Mysteries and Histories

People are always asking me why I am so fascinated with abandoned places… why I am drawn to graveyards and cemeteries…why I enjoy going to old, historical sites. These questions come very frequently. Yet, I have never asked myself why…

As far back as I can remember I have adored old, forgotten places and things. One of my earliest memories is of a small thrift shop. For a short time my grandparents owned a business office in the same plaza as a little second hand store. I would visit them in the summer and liked to “work”  in the office. That is how I discovered the shop.

To me, it was magical. There were no duplicates of anything. Pieces of old lives were strewn about on the shelves and counters. For sale. I could buy a mystery. Who did it belong to? Where did it once live? What was the story behind it? I remember my first purchase was a pair of lace gloves that I ended up dying black and cutting the fingers off of when Madonna came into my life. But for a time, those gloves were a prized possession.

Years later, my father took me to another enchanted shop. It was over the river, and through the woods, on the way to an ancient, native American fort. The antique shop was inside an old brick church with a graveyard next to it surrounded by a wrought iron fence. Mysterious, wondrous objects of every kind were stuffed into that musty place. Ancient flint arrowheads, foreign coins so old that the engravings were impossible to make out, marbles used years ago, glass medicine bottles, knives, bottle caps, and BOOKS. My little heart fell in love.

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I remember being fascinated by pieces of old rail track in the woods behind my neighborhood. Enthralled by stories of ghosts left to mourn their lost lives in crumbling, dusty houses. I spent my teen years exploring abandoned buildings, ruins, and cemeteries. Mostly at night with thrill seeking friends who never really cared about the stories… the history…

So why?

Why are some of us born with this yearning to explore that which has gone before and is no longer? I meet others like me. Those who vacation to ancient burial grounds. Wanderers and wonderers who spend their weekends trespassing through Poison Ivy to catch a glimpse of another time. Searchers who stay up all through the night looking for their ancestors.

I never ask them why.  Maybe next time I will…

 

 

 

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Phoenix Rising

There are some of us who are on a path that has led through much trauma and suffering. If we stay open to the healing and gifts that these hard times offer, we rise like the phoenix, born again. We walk through the fire and come out stronger but more compassionate, wiser but more humble, tougher but more vulnerable. We know the darkness well yet understand how to thrive in the light. We do not judge because we know the despair that can suck a soul into hell and the pain of a heart being torn and battered into dust.
We love like no others. Live and breath by love of every kind.
Our empathy and compassion is our medicine. Our power. Our gift.
Our spirits yearn to wrap the world in our love. To lift the suffering and guide the broken.
We know our purpose deep down. We share our stories to remind others. We hold each other as we hold the world.

❤ you all as we journey this path together.

Brewing Pine Needle Tea

We here in the northern hemisphere have reached the long, cold, bleak period of the year. January and February; after the festive holidays, the sun still setting early, the air biting our faces, local produce significantly diminished, trees are mostly bare, viruses breeding everywhere… These are the months when SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can take it’s toll on our emotional and physical health.

Enter the majestic Pine. The Pine has become one of my favorite trees over the past few years. I have quite a few giants in my backyard and they emit a certain kind of peace. In the summer, the scent of the warm, sticky resin fills the air with a rich perfume. The needles whisper in the wind. Right now, their branches gather white snow beginning to glow in the sunset. The bright green of their needles comforts and reminds me of better days during this time of bitter cold.

Pine was used by the natives of this land for generations. The needles are full of vitamin C; much more so than orange juice! It is said that the natives taught the white pioneers how to make Pine Needle tea to ward off scurvy!  The pitch, from old and new wounds on the tree, can be heated to make a resin. This resin can draw out splinters and is antiseptic. It can be applied to cuts and sores, and coated on the chest for pneumonia. Pine needle tea is used for bronchial conditions, tonsillitis, and laryngitis.

The tea is quite delicious with a gentle flavor that even most picky children love! It is quite an empowering activity, for young ones to get to know the earth around them. It is a kind of magic that many children do not get to experience anymore. Wildcrafting your own food and medicine is a great family hobby.

***This tea is not recommended for pregnant women as it can cause miscarriages.

Now for the fun part! How do we make the tea? Easy, peasy lemon squeezy.

