Mountain Medicine

Here we go!

Miraculously, Dan and I were able to grab a very short trip to our favorite place in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina in Bryson City, literally at the last second as the new semester begins. We’ve not been able to make our annual anniversary trip thanks to the pandemic, but no matter- we are here now. A few precious days to soak up all of the mountain medicine of nature and peace. My soul needs this place to be complete; I feel such a connection here, something that is difficult to put into words. I don’t know how or why, but I belong here on this particular spot on the planet. Thankfully, Dan loves the Nantahala and Bryson City, too. As we often joke, ‘otherwise, this would be quite awkward.’

Shiva packing herself into Dan’s suitcase…

The leaving Birmingham part of the equation was the challenge. As always, we both had too many plates spinning; very messy home renovations in process (including finally removing our popcorn ceiling, blessed Jesus), faculty retreats, doctor appointments for both of us, vet appointments for Shiva and Marley, lessons, AirBnB guests and cleaning, and that sort of stuff. The craziness followed us out the door and down the road, with Dan dealing with phone calls and me removing registration blocks for music students and replying to work emails when we stopped to gas up and could get some signal.

Carolina blue…
Mountain mist…

All the stress to get here paid off. As soon as the mountains came into sight, I felt the weight on my shoulders begin to lift as I always do. Dan and I are both dealing with a lot of ‘stuff’ right now and we needed some us time away from the endless chores and work of home and school to unplug. This trip was supposed to happen back in July with my BFF, Diane, but instead she faced breast cancer surgery and I went to be with her. Bless the owner of the property I’d reserved on VRBO; he let me move the dates to a time when Dan could get away to come with me. The stars aligned for one brief adventure, and I didn’t even realize how much I needed to visit this place that has become a touchstone for us.

From Marley’s and my first walk through Deep Gap.

We stayed in the top part of a converted barn in a cute little place out Deep Gap Road in the Alarka Community by Bryson City. Beautiful winding roads and lots of steep hills (Marley and I have gotten in some good walks on those hills!). We’ve enjoyed cycling on the Winding Stairs Trail that runs by the Nantahala River, wonderful meals in Bryson City, walking around town enjoying the sights and sounds of our favorite small town, enjoying the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and just enjoying talking and being together away from the madness of rising Covid numbers in Alabama. This short trip won’t fix everything, but it sure has helped to reset our attitudes.

At our waterfall
Knottyhead Falls on the Upper ‘Nanny’ (Nantahala River).

I am a bit of a mess from the pandemic as I’m sure many of us are. Dan is struggling with some health issues, school starts tomorrow, and everything just seems off-kilter. We’ll get through it, but being able to visit our touchstone for even this short time has been medicinal for us both. We’re heading back into a hectic new semester filled with uncertainty thanks to Delta, our house is a wreck from all of the work being done…but for a couple of days we’ve been able to remember and celebrate our beginnings as a couple and our dreams of retiring here in the future in an A-frame cabin. Dreams are good for us, especially in troubling times.

Our barn…

When the time inevitably comes when I am feeling stressed and drained, I will remember the cool mountain air, the nighttime sounds of crickets, katydids, and bullfrogs, the joy in Dan’s face as he cycles down the trail, Marley’s happy trot up and down the hills, and the sounds of our waterfall where we were engaged, married a year later on the Summer Solstice, and where my mother’s remains and those of our past fur kids have become a part of this amazing place that resonates so deeply with us. Mountain medicine at the Nantahala- Land of the Noon Day Sun.


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