Reflections

29 Apr

It’s a quiet Saturday morning in Asheville.  I am enjoying a morning of just feeling more at ease and good in my bones and can’t help but think of the long journey that brought me here.

I have to say, it is good to be in the United States for now and in some ways I am starting to feel at home and appreciating the many fortunate simple things I presently have in my life.  But I am also aware that it was my epic journey around the globe that brought me to this point.

I have always loved travel and been drawn to it.  A child of the midwest in a community with little interest in international exploration, looking beyond our borders and having an adventure were always things that excited me.  If you’ve followed my blog you may know that my 20s brought some unexpected challenges my way and I ended up on the anti-depressant Paxil for over ten years.  When I went off of it the withdrawal/discontinuation symptoms nearly flattened me and it took me years to get some small semblance of “I’m alright.”

A few years after this when I began my international journey,  I was thrilled to consider something that brought excitement back into my life and truly lit me up and inspired me.  At the same time, I was still just a shell of myself and experienced many persistent issues that made daily living and “normal life” hard for me.

So here comes the benefit of my journey.  While traveling – my unexpected epic five-year adventure to Germany, France South Korea, Austria & Thailand – lit me up and brought me to life in ways I can hardly express, it was also extremely challenging for me.  Daily I was pushed in small and large ways.  The beauty of this journey and experience is it forced me to grow and develop in ways that I NEEDED to do to begin to get my life back after the impact of Paxil and also the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The scared, limited, wounded shadow person that I was after the impact of Paxil withdrawal and other life challenges slowly began to chisel away, shift, develop and take new shape.

And so with my gratitude for a bit of ease and restoration on “home” territory also comes my appreciation for all the excitement, struggles and challenges along the way that brought me to where I am now.  A new plateau.  I am aware that while I still have my challenges, my abilities and capacities that are serving me now are the fruit of my journey.  This growth could have only happened in foreign territory.  A life abroad helped me to drop my “regular” paradigm and demanded that I adapt and grow to new ways of being. This ultimately brought me some freedom and allowed me to drop some of the limiting patterns and behaviors locked into and stuck in my more familiar environment.

So if you are someone who wants to travel, should travel, needs to travel but hasn’t for a whole assortment of reasons… just know that it’s possible to travel, no matter what your circumstances.  Surround yourself with good grounded people who will support you in this idea.  And know that challenges don’t mean travel (or whatever it is you want) is not for you, it just means that overcoming those challenges will be part of the equation.  And that’s okay.

Not long before I left on my epic journey I had just begun chanting with the Buddhist organization SGI.  I was chanting for true change and growth in my life and that is exactly what I got. Through the excitement and inspiration of my travels as well as facing and working through the MANY challenges I experienced daily, I grew.

Admittedly, I am still under development and my life is still a work in progress.  But I am aware that I am in a better place today as a result of my journey.

I appreciate my current location and being back in the US, but I also look forward to cultivating a life where adventure and international life are again a part of the landscape… in my own time, in my own way.

So for today, I am just feeling grateful for and acknowledging the ride, the challenges and journey that brought me to where I am now.

Why I Chant

23 Apr

A little over 6 years ago I was introduced to the Nichiren Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International and chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. When I lived in New Orleans I was first invited to come to a meeting by a member of my Reiki community. After attending a meeting, I wasn’t exactly sure what to think… but I walked away feeling the powerful presence of the chanting practice.

Not long after I attended an SGI New Years Day meeting and celebration in New Orleans.  It was here that a trusted friend shared that they had a major breakthrough in their life after becoming an SGI member and chanting.  As I was in the midst of some of my own challenges and had been moving through some thick life issues for some time, I wanted that too… so I took a leap and decided to become a member.

That was over 6 years ago and through the course of that time and living in many countries abroad, my practice and my life have continued to develop and grow.

Why do I chant?  Well, I imagine it’s an accumulation of many small and large reasons and experiences.  Here are some of them.