First, you need to find a Pine tree. Make sure it is not near a road way or any place where they spray chemicals. White Pine is easy to identify as it’s needles grow in bundles of 5 as in the photo below.

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***DO NOT harvest from the Yew tree as it is toxic. Always do your research before you ingest any wild plant!

It is best to stay away from the  following trees as well.

    • Ponderosa Pine (also known as Blackjack, Western Yellow, Yellow and Bull Pine),
    • Lodgepole or Shore Pine,
    • Common Juniper,
    • Monterey Cypress

 

Next, gather a bundle of needles. A handful will do for a couple of cups of tea. Chop the needles and bruise them a little. I usually just use my fingers to tear them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.

Then, put about a tablespoon of the chopped needles in a mug and pour in boiling water. Let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. The needles should fall to the bottom of the mug.

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ENJOY! 

This Ain’t Witchcraft. It’s Wildcraft. REBLOG

This piece of writing has enchanted me. The writer is deeply rooted in these magic mountians that I now call home.

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

Oh, good Lord, the chill has arrived. As much as Fall in the mountains inspires us with its palette of gold and firelit scarlet and melancholy reverie, that chill is not a welcome visitor. No, not at all, not for us summer folk. That chill stays too long and gets more comfortable the longer it settles, and before you know it, the crisp air turns into full blown winter brown and bluster enough to cut you in two. But until then, the harvest has come. And let’s all hope we’ve sown something worth reaping.

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And in the meantime, Granny has those persimmon seeds all spread out on the table, all of them cut through and opened like tiny pearls of wisdom. Spoons, she says, and shakes her head. Sure enough, there are spoons inside the persimmon seeds, and good Lord, soon enough we’ll be looking at heavy snow instead…

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Snake Season

It is snake season here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Snake Season. What  feelings do those words bring up in you? What images are conjured in your imagination?  Snakes are a powerful cultural metaphor. In our predominately Christian nation, snakes are thought of as evil, wicked, cunning.  The tale of the serpent in the Bible has the snake tempting Eve through lies and deception which leads to the “fall of man”. The snake is then punished by God to crawl on it’s belly through the dust for the rest of eternity. They slither through horror movies, adorn gothic-metal icons, and speak in sinister tones to caduceusthe dark lord, Voldemort.

In contrast, the ancient Greeks saw the snake as a symbol of healing. Aesclepius , the god of medicine used a staff with a snake wrapped around it as his power tool. Hermes used a wand with two serpents entwined in a double helix (the Caduceus). Both symbols are used in our medical world today.

Ancient cultures revered the snake as a powerful teacher. To most, it represented the primal life force, strongly connected to Earth’s energies. Serpents symbolized fertility, sexual energy, and rebirth (shedding of skin).  The mound builders of ancient Ohio paid homage to the snake by  constructing a serpent effigy over 1,000 feet long which is aligned with the summer solstice. You can still visit this beautiful monument, Serpent Mound, today.

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So it is snake season. The heat of summer dispelled, the snake now moves out from under the cool rocks to bask in the warm, golden sun. This is a powerful time of year. Autumn…the season of letting go. All around us the trees are letting go of their leaves just as the snake sheds it’s skin. We emotional creatures are called once again to revisit old wounds, to recall what lies in our shadows, to go deeper into our own spiral of healing.

This is the season of shedding our skin. To sit still, go inward, and discover what needs to go. What are you holding onto? What pain are you keeping buried deep? What myths about yourself do you need to get rid of in order to grow? What fears are ready to be released?

This is the season of transformation. The people are remembering. We are reconnecting with the world which our ancestors walked out of generations ago. We are noticing how the phases of the moon affect our bodies, grounding our anxiety with the earth and trees, interpreting the message of the crow upon our doorsteps. We are leaving behind the  dogma and doctrines which separate humanity as we recognize the truth that we are all connected…to everything…

It is snake season…in ourselves, our communities, our region, our nation, our planet.

