Finally, A Place To Call Home

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.

Autumn Sky

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.

Winter Sunset

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5 thoughts on “Finally, A Place To Call Home

  1. Oh Ash; how trues this does ring to me; the only place that I have ever truly considered home was the small bedroom of my townhouse that I shared with my sister. It was the only safe place that I had ever lived in; safe from intrusion, beatings, and blurry things best left blurry. My parents were and still are offended that the home that they kind of purchased when I was in my twenties, I have never called or considered it home. I never will call it home; it is always “my parent’s house,” and always will be. It’s funny, I wish that I had really known you then, as I spent much time in the woods that backed up to a house that we rented on Santayana drive in Mantua; I, too, knew every spot, every pebble and branch; I think that you would have stood with me in awe of the giant Sycamore tree that had created a clearing around itself-something that I think you would have “gotten” as I did-space = protection. You, too, would have felt it’s powerful presence-we would have been spirit sisters much, much sooner!

    (PS-I was terrified when I started reading this, as I was afraid that you had to move for some reason!)

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    • Dawn, It’s so good to hear from you – I’ve been worrying about you!

      I think I know the tree you mentioned – pretty sure. When was the last time you were in the Woods? I’ve been a couple of times – once this past Spring, and then about a year before that, when Daphna (Traci) came to visit. I find them much the same – as Rhiannon said, “welcoming” to us. My feet still knew the path from the park to the creek, and when I jumped from a log onto the rocky beach beside the creek, I spontaneously exclaimed “I’m Home!” It was a really good feeling. We didn’t have too long either visit, maybe an hour or two, but it was so good to sit by the creek, pick out some beautiful quartz & mica flecked stones, and share with each other.

      There is a paved path now that runs the length of the creek, but on the Rt 50 side. This Spring, we saw some people walking on it. Daphna, on being told about the path, exclaimed “Sacrilidge!” I liked that!

      I’d love to get back there with you some time, if you ever get to the Fairfax area. I’d be very curious to see what areas were special to you, and compare notes.

      I hope we can get together soon, and you can visit my Woods here, see my great Stones, and have a chance for some heart to heart time in person. Oceans of love & many gentle hugs!

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  2. Dear Ash,

    I too was afraid you were moving! Thank goodness you’re not. I understand completely why you love your home. Truly, I do. I’ve always wished for a home too, and like you, it would be pretty much just like the place you live in. Sure I’d like the road to be better or the little things to make life easier, but those things aren’t for some of us.

    You remind me so much of me. I used to have a place in the woods too. In fact, every friend’s house I visited, I’d say, “Let’s go to the woods.” We would go, but of course, against the wishes of their parents. They never traveled in their own woods, which I never understood. But when I visited, they did!

    We moved beside my grandma when I was seven years old. Before that I was a real mess. In today’s world, they would have drugged me for sure! Likely put me somewhere, b/c I was always escaping. My mom says I started leaving at age 2. The neighbors discovered me in the rain in the wee hours of the morning at age 3, with my teddy bear, walking away from our home. She got up in the night and looked out her window only to see me walking down the street.

    In first grade, I escaped every single day. I made a plan each night for the next day. When we moved to the rural area beside my grandma, finally I could escape to the woods behind the property. My older siblings never knew about the woods on the other side of the pond, but by age nine, I knew every inch of those woods.

    I hope to find my home too one day. I’m beginning to think it may not happen in this life. I’m in the woods now, but must move again, as I told you about the mold. It’s bad. I’m always having to move and never get to go where I dream of going, which is exactly the place you describe as your home.

    We lived in the mountains when I was a toddler, so maybe that is why I still dream of those hills.

    I used to skip school and go to the woods. I had many hiding places. I’d spend the days alone. Hiding my bicycle ’til right before classes were over. I’d go back, and nobody ever knew I’d left. I only went on test days. I’d pass the tests and make the grades. I hardly ever went to classes though.

    Being in a town makes me feel trapped. I am not happy. I don’t think I ever will be either. I’d move to the mountains today if I thought I could get healthcare. I absolutely have to be able to get my medicine each month.

    Lately, I’ve thought of Vermont. Still trying to escape I guess. But the mountains of NC and VA are my favorite. I’ve thought of asking you several times to look for me a rental. And, a doctor so I could move. So if you ever do come across a place that you hear calling me, you keep me in mind okay.

    I’m happy you feel home. It’s so important. Being sick is so hard. It takes so much away from us, so if you have the sense of home, you have pure gold.

    Blessings and Peace to you, your family and your sense of belonging.

    Love,
    Michelle.

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    • Wow, Michelle, what a calling to the Woods you had, too! You certainly sound like you were a handful for your folks. But it seems to me there were many of our generation that felt the call to the Woods, the wild, the Earth. I think we needed to be like this, for the sake of the Earth’s future.

      If you are serious about moving, I have a great doctor, and there are many places on my Mountain that are for sale or rent. Many have been foreclosed on. Prices are low. The very nice thing is that even though we are surrounded by forest, we are very close to two interstates, I-66 runs across the very bottom of the mountain, and the entrance to it is only about 10 minutes from my house. Front Royal is about 20 minutes away, and interstate 81 is another 10 minutes down I-66. Look up Linden, Va, on a map – it’s really a great location. Front Royal has the start of the Skyline Drive (which becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway), and a great small town pharmacy I use, good health food store, great grocery store, and they’ve recently built a walmart & target, petco, staples, etc at the other side of town. My doctor is about a half hour away, and she’s awesome.

      If you are serious about moving, and since you have to, with the mold, why not move up here? We could help each other out a lot, I bet! I think you would love it as much as I do! Contact me thru Facebook, and if you like, I’ll see what’s available. I’ve been slack on getting my email recently, so FB is best.

      It would be so awesome to have you close by – what stories we have to share! Many gentle hugs, and blessings on you & your family (4 legged’s included).

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  3. Thanks Ash! My landlords are cleaning up, so I may wait ’til Spring. But definitely would like to get out of NC, and miss the mountains a lot. I’ve been through Linden, years ago. Used to travel a lot camping. I would have to rent. Wish I could come up and look. Maybe soon my son will be able to take care of the big 4-legged a few days, so I could visit.

    I’ll contact you via FB.

    I hope you are fairing well after the storm. Getting dark early now and must get out for a short dog walk.

    And yes, definitely was a handful I guess. But, my folks were too ;).

    Thanks for your reply!

    hugs to you,
    Michelle.

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