  1.  When I chant for something, sometimes things that seem “miraculous” happen.  I have a list of many small and large things that have worked out in amazing ways from chanting.  When I first started to chant I was selling shiitake mushrooms at the local farmers market.  The friend who introduced me to the practice suggested that I chant for my mushroom sales.  I did and without doing anything else differently, my mushroom sales doubled. When I was preparing for the first step of my international journey, going to Germany, I had purchased a ticket at a great price from US to London. It was important to me to have a place to stay in London for a day or two before flying on to Germany to give my mind and body a little time to rest and adjust before continuing.  As I was taking this journey with a great leap of faith but little money, it was necessary that I had a free or nearly free place to stay in London as hotels are quite expensive.  So I chanted fervently for a free place to stay in London. Amazingly, a few weeks before my departure I was at a local group I attend which had an out-of-town visitor. A friend who knew my London agenda said to me regarding our out-of-town guest “You know, his mom lives in London and sometimes she hosts guests.” She then proceeded to introduce the idea to him and after working out a few details, I had a free place to stay in London!
    This list goes on and on.  Often it’s simple things. For instance not long ago I was chanting for help voting in the past presidential election.  I had newly arrived in North Carolina, was not registered to vote in the state, had been out of the country for five years and wasn’t sure what I needed to do.  I chanted about it and shortly after I noticed a sign in a field near where I would go hiking that said “Do you need help voting?”  I laughed and thought… yes, as a matter of fact I do!  I called the number, the man was very helpful and with his recommendation I was able to register for early voting and easily voted in the last election.
  2. Chanting feels good.  This is pretty simple, I feel better when I chant.  Just the experience of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is a positive thing for me and I walk away in a better space than when I started.  I remember one time when I was in South Korea, I met some SGI members at one of the SGI centers in Seoul.  We chanted together for hours.  When I left, everything looked shiny. Everything – the buildings, the cement, the trees.  It was like I was looking at life through a lighter, sparkly lens.
  3. Chanting with others and attending SGI meetings often shifts my mood and experience.  On more than one occasion, I have gone to a meeting in a certain place… maybe I feel anxious or overwhelmed or sad.  Often when I leave it’s like my plate has been polished and I just feel different in relationship to my life and life circumstances.  For example, not long ago I went to a meeting and I felt like I was in a “bad place.”  I had just started a new job and felt stressed out and overworked.  Plus the night before I had a “bad evening” and had gotten virtually no sleep.  So I showed up at the meeting stressed out and a bit freaked out from no sleep.  Plus I still had about four hours of work to do that day, a Sunday.  At the meeting I chanted to have the patience, ease and clarity to complete my work without struggle.  Amazingly, that afternoon I was able to stay in a good place and easily get all my work done feeling clear and alert.  A major shift for me and honestly a bit of a miracle as I am someone who easily gets overwhelmed and doesn’t do well without sleep.
  4. SGI is a great way to connect with others.  As much as I’ve traveled around and moved, SGI has been a great way to meet and connect with others. And not just any “others,” but people who are working to overcome their own obstacles and support “not giving up” and “anything is possible.” This is a good space to be in! And it’s helped me a lot in making new, positive and supportive connections out and about in the world and at home.

If you are curious about changing Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, SGI has some simple, helpful videos and are a great place to start exploring chanting.

Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.  This is a short video that shows you how to chant and teaches chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

Chanting excerpts from the Lotus Sutra.  Part of the daily practice of SGI is chanting excerpts from the Lotus Sutra.  This practice is called Gongyo.  This video is “karaoke-style” and takes you slowly through the practice.

Typically, SGI members do Gongyo and chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo in the morning and evening.  There is no right or wrong way to try it.  If you like, you can experiment with chanting 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.

If you are curious about SGI or want to know more, feel free to reach out.  It’s really been a positive, growth supportive practice for me.  It supports me overcoming obstacles and not giving up in my life and often brings unexpected benefits and solutions to my life.  I am glad to have this practice in my spiritual tool box as I go along for this ride of life.