 

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This blog was inspired by my own shadow work. As I embark on more deep healing of past wounds and fears, snakes continue to show up in my life. This past month, I have met with 4 Copperheads in the forest and 2  Ring neck snakes. I have had an irrational, instinctual phobia of snakes my whole life. The first copperhead this year shifted something inside me. There was no fear as I looked down upon this golden serpent camouflaged in the rusty dirt. It was beautiful. Powerful. Magnificent. It was a magical moment when I realized that it reflected my Self back to me. That my fear stemmed from a fear of my own power. As I rise in my power, I am greeted by more snakes. None of them defensive…relaxing in their confidence.

 

Tom’s Creek Falls and The Mines of Moria

As summer recedes, I find myself shucking off responsibilities more and more to get outside. This warmth won’t last forever. The green will fade and go. The serenade of crickets will hush. I need a bit more summer. More days in the lush, humid forests of our mountains. More afternoons absorbing the sun after a cool dip in a stream.

Today was the last day of my short summer break. I was busy cleaning the house, doing laundry, and prepping for the upcoming year of teaching when wild called me.  Those who know the call…know.

Water bottles get filled, backpack stocked with ponchos, and off we go. My kids are used to it by now. Hikes are rarely planned. They are responses to the call. They happen at all times. So at 3:30 pm today in a rain storm, we jumped into the car and headed towards Old Fort, NC.

Tom’s Creek Falls trail itself is short. It is flat and has been graveled. There are even a couple of benches along the  .8 mile trail to the observation deck.  There are also campsites all along the creek; perfect spots to be lulled to sleep by the babbling water.

The falls are beautiful. I’ve read that it measures 60 feet but looks much taller. You can rock hop all around the base and let little ones splash around in the shallow pool. There is an abundance of mica all around, sparkling in the water like fairy dust and paving the land with a brilliant shimmer.

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The official trail stops here. However, the falls are just the beginning.  If you do not have small children with you, that is. The Mines of Moria are no place for wee ones.

Rock hop the left side of the creek (facing the falls). Follow it back up tIMG_0459he creek about 50 yards and you will see a gully in the hill side. Climb up through it about 25 yards or so. Be careful. There are guardians here. Hidden in the rocks. Camouflaged well against the rust colored earth.

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Copperhead snakes are a common site around this area. Gatekeepers of the deep, dark recesses no longer accessible to us humans. My teenage son spotted one below the rock he was on; knowing it by it’s triangular head and distinct color and markings.

As you reach the top of the climb, you will be looking down into the entrance of a mine. Below, a perfect archway is carved into the mountain, conjuring musings of ancient fairy tale adventures. But no secret password is needed to enter here…one not need to wait for the light of a full moon to expose the way in… it is open…  Unfortunately it is also flooded. Deep, cold waters fill the tunnel.

(You may need to lighten your screen to see the archway in the photo)

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I have yet to find any historical information about this mine online or in books. There are foundations to what was most likely a water wheel back down at the creek. The water wheel might have been used to pump water out of the mine while it was in use. These foundations are found up a side trail just before the falls to the right. Follow this trail up the mountain for more surprises!

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Up you go, between the foundations. The trail will eventually lead you close to the top of the falls.  They will be on your left as you ascend above them. You will be walking alongside the creek which is much narrower up in these parts. Soon you will come to a little side trail on the left that leads down to a magical, little waterfall about 10 feet high. It is a steep trail with loose rocks so take it slowly. This is a quiet area where you can cool off all alone, surrounded by rock and water.

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After you are done immersing yourself in this place, go up back to the main trail and follow it though the dense trees. Make sure to look down to view the lovely fungi in this wonderland.

Soon, you will come to another little side path to the left. You will hear a waterfall and possibly see it when the foliage is sparse during colder months. This path is much easier than the previous one. It brings you to another waterfall a bit smaller than the last but with a larger area in which to spend your time. There is a small, pebble beach to relax upon.

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The trail continues on, through the forest. I don’t know how far it goes as we stopped after about 10 minutes of hiking through densely growing Rhododendron trees.  It must not be traveled much as it was covered with debris and fallen limbs and hard to make out in places.

