Sometimes, the truth hurts. But better the truth, and understanding, than living in confusion & conflict, imposing your values on someone else. For those that this hurts, I’m truly sorry. You’ll just have to believe me that it was as hard for me to write, as it will be for you to read.
I’ve spent much of my life looking for a place to call home. There have been many houses & farms, but I always knew they were temporary, the best we could find at the time, or the best we could afford. But until I found my humble cabin the woods, in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains, 11 years ago, there weren’t any that were really, truly, home.
I had started to think maybe I would never really understand what it was to love a place so much that it was your heart’s home, that maybe I’d always be a gypsy, staying a few years here, a few years there. But I’ve lived here longer than I have ever lived anyplace else, and don’t ever want to leave.
I’ve finally set down roots.
Even when I was growing up, where we lived was just a house, though, of course, I would say things like, “Let’s go home,” but it wasn’t home, not in my heart.
I have some vague memories of the house I lived in from 7 to 16 – a large, suburban house, backing up onto a swampy patch of woods. I had everything I could seemingly want: loving parents, clothes, nice furniture, more toys than any kid needs… but still, it wasn’t my home.
My home was the Woods behind the house.
My spirit-sister, Daphna, and I ran those woods, usually barefoot in all sorts of weather, lest our shoes show we’d been into the “forbidden zone” – the area around the creek we loved, or elsewhere in that muddy patch of forest. We’d stash our shoes under a bush, and take off.
We knew every inch, every corner, every tree. We tracked the raccoons and other critters that lived there. We learned about wild plants; built rafts that always seemed to sink; caught tadpoles; found beautiful stones.
We ran like the wind, or the deer, as only a child can run, with utter freedom and abandon, leaping from rock to rock, and walked fallen tree-bridges, in total confidence, without fear.
But we weren’t supposed to be there. We were under orders to only follow the path that led to the small park, to play on the equipment there. I distinctly remember my mother telling us that if we went to the area of the creek, we might get bitten by a snake, or a rabid raccoon. That didn’t stop us. We went anyway.
I remember very clearly, standing one day on the path that led back to the house, as it started to get dark, when we were due back. Looking up at the house up the hill, I saw not a home, but a box; a prison; confinement; misunderstanding.
I was a round peg being forced into a square hole, and I hated it.
I dreamed of running away, to live in the mountains. Several times a year, we would drive the hour out to the Skyline Drive, which runs atop the Blue Ridge Mountains, and there, that, was my heart’s desire: woods that stretched for miles; babbling creeks; great weathered rocks; the glory of the Fall leaves; the beauty of the Spring flowers; breathtaking sunsets.
I remember being in the back seat of the car, looking out the back window, tears running silently down my cheeks as we would drive back to our house in suburbia.
Without Daphna, and the Woods, I think I would have gone crazy, and when she moved away, when I was 12 (?), it absolutely devastated me. The Woods were totally forbidden to me now – without a friend to go with me, I wasn’t allowed back there.
You can blame it on the Asperger’s if you want. But it was – and is – much more than that. It’s feeling things other people don’t. Remembering lives that happened before this life.
It’s valuing things other people don’t, and not caring at all about what they do.
It’s wanting something totally different from the people around me.
It’s still that way, with a very few exceptions.
After a lifetime of being a gypsy, moving from house to house to house, I finally found my heart’s home, here in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. It is only a humble cabin in the Woods, small by many people’s standards, always disastrously messy & cluttered, and often actually quite dirty (in the real dirt sense of the word – my beloved dogs track it in, and without energy to clean…).
But it’s my home, finally, a place I’ve set my roots down, after so many years of searching. A place I’ve set my heart and spirit to rest. And I love it.
Living here isn’t easy, especially for a chronically ill person. The driveway is rough by anyone’s standards, nearly vertical, and impassable in heavy snow. The house is not well insulated, if it’s insulated at all. It was built to be a weekend retreat for suburbanites from DC, not a full time residence. The kitchen is smaller than most bathrooms, which makes cooking in there rather difficult. The paint is peeling, and the siding could use replacing, and the floors could stand to be sanded and re-stained.
But what makes it home is it’s location, in my beloved mountains; the 3 sliding glass doors that open onto the screened in porch and large deck with the breathtaking beauty of the mountains beyond; the open floor-plan & soaring ceilings; the way it sits back from the road, so we have privacy; the screened in porch that I use for carving my beads, all year long, protected from all but the hardest rains and fiercest winds; the yard the dogs, so absolutely necessary to my life, have easy access to.
It’s the quiet seclusion, so necessary when the almost ever-present migraines strike; the silence, away from sirens, with little traffic, no noisy neighbors.
And even more, it’s the trees in all their Autumn glory; the radiant sunsets that light the whole sky; the deer than amble, unafraid, through the yard; the great weathered stones that are everywhere; the trilliums, lilys, and daffodils we discover in unexpected places; the violets that blanket the “yard” in Spring; the raspberries that fill our bodies with their all natural goodness; the well water that cleanses and purifies us, and runs through my veins.
What we have here nourishes my soul, feeds my restless spirit.
I wouldn’t trade my home, this land, and these mountains, for all the money in the world, or a million dollar house, or what you may think is an “easier” way to live.
You may not understand, and you may not value what I do.
All I ask is that you accept that I do value this life, here on the Mountain. And that without it, I see little point in going on.
Unless you are as sick as I am, you cannot know what it’s like to live every day, so sick, so tired, in so much pain.
You cannot know how it sucks the soul out of you.
Here, I have the chance for the only joy I will ever again experience.
Here, I can turn my head, from my big bed, and look out into the trees, the sky, the sunsets.
Here, the moon shines on me as I sleep; the stars light the sky overhead in a way they never can in the city; the meteors streak through the night and can actually be seen.
Here, I can spend my few minutes out of bed each day watching the ever changing world around me; see the many wild things we share the world with: the spotted fawns, the graceful bucks, the elusive fox, and thrill at the flight of a hawk high overhead.
Here, I can sit in my hanging chair, on my porch, and rock for as long as I want, totally absorbed in watching the incredible beauty of the world around me.
Here, finally, is the place I call home.