 

 

Heavy Groaning Doorways

2 Apr

It’s a spring day here in Asheville.  Thank God.  I think I have had enough of winter’s coldness and ready for some softer spring energy to come my way.

I am still here in Asheville making my way in my somewhat reluctant American life.  Although I have been back for a year already, I am still hesitant to load myself down with too many belongings or make big plans. This American life is filled with appreciation for some of the easier ways of living here but also some conflict about what to “do with” all the colors and experiences packed in my body from my life abroad.

While I still get a little glimmer in my eye when I see and consider locations abroad, for now that spark is quite dim and a larger part of me wants to be more settled in some way.

I can recall my Reiki teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, advising me that when I returned to the States I would have to practice not getting in a rut. And alas, I find that is true.  When I returned all I wanted to do was relax and just lunge deeply into some of the more “normal” and “comforting” things of American life. But I find it’s a fine line and I have to be careful not to lunge and lounge too deeply for too long.

With Spring arriving in Asheville, it’s hard not to smile with the sweet song of the birds outside my door and the gentle blues skies and warmer air.  But at times I am not yet at home here and adjusting to my somewhat regular rhythm of work and more ordinary life.

This morning was a nice time for me with a positive burst of energy from my local SGI meeting.  It’s always good to be lifted up by the spirit of the organization and the feeling and reminder to never give up, whatever that means for me at the time.  Historically it was that never give up feeling that launched me from one international adventure to the next and supported me as I faced my own challenges with anxiety and more while working and living abroad.  And now, back on American soil I still turn to it as I feel somewhat uncertain what I want and where to put my efforts now and also sometimes shy and sheepish to go out and explore.

Today at the meeting a new friend and experienced SGI member shared a bit of her story overcoming deep challenges with bipolar disorder and PTSD to reshape and rebuild her life.  I am forever inspired by such people as I know how challenging life can get and feel sometimes.  How wonderful to be around people moving through those challenges, lifting themselves and others up, and never giving up on themselves and their circumstances. (You can check out her award winning memoir here!)

I am reminded that this year, 2017, is a number 1 year in the world of numerology (2+1+7=10 1+0=1).  It’s coming after a number 9 year, a time of big change, and now with the 1 it is a time of new beginnings.  After big changes for me in 2016, I am certainly in the midst of new beginnings in 2017, rebuilding and unsure of what it will hold.

I will end with a wonderful quote I found recently by SGI President Ikeda that really spoke to me.  It says

  • You must not for one instant give up the effort to build new lives for yourselves. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life.

And so I leaves you now from Asheville, the land of unmistakable beauty and… a few of my own heavy, groaning doorways.  But thankfully also some good connections, fresh spring air and an easy relaxed Sunday afternoon.

American Yogi

7 Mar

The new place I’ve landed is a private downstairs “suite” in the home of a couple in Asheville.  In addition to the quiet neighborhood and wooded lot, my stay here comes with an additional unexpected bonus.  My new landlords and house-sharers are filmmakers and have nearly completed their project, American Yogi (click here to view the trailer!).

It was a real treat when, a few weeks ago, they invited me to a private screening in their home, conveniently, just upstairs. All I knew about their film was it had a spiritual focus and was about India – both which sounded good to me. So I joined them in their living room surrounded by a few of their friends and happily took in the film.

Maharaj-ji

Maharaj-ji

The film was a real treat!  It was a light-hearted, fun and unfolding story of the spiritual journey of my upstairs neighbor, Steven Newmark, and highlights the presence, power and teachings of Indian Guru, Maharaj-ji.

So far on my spiritual journey, I feel like I’ve just dabbled my toe into the spiritual teachings of India.  Just recently I watched the documentary telling the story of Krishna Das called One Track Heart.  Some of you may know Krishna Das is an internationally known kirtan artist (a beautiful and inspirational style of call and response chanting).  

krishna-das

Krishna Das and Maharaj-ji

A big part of the Krishna Das story was his relationship to his Guru, Maharaj-ji. Honestly, I still feel a little new to the whole “Indian Guru” thing, but I was earnestly touched by Krishna Das’ relationship with him, his complete unbridled experience of unconditional love, and his magnificent healing experience in the face of many deep troubles and sorrows.

