body, pulled me towards the creek where I splashed with my daughter like I was five again. Porter came bounding into view, wanting to join in our game. There’s such a clarity of the soul revealed here, in wet feet on the dew drenched grass, the crisp mountain air, the simplicity and stillness that flowed all around us.

As night unfolded slowly, it brought a twinge of crisp air - even a hot July day can have a chilly night. Fireflies flashed in the hops yard and we sat on the front porch one last time, waiting for the show to start. The frogs and cicadas began to sing, the fireflies emerged, the stars glowed brighter in the night sky as it darkened. The world opened up, her heart bared like a beautiful prized treasure only for those who understand the importance of stillness; for those who know that the greatest secrets of this world are not spoken but revealed in a canvas night sky of constellations, in the baritone of the wind blowing through trees, in the brook babbling and bubbling spilling secrets into the dark; stories in code only those who understand that type of magic can come to know.

This place has imprinted onto my very being, a gateway into parts unknown to where I have longed to return. It is a place where the next part of my journey unfolded, and I’m still not quite sure where it may lead me. All I know is that I found magic that weekend in North Carolina, and it was the catalyst for something much bigger than myself.

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