2023-3-5 My Feet in the Water
I put my feet in the creek today for the first time. On the one hand, it’s kind of bizarre that I’ve been here more than two weeks and today was the first time. One the other, living in a land of rough terrain has proven to me just how unstable I have become from the weight gain and sedentary lifestyle. Even five years ago, I’d have jumped down into the water and wandered up and down the creek my first day here. Now? Well, let’s just say Jack ain’t so nimble.
The good news is, I climbed down into the creek anyway. I’m overcoming so many challenges here. (Climbed down is a bit of a stretch, says me from five years ago. Baby steps, says me today.)
Cold. Yes, the water is cold, which is why only my feet explored. It comes out of a spring fed down from the mountain. Not painfully cold, but cold. What an amazing feeling. The water pouring over my feet, the rock solid beneath me, the wind in my hair and the sun on my face. All four elements everywhere.
I settled into a meditation and pulled the energy into me. The stresses of the last few days melted away.
Stress is a relative term for me on my sabbatical. Getting consistent interwebs has been a constant struggle, but that is so first world problems. The folks at the company have been super helpful, even when not successful, and I think some of them have taken my cause as a personal one because they have no freaking clue why I am having such difficulties.
All that crap washed away with the water over my feet.
Here’s a little tour of my hideaway.
Does anyone know which Saint this is? I want to say Saint Francis Is A Sissy, but I’m not certain.
This is a fallen tree over the creek that one day I will cross. It’s not a great photo, but the creek is sort of across the bottom. You can kind of see the rock formations as the land rises away from the creek.
A tiny part of Dan’s garden. He has over an acre of land, and a huge gardening area I’ll photograph soon. This is the plot up against the house. I depict it here in winter, so you can watch as cool things happen over the seasons.
And this is the homestead itself. The place has a fascinating history, and I’m amazed at how much work Dan has put into restoring it. I saw it first back in 2012, and so much has improved. I’m impressed with his ability and dedication.
This is where I live halfway up a mountain.
2023-3-5 The Saga of the Stolen Shoe
This is Dan. I’m staying at his place in North Carolina for a while. He’s one of the people I call “brother,” but not in the new fangled version popularized with the diminutive version “bro.” There are a few folks who are my family of choice. To learn more about “Family of Choice,” read any of my novels.
We met freshman year of college because we lived on the same floor in the dorms. We didn’t know each other well, then, but a few years later, after we’d become best friends, I came across a Polaroid photo of him I’d taken in the back of my station wagon freshman year. He was from Oshkosh, so I likely drove him somewhere for some reason. Neither he nor I could remember that event. It’s interesting that someone who, at the time, was insignificant enough to me that I don’t remember driving him or taking his photo, is someone who cared enough to invite me all the way to North Carolina to hit a reset button on my life.
We drove around so I could take photos and stuff.
Which one do you like better? Why? Tap on image for full screen version.
I ask these kinds of questions to stay in touch with people. It’s a way to interact with the world at large when the world I now inhabit seems very small… well, these photos likely don’t make it seem small, but I think you’ll know what I mean.
Behind the scenes from Dan Kowal!
I see dead things.
And living things.
All kinds of things.
The above photo and the next set were taken at an artist retreat near where I live. Folks rent out cabins and focus on their art without the distractions of the outside world. Considering I had zero bars out there, they take their retreat more seriously than I.
An entire post will be devoted to the tragicomedy of my “Quest to Connect with the Outside World.”
I’ve decided that when I’m stupid wealthy, I’m going to create something like this place, but rather than charging, I’ll let folks stay for free and will also provide the bare necessities. Dan’s invitation to the side of a mountain is not the first time I have been provided such a sabbatical, so I want to pay it forward to other struggling artists, which includes dancers, musicians, writers etc etc.
I hope you especially enjoy the next image. See the very shallow depression at the bottom center/right? I had to pass through it to get to the perfect spot for the photo. What looked like wet grass was actually a demonic sinkhole that sucked my leg in to my calf and ate my shoe.
Note to self: “slip on” shoes are also “slip off” shoes.
I managed to retrieve my shoe from a watery, muddy grave, but only by putting my entire not-so-insubstantial weight into it.
So please enjoy the lovely, peaceful image.
Here’s another image of Dan. I’m quite fond of this one. I’m pretty fond of the man, as well.
2023-2-21 Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap!