So, when watching American Yogi and being “reintroduced” to Maharaj-ji, in some ways it felt a bit like seeing an old friend. In its simplest form, this film was a reminder to me that I don’t have to take all the hassles and worries of this life so seriously or hold on so tightly.

American Yogi's Steven Newmark in the 60s

American Yogi’s Steven Newmark in the 60s

This spiritual tale is filled with mystical experiences, unexpected diversions, and enlightening stories all folded within the uncommon journey of a pretty regular guy. It is intertwined within the stories of Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now, and features the music of Krishna Das and Jai Uttal.  And there’s even a little love story!

It debuted in the prestigious International Film Fest of India.

Here’s what folks are saying about it:

American Yogi is an inspiration.” Ram Dass

“A deeply inspired film! About what the Western mind calls fiction–and the East calls reality.” — Shankar Mohan, Director of the International Film Festival of India

Are you curious?  Well, American Yogi will soon be accessible out in the world. But first they need to handle a few final housekeeping requirements to prepare the film for professional release.  Would you like to be a part of it?

American Yogi has just launched an Indigogo Campaign to raise funds for these final steps. Here are a few ways you can participate:

    1. Get a copy of American Yogi for Yourself! Visit is.gd/americanyogithemovie to view the trailer and learn how to get a downloaded copy of the film for yourself!
    2. americanyogifb1Share American Yogi on Facebook.
      Please include the link: is.gd/americanyogithemovie and if you like you can also use this groovy graphic (right click, save image as)
    3. Share American Yogi with your community, friends and connections. Anyway you like!  Email, Facebook, Twitter…we’d love your help in spreading the word of American Yogi!

Through my travels I’ve learned first hand – it’s amazing what can be accomplished when we take the leap to support each other in our creative endeavors.  Thanks for reading and your support of American Yogi!

A New View

19 Feb

It’s a quiet Sunday here in Asheville.  I am slowly settling into my new space gathering up the little things I need to feel more at home. Now with a place to live and regular work, life seems a bit… normal… well sort of. It’s funny I’ve been back from Thailand and my epic five-year escapade for almost a year now, and despite my current somewhat “normal” circumstances, I am still surfing through life since returning and the spirit of “what’s next…”

In many ways it is an earnest treat to be back in the US and also to be here in Asheville.  There is a quietness and easiness here that I appreciate and need.  On good days I can feel the settling in of my body to a deeper and deeper place of ease.  Ahh! There are many simple things here that I have been craving that really feed me in small ways on a regular basis – great affordable yoga classes that aren’t just exercise but truly inspiration for the mind, body and soul; ease of access to nature around every bend, sometimes unexpectedly breathtaking; and a general feeling of laid back community and culture that supports me feeling a little less on edge after five years of constant change and life in foreign territory.

Don’t get me wrong – life isn’t “settled” or perfect… I still wonder and consider…on practically a daily basis, what is evolving for my life at this time.  I hear an inner pull to have a base… but within that also comes the implication that a base is a steady place from which one can fly away… and return.  Sometimes I find I am just too “used to” exploring what’s next… I feel a little… confused about what role that now has in my world.  And other times, honestly, my body still forgets it’s in the United States… including glimpses of forgetting which side of the road to drive on…

And then there are just the regular life challenges of living someplace new and not yet knowing many people here.  My current contract job is mostly remote, which in many ways I love.  But often I find it is just me and my computer which can leave me feeling a bit… disconnected… in my new community.

Ah, but just the same, for now I am really glad to be here.  Today I am enjoying the relief of some simple time off to relax a bit.  A new place to live with a change of scenery and a new view. Also appreciating my weekly meeting yesterday with the Asheville SGI group which often inspires me , lightens my load and just frees me up in some way.