We made our way back out to the main falls where a couple of families were now playing with their small children. Shrieking with laughter, the children splashed and waded in the clear, cool mountain water…making summer memories…

The Turning of the Wheel

It has happened. I sense it all around us. The slight shift in energy. The subtle changes in the air. The way the birds greet the dawn, and the insects welcome dusk. There is a heightened awareness of time…of moments that have slipped by…

Nostalgia rules this realm…

The crows are the first to call it. I can hear them now.

Loudly announcing Summer’s retreat.

Hiking Graveyard Fields

Overwhelmed with the weight of all that is going on in our world right now, I needed to retreat into the forest for some therapy. I wanted to use my muscles to climb and scramble over rocks. I wanted to feel the earth beneath my bare feet and fill my lungs with the lush, mountain air. After contemplating various new places to explore, I chose Graveyard Fields as my frolicking grounds yesterday. I had already been there twice and knew that it had what I craved.

This 3 mile hike does not have any graves but it does have dark, twisted rhododendron tunnels, eerie meadows laden with wild blueberries, forest paths, creek crossings with many rock hopping opportunities, and waterfalls! This isn’t the place to go to seek solitude or wild, rugged trails that haven’t been smoothed by man. The beginning of the trail is paved and there have been improvements made that include a wooden boardwalk through the meadow. This is quite a popular trail and attracts many visitors. Of course, I will let you know the best spots to go off trail where most people do not venture!

Outside of Asheville, NC off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 418 you will find the start of the trail on the right side of the parking lot. The paved trail twists through a rhododendron thicket (great place for little ones to play hide and seek), and down a wooden staircase. Here you come to the Yellowstone Creek. The bedrock here is beautifullyyellowstone5 banded, twisting in places. You could spend half a day here rock hopping in the creek! Second Falls are below this part of the creek, so you must be careful in the water where the rocks are slippery, but have fun!

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This view is just above Second Falls.  My teenage son enjoyed sliding down it but I wouldn’t recommend it. The rock at the bottom is an abrupt stop!

 

 

 

The trail continues after you cross the bridge over Yellowstone Creek.  You can take an off shoot to the right to head down many wooden steps to Second Falls. This is a popular swimming hole. The water is crystal clear, deep, and cold. Most people stop here in the summer and do not continue on, so the rest of the trail is less populated.

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Return to the main trail just past the bridge. Follow the sign to Graveyard Fields. The fields are stunning. I’ve been there with a storm approaching, fog curling in between the mountains…slowly creeping into the meadows…thunder grumbling…eerie…otherworldly. Yesterday was sunny and it was a whole new scene. The perfect picture of summer. The wild blueberries along the path were just beginning to turn ripe. We found a few sweet treasures to pop into our mouths!  In August, there will be many berry pickers… people and snakes!

You will soon come to an intersection. There is a trail on the left that leads to a stream. Turn right here to follow the main trail. Just after this, there should be a sign at another intersection. This is the Graveyard Ridge Connector Trail. You will want to turn left here. The last intersection will be the trail to the Upper Falls. This is a .8 mile in and out trail  (1.6 miles total) and is straight ahead. You can go left to continue the loop and go back to the parking lot. I wouldn’t recommend that. You would miss the best part of the trail.

Along the way to the upper falls, there will be another rhododendron thicket to the left, surrounding a creek. There are little paths that lead into this magical place of wonder. We stopped here to picnic. Soft, pink flowers accented the moss covered stones while the cool, clear water whispered  secrets to the trees.

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On you will go, as the trail goes uphill. It is uneven from here on, and you will have to step around mud puddles and small streams. There are many rocks in the path to maneuver up and around. Soon you will come to the falls area. There are several places to exit the trail and come out onto the creek. The first exit is the best. You will see water sliding down a big rock hill. Walk up the rock hill, turn a bend, and make your way on up. The wet areas of the rock are very slippery! The rock beneath your feet holds small pools of still water reflecting the sky.

You will soon come to the Upper Falls.

 

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There is no place to swim here, but you can certainly cool off. Rock scrambling is fun here, but I wouldn’t try climbing to the top. A fall could be deadly. There is a narrow path off to the right in the trees that leads up to the top. Small children or people with bad knees should not take this path as it does require some climbing. IMG_9987.JPG

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Be careful at the top. The creek is slippery. Do not go all the way to the edge. Please. Turn and follow the creek upstream to see many more wonders!  The creek up here is beautiful with shallow pools reflecting sunlight. This is where you will find solitude.