Last Saturday, Dan brought me to a meeting of the local NAACP. What delightful people. Considering I’ve moved into a rural area that skews, shall we say, a bit more conservatively than San Antonio, I enjoyed hearing a group of folks speak with passion about Black History month and a movement to remove all the queer books from the Macon County library and pull it out of a larger governing body. I didn’t really understand the details on that situation, but it would effectively kill the library.
The folks were not happy.
After the meeting, they offered sandwiches and snacks, and I sat with a diverse group of women chatting. It was lovely. Really.
Then Dan and I explored Sylva, which is just over the mountain, and that’s a normal thing to say around here.
He introduced me to a nice book shop where I met the manager who wants copies of my books and tarot cards to sell, and we’re going to see about having a book signing there. So that was cool, too. And I met a lovely Wiccan woman at a monthly street market where she was selling her fun witchy wares. Tables there are only $25, so hoorah for that. Less than a week in, and I’m already making sales connections and meeting cool people.
I also met some chickens.
Thanks, Dan, for a delightful morning.
Then he decided to show me a lovely view.
“There’s a great little spot on the top of a mountain,” he said.
“It’d be a great spot for meditation,” he said.
“You’ll love it,” he said.
Apparently, there’s only one way to drive up the side of a mountain, and it includes about a thousand hairpin curves with nothing but a sheer cliff on one side of the road.
Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy crap!
I would have taken video if I hadn’t been clutching the seat and the handle with both hands all the way up the mountain. Okay, remember my little experience that first day where I briefly found myself on such a road? Yeah… I had no idea.
Every turn was at about a six-degree angle, and by the end it was literally one lane. We had to pull off the road when someone wanted to go down the mountain. Since we were on the inside, we hugged the mountain while they rode the outside track. Fortunately, none of them took the short cut.
Every time I flinched especially aggressively, Dan would say, “We’re almost there.”
He said that all fifteen hours we drove. (That’s hyperbole.)
When we arrived, it was indeed beautiful.
That’s Dan. I’m not there because all the shiny, slippery rock that looks like it angles up is lying to you. That’s a downward slope to the edge of oblivion, which would make a great title for a song. I meditated while sitting on a handy fallen tree trunk. Far, far away from the ledge.
Life in the mountains will take some adjustment. 😮
Addendum: A Fed Ex truck just pulled into the driveway of the house across the creek.
First of all, I like being able to say, “Across the creek.”
Secondly… nope. Just nope.
2023-2-20 Front Porch Office
I left San Antonio one week ago today.
Why did I move to North Carolina? I have given several answers to that question. The truest one is that I moved four times in the space of a year and needed to move a fifth. Long story. This time, Dan invited me to live with him in NC.
“First of all, thank you,” I said, “but I have the kind of job that it can take six months to a year to build enough of a clientele to survive.”
He didn’t say anything.
I chuckled quietly.
The truth is I haven’t been earning enough to survive since the Pandemic hit. Sure, the country, in general, pretends it’s over, but the truth is I’ve not been able to rebuild enough of a business to pay the bills. And I’m not looking for sympathy, because it’s all worked out for the best. (I just knocked on wood.) Had the last year not been so extreme, I’d never had taken the leap of faith. Taoists call it “the empty-handed leap into the abyss.”
The goal is to create online income streams through teaching, editing, tarot readings, etc that allow me to live comfortably. Then, when I return to Texas, I can do the things I love to do in person (teaching dance and taking pictures) more for fun than to pay the bills.
The return is almost inevitable.
One reason: snow.
Sure. Those icicles are pretty. But… they’re ice.
Wandering lazily towards March, we’re likely also heading into Spring. We might get some snow, but it’s not an entire long cold winter.
I also plan to use this time to heal. It’s been a harsh couple of years for all of us, and I know several people who’ve had it much worse than I, but since I made the leap, I figure I should use the time to shed some of the bad habits I picked up as coping mechanisms.
This the view from my front porch. Technically, the porch belongs to the house, and the house belongs to my brother Dan, but he invited me to live here, so I think I get to kind of see it as mine as much as anything really belongs to anyone.
2023/2/17 Sometimes, the tea just isn’t enough.
Day three in the mountains. Dreams last night. So many dreams.
The first I remember was unusual even for me. Pretend you’re a college student studying early film. Stuff like Nosferatu and Metropolis. You’re also fond of Dada and Film Noir. You decide to create an homage to all those styles and make it as random and disturbing as possible. Lots of crosscutting, modern CG to transform people into abstract creations. Random dialog is a must. Can’t have anything make any actual sense. And make it black and white… of course.