For now, on this overcast quiet day, I’ll leave you with a little inspiration from my travel past.  I’ve been revisiting my journey lately and have picked out a few favorite pics and memories.  You can check them out on the right panel of my home page under “Travel Memories.”

Thanks for reading and coming along for the ride!

 

Featured photo – the “new view” from my current “home” in Asheville, NC.

The Truth About Citric Acid

5 Feb

It’s in many foods you may buy.  Citric Acid.  It sounds innocent enough but what is it really?….

This journey of mine has been about many things.  It’s been about new experiences and explorations, travel and adventure, and it’s also been about health and well-being.  For over ten years now I have been peeling back the layers of health and well-being and working on getting to the root of what helps me feel better.  While traveling it’s been particularly important to feel my best in the midst of new challenges and foreign territory.  So I’ve learned to pay close attention.

I’ve learned that what I put in my body really makes a big difference in how I feel. I’ve learned to take a closer look, read the labels, question what is in my food – and pay attention to the impact what I eat has on my mood and body.  Enter Citric Acid.

Citric acid doesn’t sound too bad and may not get our attention if we see it in a food item’s ingredient list.  I had always assumed it was “harmless” and of an “innocent nature” but one day I decided to take a closer look. Surely it comes from lemons or something like that?…  While citric acid is naturally found in citrus fruits, most modern-day citric acid comes from a chemical process involving… MOLD.

According to the website ethicalfoods.com and many other sites as well, “American food chemist, James Currie, discovered a process for making citric acid from mold in 1917. Pfizer started to produce citric acid from molds in 1919.”  The mold used is Aspergillus niger, a common black mold.  This far less expensive process is commonplace and typically what you will find when you read “citric acid” in your favorite food ingredients.

The website newhope.com tells us “more than 1.6 million tons of citric acid are produced annually in the United States, with roughly two-thirds used in foods and beverages and the rest used in detergents, pharmaceuticals and supplements.”

Mold?… is that something you want in your body?  This new information made sense to me.  All too often I would eat something with healthy ingredients except for citric acid and found after eating it that I just didn’t feel right.

I have to admit I have given up citric acid begrudgingly at times – looking through the ingredient list in a favorite healthy treat finding quality ingredients only to be bombarded at the end with the final ingredient… citric acid.  It’s used as a preservative so it’s common place in even healthy prepared selections.

Why avoid citric acid?  If you struggle with any health issues – pain, discomfort, disease or mood and anxiety concerns – what you eat is always a good place to start to feel better.  I have learned that paying attention to how I feel after I eat something is a big indicator for what works for me and what does not.  So aside from the fact that it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to eat something derived from black mold, pay attention to how you feel next time after you eat something with citric acid.

With so many food products containing mold derived citric acid, how do you avoid it? Well the simplest thing is to prepare your own healthy foods and snacks.  But I get it, sometimes we just want to grab something and go!  When that’s the case your best option is to check out healthy local brands with a shorter shelf life, fresher ingredients and more likely to be prepared without preservatives.

The next time you are shopping for your favorite food items, take a look at the ingredients and when you see “citric acid” don’t think – “ah, lemons” think…”mold.”

Thanks for joining me on the journey of adventure, healing, health and well-being!

Expanded

22 Jan

Last weekend was moving day for me… again.  I departed my original landing pad and headed in a slightly new direction.  Just a little northwest really, to another part of town.  As I pack up my belongings I can’t help but notice the “one-carload” life that I arrived in Asheville with has already expanded beyond that.  As I somewhat hesitantly dip my toe just a little further into life back in the States, I am already a far cry away the neat and tidy two-suitcase life that was mine for several years.

I arrived in Asheville with a little work in exchange for a place to stay (through helpx.net), a need to find paying work, and a curiosity for the area.  Now almost four months later, I have a job originally offered as part-time that quickly burst into more. Consequently, I was no longer able to keep up with my original work/trade agreement and as a result had to find a new living circumstance.

I have to note I couldn’t have been more fortunate with my landing living arrangement.  The residents of the house where I lived have been kind, generous and gracious to me.  The young couple who lived here for much of the time have moved on to their next adventure in New Orleans.  But while they were here they were fun, kind and respectful.  As I too head on to my “next experience” I am grateful to be spending more time in the Asheville area.

While I am earnestly not sure yet if I can call Asheville “home”, how long I will stay, or what the landscape of this next phase of life will look like, I can say there are plenty of things that are good for me here.  Recently after our “big snow storm” that left us freezing and covered in snow for a few days, I was so grateful when the cold broke and it was nearly 60 degrees.  That morning I headed out of the house and made my way to the park.  It’s so great to be in a community of like-minded park goers.  When I arrived at about 9am on a weekday the parking lot was nearly full. There were circles of school groups being led in environmental education by teachers. A photographer pointed out to me the new duckling swimming in the water with a white beak.  And of course I can’t forget the rushing river water, mountains and blue sky surrounding me that always makes me feel just a little more at ease.

20170112_090719

The new year has come and gone and as I drift into 2017 I try to keep in mind some of the wisdom I received for this new year.  My Reiki community hosted a world-wide webinar that I “sunk into” on New Years day.  Phyllis Lei Furumoto, the grand master of the Reiki Usui Shiki Ryoho tradition, spoke and what struck me most was her message of the importance of being authentic.  It reminded me that this is one of the gifts of the practice of Reiki – a gentle healing energy ushering you into the depth of your true self.  Sometimes slowly like a wave.  Sometimes quickly like being thrown into the deep end.  The depth and breadth of Phyllis’ own journey and her years of experience with Reiki brought to life the fullness, wisdom and growth available through the practice that happens… sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but accumulates over a lifetime. I am really grateful to be on that journey, sometimes gracefully, sometimes less so..melting into the space that is my own.

The other night I went to a local SGI meeting with two desires – the need to chant and gather with others and honestly the need to “get out”.  As is so often the case, I was so grateful that I went.  After an easy hour of chanting and conversation, when I departed that evening it was as if a load was taken off my shoulders and I just felt like I could breathe.  It felt like for the first time in a while I could relax for a bit and see in retrospect the quite large and expansive journey I have been on.  In the moment I heaved a sign of relief, laughed and took in the fullness of it.

It’s a rainy Sunday in Asheville and I am here in my new space, decor style let’s just call it… minimalist.  I am grateful for a new landing pad, the patch of forest there to greet me outside my doorway, and the gentle sweetness of the new community and landscape surrounding me. A little new beginning in the New Year with my expanded belongings as I continue my own journey of growth and expansion.

Merry & Bright

30 Dec

Well, I have just returned from a little holiday excursion back to the midwest to visit family. It was a good time and fun to be back in the midwest, connect with my mom, sister and her family. Even though I have only been away for a short time, it’s always interesting to go home and notice how my life has grown and changed since my last visit.

I haven’t written much lately because in truth… I have been busy.  I have myself a job here in Asheville that has been keeping me on my toes.  I was hired as a contractor to handle some marketing and graphic design needs for a small local health food chain that is doing both some growing and struggling right now.  And since I have been hired,  I have found myself pretty much doing the same.  I was initially hired for some part-time obligations that quickly blossomed into full-on, hands on work.  As we all continue to struggle and grow, I imagine things will balance out a bit so we will see how things develop!

Part of the beauty of this work is that I do much of it remotely and was able to pack up my computer and take my job on the road while I went home for a visit.  Not always easy or fun to work while you’re home for holidays, but much better than not going at all!

I’ve been gone for just over a week but it’s good to be back in the Asheville area. There is something about the air and the mountains here that just makes me feel at ease.  That said, returning after a week with family around to circumstances where I am often “on my own” also feels like its own adjustment.

And while the drive there and back was… long… I returned feeling full from the experience and having some time with family.

So for now, I am continuing to sail my boat here in Asheville paddling along with my new work responsibilities and continuing to find my way in a new community.

Once again I am grateful for my practice with the buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International.  This practice has been one of the cornerstones in my world these past traveling years that in addition to offering a strong spiritual foundation provides a way to meet and connect with new people in new territory.  This always makes things better.

As 2016 comes to a close, I am remembering what Maria Shaw, a New Orleans Astrologer who I appreciate and pay attention to, said about this past year.  She said from the very beginning that it will be a year of change and that has been true for me.  I’ve done my best to go with the flow and allow things to unfold.  It seems, it’s the best way to go.

As we roll out of 2016 and into 2017 I am grateful for many things.  I am grateful this past year for my mother who was a great support to me as I was transitioning back to being in the US.  I am grateful for my Reiki teacher and friend, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, who has assisted me with her wisdom and insight.  And I am grateful for the friends, old and new, who I have met and seen along the way.

And I am grateful to be in beautiful Asheville.  We will see how 2017 and the next chapter unfolds!

Wishing you courage, faith, confidence, trust and good spirit in the New Year!

 

Featured Photo:  A cool winter morning at the neighborhood lake just up the street from my mom’s home in Missouri.wintermorning

Settling In

3 Nov

I had my first taste of the mountain fog this morning.  I ran an early morning errand for my current host and found myself driving cautiously through the curvy, shadowy streets.  Slowly I am finding my way in, around and near Asheville, still blindly following the persistent and mostly reliable voice of my GPS navigator.

It’s hard to believe that I have been in Asheville for about a month now.  In truth it’s been a bit of an adjustment for me being here, navigating new space and relationships. Drifting again in uncertainty while life rearranges itself around me.

I am currently sharing a house with two lovely travellers, a youngish couple, themselves making their way via helpx.  They are here for the short-term caring for the home and dogs of the owners while they are away.  And me, well, while I am living here, I am doing an exchange with the homeowner’s daughter and family who live not far down the street.

If you don’t know, helpx.net is an international network that connects hosts willing to offer room and/or board in exchange for some needed work with travellers looking for a creative and affordable way to travel.  Helpx has been an important link for me on this mega-journey.  It offered a way to stay longer in Europe opening doors to working and living in France.  It afforded me a way to connect with and see a bit more of Germany when I was watching every dime that I spent. And it was a bridge when I needed to come back to the United States for just a few months to apply for and get my visa to teach English in South Korea.  And now, here I am in Asheville!

My helpx trade here is a pretty simple one.  If you read my blog, you know by now that I pay special attention to my diet, something that doesn’t work in all households.  So, for this trade I am doing a modest amount of work in exchange for my place to stay and handling my food and meal needs on my own.  It’s a start and a great way to land and get to know Asheville.

This past month has slid by as I have been preoccupied with finding my own rhythm in new circumstances, exploring Asheville a bit, making an effort to connect with and meet new people, and of course looking for work. Along the way I have managed to explore and see some pretty great things. Here are a few highlights…

 

A Sunday Ride Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Wow, I truly love this.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is literally just up the road from where I am staying.  A few weeks ago I took a longer drive up the Parkway and was bombarded turn after turn with breathtaking scenery.  I couldn’t take the smile off my face.  As the Parkway noodles through town, it’s a road I can hop on to go almost any ol’ place…  Just yesterday I was heading to a meeting about ten miles from here and lucky me, four miles of my journey was spent on the Parkway.  A remarkable diversion in the ins and outs of everyday life.

 

Getting Out in Nature

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This is one of the things I have truly been longing for – to live someplace with easy access to nature.  What a wonderful treat!  This little trail here is just a few miles from where I stay and meanders along the Swannanoa river.  It’s beautiful, pristine and literally a breath of fresh air. (Trailhead is located at Charles D. Owen Park, 875 Warren Wilson Road in Swannanoa, NC. )

 

Meeting the Neighbors

meet the neighbors

My current residence is part breathtakingly rural part small town/suburb.  Meet some of my new neighbors!   Just on the outskirts of Asheville, it takes only ten minutes to get to town with access to healthy stores, eclectic restaurants and shopping.  While Asheville is the heart of much of the attraction and activity here, it is surrounded by an assortment of little towns and communities many thriving in their own way.  So far it seems an interesting combination of folks from new age transplant to conservative native.

