I saw what I saw
and felt what I felt.
He took that turn,
so that I could meet you.
As the moon crossed paths with the sun,
we chiseled that path in the dirt.
And it all happened so that we would be here.
Exactly where we are.
There is such a thing as trail magic.
October 27th, 2017
Day 9 off the grid.
I walked out of Dottie’s door this morning to enjoy my cup of coffee, and was immediately greeted by my neighbor and Avery, the RV park owner. “Mornin!!”, they said in unison. Avery was born and raised here, and raised his 5 children here on the mountain with his wife Patti Jo. A few months back, Ken travelled here for a weekend in his camper, and he never left. He’s been living on this little plot ever since. When he told me about it, he said, “My family still doesn’t believe me that I’m not coming back. Well joke’s on them, this is my home!” We got to chatting and Avery invited me up to his home to see the panoramic view of the Smokies. I drove up his long driveway to a scenic picture of him standing on the front porch of his log cabin style home, covered in really neat antiques and family heirlooms. He casually told me that he built this home; that he and his son decided one day to build it. And so they did. When I tried to give him praise, he was almost embarrassed and completely downplayed the whole thing. He wouldn’t take my compliment.
Like….YOU BUILT YOUR OWN FREAKING HOUSE BY HAND. At the very least, please acknowledge your awesomeness and badassery. But he just shook his head, looked down, and said “It was a neat project.” There’s such an authentic, humble spirit that seems to float around in these little mountain towns. I think that’s why I adore these people so much.
He showed me the back porch views and they were absolutely breathtaking. A full 360 shot of the Smokies painted the distant air. He told me about the devastating wildfires earlier this year, and how he watched them all from this very spot. Just poof, in an instant, he saw them go up in flames. He pointed out the dead bald spots, and I looked with his binoculars. “That’s so sad.” I said. “Yes, but when they come back, those leaves will be stronger and brighter than they ever were before!” Funny how that works.
We chatted a bit about his son, who is a musician in Nashville. Our conversation was incredibly natural and flowed like the mountain wind. Just effortless, interesting, completely comfortable, and enjoyable; weaving in and out of life stories and paths taken. And again, I’m reminded what a small, yet calculated world it is that we live in. His son and I have mutual friends, he plays at venues that I go to. We both just sort of laughed and smiled, looking at each other with that “I’m supposed to be here” expression.
“I sure am glad that I met you, Haven!” Avery said as he sent me off. I sure am glad I met him too.
I don’t believe in coincidences, or chances. I believe we meet people for a reason. Whether it’s a 5 minute conversation on a plane, or we meet our lifelong soulmate at that perfect unexpected moment, every person has its purpose. Every relationship serves an intention for a season. In this tiny mountain town that I didn’t know existed and had no aim of stopping in, I fell in love with the Smoky Mountain sky, and I made new friends that most certainly left a little hand print on my heart. I won’t forget that amazing morning. The Fall views, the small world small talk, and making a temporary home in such a beautiful place.
I had plans to go hike and Avery pointed me to Deep Creek in Bryson City. On the way there, I stopped at the bottom of the mountain. I stood by the Appalachian Trailhead and took in the scene, people watching. It’s my guilty pleasure :) I could hear the river rolling, as I watched people come and go. To and from the convenient store, the restaurant, the outdoor shop; there were a lot of hikers coming and going, large packs on their backs. I could feel one of the hikers staring at me, as I looked around and watched people. He was sweating and out of breath, but in between his panting, he sarcastically let out “Ah yes, and here we have the Appalachian Trail. Idiots, from near and far come to make this epic quest. It takes a special kind of crazy person. Behold, the wonder…..” I laughed and looked at him with his large pack on. He looked wet, cold, and tired. He told me a bit about his trek. He’s been at the trail for a few days now, and it hasn’t been all that peachy or perfect. “But of course, the shitty moments are all part of the crazy fun!” he said. I laughed. That, I can agree with.
He explained how the hurricanes from the coast have brought in some pretty crazy storms along the trail. The storms are pushing people off the trails, and into all the motels. And because of that, they’re all booked. “See, I was actually already here yesterday, but there were no hotel openings where I landed. I hiked back here, just hoping to have a place to stay, and nothing. “Oh shoot, that’s awful!” I replied. He quickly interjected,
“But wait…Trail magic.” He said with his finger up and a smile.
“Trail magic. See, I got to talking to Katie here on my walk today.”
He pointed at a young woman coming down the trail. We exchanged waves and smiles.
“I told her about my situation. I told her how I desperately need to go to a store for some more food, and some stuff for my hurt ankle. It turns out we’ve got friends in common. It also turns out, she’s been in my shoes before, hiking the trail with a slight injury, while being cold, tired, and rained on with no place to stay. She told me she would drive me to Wal-Mart, AND she’s got a place for me to sleep tonight. F*ckin trail magic.”
Yea. Trail Magic.
She had been where he had been. She was shown some kindness that led her exactly where she needed to be, found her own trail magic. And here she is, paying it forward. But it’s not just a wooded path in the mountains that carries around that trail magic. It’s our life’s path, everyday. Here we all are, just showing each other some kindness when we can, saving each other's asses when we have to, meeting unexpected friends, finding ourselves standing in the midst of serendipity, making a little magic. I thought about how many moments, just on this trip alone, I’ve been in that “right place, right time,” and knew it. Not even knowing there was such a place as Nantahala, stopping and falling in love with it. Learning so much about myself, taking huge steps towards self growth, and witnessing the irony of it all around me as I have. Meeting new people, ones that have intersecting paths and people in common with me. I had come home last night, cold and wanting a fire. I got to my front step, and Ken had left me a fire starter, some wood, and a note that said “Stay warm and let me know if you need anything!” Trail magic.