Then figure out how to plug it directly into my brain.
I never dream in black and white.
And that was just the beginning. I don’t remember the next series of dreams as well, but there were ghosts slamming lockers open and closed in a high school, and the noise really annoyed me… something about the spirits being trapped in there by some sort of vines inside the wall. I reached into the lockers, like through them, to pull out all the vines to set the spirits free so they’d stop slamming the dang lockers. It was pretty exhausting because the vines kept growing as I pulled other vines free.
So… today I’m a little more subdued than I have been. I also think the adrenaline is finally wearing off. Originally, Dan had invited me to check out the music scene in Ashville tonight, but I think I might stay home and work on edits and writing.
Ashville is the Austin of NC. They seem to have a thriving dance scene and lots of hippy dippy tree hugging pagan folks. You know, my peeps. 😉
There’s what seems to be a cool techno party/art exhibit next Friday in Franklin itself, and I hope to attend.
Tomorrow I’m going to explore a bit more, so expect more photos when I’m able to get back to the library.
The view from my new “office,” otherwise known as the Macon County Library. That’s it on the left. I don’t have internet or phone service at the house, yet, but think I will continue to work from here when that gets sorted. They have “tuuoring rooms” that will be perfect for all the online services I plan to provide! Ten minutes from home.
The roads from Dallas to wherever I was shortly before crossing into North Carolina were primarily flat to wavy. That was 8:20am to about 10pm on Tuesday. Sure there were some pretty large hills leading up to the final kick, but there were also enough cars ahead that clearly defined the hills and curves.
In the black of night, I crossed into the leading edge of the Appalachian Mountains, and nary a car was in sight. I was on my own. In the mountains. On curvy roads.
Very curvy roads.
Most of the time, a clear cliff face rose to my left and nothing but trees to my right… that I could see. All I could see was in the narrow beams of my head lights. Other than the road and the cliff on one side and the trees on the other, nothing existed. At the time, it was rather unnerving.
Somewhere before entering the curves of the mountains, I had been pulled over by a cop. That had been fun. He said I was speeding, but I had been going flow of traffic, and several people had recently passed me, so I suspect it was the Texas plates. He gave me a warning and told me to slow down, and I thanked him and now, at 10pm, my heart was pounding because I’m from Texas and you never know when a speeding ticket you forgot to pay means going to jail. This has happened to friends.
While waiting for the shake of my hands to reduce, I noticed that Dan had left a message asking my whereabouts. I responded that I had no idea, but had been pulled over by a cop, then I hit the road, afraid that if the adrenaline crashed, I’d be too tired to make the last leg of the journey.
The phone pinged messenger, but that was likely Dan commenting on my message and the road had gone curvy, so I ignored it. Then my phone made the texting ping. And again. And again.
Oh. Dan might have worried about me and switched to text. So I found a place to pull over. Nope. My phone uses the same ping to tell me when I have service, or when I don’t. It had gone back and forth several times.
And the message I had sent to Dan hadn’t sent.
I had no service at all.
Sooo… Middle of the night. Curvy mountain roads. No cell service or interwebs.
Wait… would the Google directions lady keep giving me directions if I had no cell service? Would I end up twenty miles from my destination at 1am with no way to find it? Dan had warned that I would have no service at his house.
Well, it was what it was, and the next hour was all one road… So…
That takes us back to me on the dark, very curvy roads, but now we’ve added that I don’t know if the Google lady will keep assisting me at the end of that particular road.
She did. I made it safely. Hoorah.
The next morning, I headed out to find cell service so I could check out the local library which would be my interwebs haven until I sorted out my own. Since I couldn’t Google from home, I figured I’d just backtrack to the last bundle of chain stores that would likely have service.
Then two large pickups ahead of me turned to a kind of side road with much verve and vigor. “Oh, I thought,” maybe that’s a way to civilization, too. They certainly seem confidant about—
Holy F-ing sh#$!
I said that four times.
Yeah, the road switched back about 160 degrees and dropped down to two feet for either lane. It immediately switched back again, this time at about 270 degrees and the road narrowed to one foot for both lanes. The downward edge of the road? A clear cliff face approximately ten centimeters from the pavement. It dropped further than the waterfall to Land of the Lost.
I cussed some more, pulled into the first driveway I found and headed away from that deathtrap with my tail tucked between my legs. Yipe, yipe, yipe.
So… I’m now kind of glad I drove that last two hours of curvy, windy mountain roads in the dark.