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My daughter cooling off in a pool, listening to the water.

 

 

 

 

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We stayed up there a while in silence watching a storm roll past.

 

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Once you are filled, continue back the way you came… all the way back to the loop. Go right and you will pass through another rhododendron thicket as you make your way up to the parking lot.

Happy trails!!!

 

 

Be The Good

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Our culture is supersaturated with the negative. With fear, anger, aggression, depression, sarcasm, judging, etc. It is not surprising that people immersed in this mess lose their minds and hearts. We are genetically tribal people, now disconnected from each other….from the natural world. We consume media which is filled with the negative I listed above. I read comments on social media and am sickened. So much judging and sarcasm.

Tragedy ends up dividing us.

There is a way to turn this around but it will take every single one of us. It will take opening your heart to others and the world. It will take true connections. It will take opening your heart to others and the world. It will take us changing our daily routines to include people and earth. It will take a new way of communicating.

The force of love and the power of communion and support is what will heal our culture. Not a new president, not new legislature, not “perfect parents”, not converting humanity to your religion… The revolution has to start in our own hearts and in our lives first…

Catawba Falls Hike

Last week my barefoot frolicking led me to the Catawba Falls trail in the Pisgah National Forest.  The trail itself is 1.5 miles (3 miles round trip) and passes several small waterfalls before ending at the 100+ foot waterfall, Catawba Falls. However, if one stays on the main trail, they would miss many wonders.

The beginning of the trail was a bit of a let down. Many trees have been cut to make a footbridge across the river and there are other signs of construction in the forest. This was a small part of the trail, and it quickly got more interesting as we made our way deeper into the forest. Once we got past the bits of recent human encroachment, we saw an old stone building across the small river. We took a small side trail that led across the creek and up to the abandoned building. Graffiti decorated the walls of this empty shell. The names of the men who built it were carved into the stone.

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At just about one mile, a small creek runs across the trail. This is where the fun really begins. If you climb down on the left, or back up on the trail about 50 feet and follow a side trail down, you will find some beautiful areas. The creek falls between two rock slabs into a small wading pond. There are small rock shelters underneath the falls. This is an amazing little place to relax and bathe in the forest’s magic.Keep following the water downhill and you end up at a small swimming hole in the river.

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Now back up to the part of the trail where the small creek runs across it… take a right up the creek and you will find about an hour’s worth of rock scrambling  up the mountain. Small waterfalls lace through the boulders leaving small, sparkling pools of mica water.

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Back on the main trail, after about .2 more miles, you will hear another waterfall. This cascade rushes out through an old stone dam and tumbles down over moss covered stone ledges. If you take a side path down a steep hill just before the dam, you can reach the bottom of the falls. You have now entered a scene from a fantasy story. Old, broken stone making up the wall of the dam hosts various shades of green life. Cracks in the wall release melodious streams of water, descending into the dark depths.

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We couldn’t resist making our way up the ledges. Climbing carefully over moss, and up… and out… through a hole in the dam… back into our story.

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Eventually you will find that the trail disappears a bit! Make your way through the “rock garden”, finding the trail picking up to the left of the river and soon you will  come to the gorgeous falls. There is a small wading pool at the bottom where  people like to cool off.

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And then there is the other trail… a 1/2 mile climb up to the upper falls. Many websites and trail guides will tell you not to climb this unless you are a seasoned rock climber. This trail is NOT for children!  Much to her dismay, I did not let my 11 year old all the way up though she has been rock scrambling since she was very little. I do not suggest this climb if you have bad knees or terrible balance or not much strength in your limbs  or if you are alone.  Otherwise…IMG_9680.JPG

The trail (on the right of the falls) is uphill most of the way with a section of rock climbing where there is an attached rope for your convenience. You may or may not need it. The trail splits a little after the rope. Take the trail on the left at the rock ledge. The trail on the right will get you there, but it’s climbing up soft dirt, grasping roots the whole way.  You will be rewarded with a crystal clear swimming hole under a 50 foot waterfall. Enjoy this moment. This is one of the most beautiful spaces in the Pisgah National Forest.

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