 

The Serious Business of Finding a Job

View Grove Park Inn

It’s not everyplace that you can go for a job interview and end up here.  This is the view from the Grove Park Inn, one of the grandest hotels in Asheville with, as you can see, a spectacular view.  It was a real treat to go there, meet and connect with folks who had worked there for decades, and also get the window seat in an elegant meeting room with a million dollar view.

 

Out and About Town

Asheville Flea Market

Little by little I am finding my way around town and slowly connecting the dots of the flavor and color that is the Asheville area. Last Sunday I stopped by the monthly flea market at Salvage Station, pictured above, filled with original crafts and flea market treasures. Much to my surprise I even ran into a “familiar face,” an unexpected treat when living in new territory.

 

ashevillecommunityyoga

Yoga!

And yes I simply can’t forget YOGA! Tonight I went to a class at a studio called Asheville Community Yoga. Don’t let it’s simple unassuming appearance deceive you – the vibe and energy of the place simply blew me away.  It felt like coming home to the mother ship.  After many years of travel often without a yoga studio that felt like home, or access to yoga at all (other than my own personal practice) it was a relief on so many levels to enter into this warm inviting yoga space.  I look forward to spending more time there.

 

It’s been surprisingly warm here in the mountains of Asheville, with fall brimming in the trees but misleading almost summer-like temperatures.  My new-to-me Honda CR-V and I are prepared for the coming winter as I am almost longing for the break that winter affords after my recent hot-hot year in Thailand.

Good-bye for now as my journey and “settling in” continue in the quiet, summer-like fall in the hills of Swannanoa.

Hello, Asheville!

14 Oct

Well, it seems the cat may be out of the bag….but for those of you who haven’t figured it out… I am in Asheville, North Carolina!  I made the fairly friendly 14-hour jaunt over a week ago and since have been easing my way into the mountainous world of Asheville.

Technically I am in Swannanoa… just a breezy ten-minute drive from downtown Asheville.  Coming to Asheville has been on my mind for some time now.  Since returning to the US, I have been open to and exploring ways, a reason to come here. Thanks to an invitation from a host on helpx.net, here I am!

As you may recall, helpx.net is an international network of hosts willing to offer room and/or board to a traveler in exchange for some needed help. My current exchange is with a small bundle of a family… I am living in the mother’s home and helping out the daughter, a busy mom who lives down the street, a modest number of hours in exchange for a place to live.  Here are a few photos from my new location.

Here I am… learning to navigate the hilly Asheville terrain and blown away by the nearly constant beauty.  I am also exploring work options and opportunities to supplement my current arrangement. It seems my new to me Honda CRV has found her tribe, surrounded by many-a 4-wheel drive brothers, sisters and distant cousins. And me, well I am still adjusting to the hilly landscape doing my best with my manual transmission up the occasionally daunting pitch of roads and driveways.

I am grateful to connect with a friend from New Orleans who now lives in the area.  It’s comforting to see a familiar face (although now fuzzy in a winter mountain-man sort of way) after more than ten years.  He has become a farmer since his departure from New Orleans and so far our meetings have included a trip to pick up a sheep and conversations of chickens, ducks and other farmy things.

In earnest, I like the possibilities of access to a more rural environment and a growing but still small mountain city with a progressive bend.  Like any changes, I am going through my growing pains… the nervousness and excitement of being someplace new, the possibility and anxiety as I sift through the ambiguity and uncertainty.

And so… while I am still adjusting, I am excited about my new chilly, hilly surroundings.  Exploring things one step at a time with still much to unfold!