I thought about this past year and what it’s been. It started out wonderful, and then took an unexpected heartbreaking turn. I was in a committed relationship, until the man I was in love with, up and left one day. Moved away, without a goodbye or a full explanation of anything. I was blindsided. I dealt with some very intense feelings of pain and abandonment that I had never experienced before. But to follow, I also felt a lot of joy, made new friendships, and experienced major growth that branched from that breaking point. I thought, in particular, about August 21st: Total Solar Eclipse Day. That was a hard week. I was feeling lonely and a little helpless. I couldn’t seem to stop crying all week. Feeling completely confused, still, about the way that I was left by my ex. For lack of a better term, it was a total mind f*ck. I had good friends come to visit me in Nashville. By way of Trail Magic...
My friend Sarah Margaret moved to L.A. a couple of years ago. As she did, I connected her with my friend Jessica, because they both have musical careers, and I thought they might get along. Fast forward a couple years, there they were making a trip back to Nashville as a band (JEMS), making a stop on their Eclipse Tour. Trail Magic. We watched them perform and it all seemed full circle. Then we spent that day celebrating the eclipse. We all made a lot of positive intentions together. I spoke out about wanting to leave certain things and people in the past, and go forth on a trail of new beginnings. I set a goal to leave expectations and past heartbreaks behind, and to be open to new opportunities.
I want to allow new love to knock on my door, wearing different clothes. And when it knocks, I want to answer. Even if I’m afraid.
I relentlessly said those words to myself throughout that week, and made strides to mean them, and live them.
That night, we celebrated Jessica’s birthday, and went dancing downtown. We all swooned over the bathroom mural that had painted words we all needed to hear. It was about 5 minutes after getting back on the dance floor, that a tall guy with a backwards hat came up to dance with me. In a funny and cute way. Brooke whispered in my ear, “He’s literally the boy version of you.” We danced and danced, like a couple of psychos on that floor.
About an hour later, he was leaving the bar. I didn’t really notice, but I found out later that Brooke did notice, and urgently told our friend Jordan to tell him to get my number. “Don’t let him leave!!!” she said. Jordan happened to go outside for a smoke break, saw him, and said, “Dude, what are you doing? Go get her number.”
That guy did go get my number. And the guy with the backwards hat is now my best friend. I feel like we’re old friends, like we’ve known each other for years, but all with the excitement of just meeting. We’ve talked and talked about that night. Solar Eclipse night. How it all came to be. How at first, it was his friend that encouraged him to come dance with me because “She’s literally the girl version of you,” she said. So he did. And later, he was leaving the bar, because he didn’t think I was interested in him. Until Jordan, asked him why he was leaving without getting my number.
...all because it was Jessica’s birthday and we went dancing. Because he and his friends decided to go for a drink. Because his friend urged him to dance with me. Trail magic. The stars aligned that night. He was the moon to my sun, and everything happened in such a way that we just fell over each other. Each little thing happened for us to meet. The time, the place, each factor played a part. If one little thing had been different, we would not have even crossed paths. If his friend didn’t challenge him to go dance with me, if Jordan hadn’t taken that smoke break. Maybe if we didn’t sit outside, watching that total eclipse, and I didn’t speak into the universe what I wanted to be and do; that I wanted to allow love to show up at my door wearing different clothes. If we didn’t swoon in the bathroom over that quote, and speak into existence our intentions. If I hadn’t had my heart broken the way that I did. If I wasn’t totally abandoned the way that I was.
But it all came to be, the paths and people and places and times.
I was in love with a man who just up and left one day. He moved, without answers for me, or even a simple goodbye. I had never in my life felt pain like that, and I couldn’t comprehend why such cowardly bullshit had happened to me. But I see now, that it was trail magic. I think I loved him so much, that I justified too many wrong things he did. And I think because I loved him so unconditionally and deeply, that I never would have left him. I knew he needed me and I would have forever stood by him, feeling unfulfilled and lonely, carrying the weight of a relationship alone. But he did what he did. And the way that he did it scarred me so incredibly deep. It left me feeling completely unlovable and unloved, hopeless and in a state of shock. But it was also trail magic. Because I was able to pick myself up, on my own. I was able to show myself that I could, in fact, overcome that deep blow. On my own. And I was able to grow and become open to bigger and better possibilities. I was able to meet the moon to my sun, my best friend. And all with an open heart. My childlike heart was new again, and ready and willing to trust love one more time. Like Avery spoke about the leaves that were burned, coming back stronger and brighter than they ever were. That's how I feel.
I think the universe smiles when it sends a little trail magic. The stars are up there winking at each other, the sun gets a good laugh. They see us embrace, looking at each other with grateful eyes, and they know they're appreciated for their work.
Laying here in Dottie tonight, smelling Ken’s campfire sneak through the cracks in her imperfect walls, I thought about that unlikely conversation I had with that hiker. It was brief, but lasting. They call it trail magic. When shit hits the fan, then something pops up right when you need it. Or something crazy in the universe happens and you meet just the right person at just the right time. There it is, and you know someone is looking out for you. God and the universe are working; nothing is by chance. Just as Nantahala wasn’t even a planned stop, and it’s now one of my favorite places on earth. My spirit home. And as I talked with Avery, and we discovered how our paths intersect in weird little ways. