Today marks one year since I signed the papers and moved into my new home in Asheville. Home, not house. From the moment I moved in, this felt like home, like where I was supposed to be. I’m not sure how many hours I’ve spent on the front porch swing, listening to rain storms, watching lightning, reading the mail, chatting with neighbors, or simply being. I’ve explored a few mountain trails and made a few acquaintances who are now friends. I’ve eaten more fried chicken than I probably should have, and enjoyed the vinegary tang of NC barbecue once again. I’ve listened to some great local musicians and marched in protests. I’ve explored farmer’s markets and discovered the store I visit most is the local Ace Hardware, where the woman working the register greets me with puns on my purchases. I’ve hosted friends from CA, from NY, from GA, from FL, from other parts of NC, and have visited the Biltmore House so often that I can almost recite the audio tour verbatim. And I wouldn’t have changed a moment.
The kids said, “Let’s go this way!” as we snuck around the end of the fence through the ground cover, down the hill, to the golf course. We positioned our blanket on the edge of the course so that we wouldn’t be in the path of the night sprinklers that tapped an arc of water this way, then that. We settled in, watching the fireflies light up the golf course. And then, the fireworks began.
It was spectacular to actually see the fireworks. For years, I’ve walked down to the Bay, or to a friend’s rooftop, or boarded a boat, to see the fireworks in San Francisco. Each year I had high hopes that *this* would be the year that it was clear. And each year the fog never failed to roll in, making the spectacular fireworks show more of a muted colored cloud cover. Still lovely. But not the display I was hoping for.
This year was different. We watched as fireworks shot into the air, whizzing then bursting, sparkles fluttering down to earth. The boom echoed against the mountains, a cacophony of timpani filling the valley. And it was hot. The humid hot of the south in the summer. The hot that makes you sweat just enough so that when a gentle breeze blows you think, “Ahhhh, that feels divine.”
We oohed and aahed and commented on the beautiful designs. We clapped and woo-hooed when they were done. We sat quietly, secretly hoping for one more round. The fireflies appeared again, twinkling in the night, offering their own encore.
It has rained. And rained. And rained. And for the most part*, I love it.
- the humidity
- the plinking sounds of raindrops on my roof
- the boom of thunder
- the occasional bright flash of lightning
- the solid wind that warmly blows
- the impending darkness in the early afternoon
- the greenery, sprouting up everywhere
- the coziness of being inside, watching weather
- the brazenness of sitting outside, watching weather
Tonight, we were eating at Hemingway’s, on the roof, under a cover.
When we were seated, the skies were clear.
When we ordered a cocktail, dark clouds appeared on the horizon.
When we ordered ceviche as an appetizer, it began to sprinkle and the temperature dropped by a few degrees.
When our mains of crispy cerdo and arroz con pollo arrived, the skies darkened.
When we talked, the skies boomed.
When we sipped our wine, the heavens opened and massive torrents of rain fell all around us.
We sat and silently watched in reverence.
* I don’t love the flooding. Or the water in the basement. But that’s a small price to pay for the majesty of nature, no?
I feel so lucky that I’ve had visitors every week since I’ve moved to Asheville, NC (I hope it never stops!). This weekend Kyle and I decided to explore the Biltmore Estate, also known as America’s Castle. We marveled at the perfect day for touring the grounds: blue skies, warm rays, and great company. It’s a short walk through the woods from the parking lot to the house, and as you exit the forest, you’re greeted by a awe-inspiring view of the enormous yards leading up to a castle-esque structure.
Each room is more marvelous than the last. The seven-story high banquet hall with three enormous fire places side by side, facing a large pipe organ. The more intimate breakfast room with Renoirs hanging on the walls. The library with tens of thousands of books, stacked two stories high. And the views from every window. Breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, ridge after ridge after ridge. Listening to the stories behind the rooms, behind the house, behind the family. The basement, where the walls were painted with scenes inspired by the Russian cabaret group La Chauve-Souris, in preparation for a New Year’s Eve party. The kitchen, where the menu for a scrumptious Thanksgiving meal for 26 guests was recalled. And the gardens, the fabulous gardens, surrounded by hundreds of acres of green forest.
Whoever created the audio tour was artful in their final message. One of the last vignettes tells how guests to the estate marveled at the milk and ice cream served, the best they’d ever tasted. We returned our audio sets and walked out of the house, directly across from the entrance to the Ice Cream Parlor. Why, yes, I think we will have a scoop, thank you very much.
The website said “you need to hike 2.5 miles (one way) from the parking lot to the beach.” That sounded like the perfect afternoon to me. I walked across the parking lot and a Hawai’ian woman in faded capris and an ill-fitting tank top, sweat causing strands of her long dark hair to stick to her face in clumps, said, “Wanna shuttle ride to the beach?” I smiled and said, “No, thanks.” She persisted, “It’s 3 miles. Each way. Over an hour walk.” Music to my ears, I smiled and said, “Thanks, I’ll walk.” I had my day pack, filled with plenty of water, snacks, and a jacket (so not needed in the heat of the afternoon but I’m from San Francisco and old habits die hard).
I walked towards the water, then along the coast. There wasn’t a path per say, just various road-ish ways where vehicles had driven over the years.
I wondered if all the roads led to the beach. They sort of kind of looked like it. But they also looked like they could diverge and I had no idea which one led to where I wanted to be. I also wondered why I didn’t see any other walkers. I made my way to the coastline so that I could be closer to the ocean. The sound of the waves and the mist of salt spray calmed my soul. I sat on the lava and ate an apple, letting the sound and spray wash over me.
As I continued to walk, a pickup truck or two occasionally passed. Each time, the driver leaned out the window, waved, and said, “You need a ride?” I’d smile and say, “No, I’m good” and he’d say, “You sure?” I’d nod and wave as he drove off, a few people bouncing along in the back of the pickup. Red dust rose and I waited until it settled, somewhat, to continue walking. I came over a crest and saw a bevy of pickups parked atop a cliff. There it was, Papakōlea, the green sand beach, tucked away at the bottom of a cliff. I sat at the top of the cliff, relishing the cool wind blowing from the water. I sat, and thought, and sat, and watched, and sat, and was happy.
Happy Birthday, National Park Service! I hope I look as good as you do when I reach 100! To celebrate your big day, I spent the afternoon wandering through Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. There were very few visitors there, and I loved walking the ancient pathways and listening to the waves lap against the shore, taking in the peaceful atmosphere. As I stood staring at the sea, I witnessed a sea turtle resting. I watched as it breathed in, raising its head ever so slightly, then watched as it sort of harrumphed, dropping its head onto the sand and spitting a dribbly stream of water. I walked over hardened lava, and felt the heat, from today, from years, from centuries, rise.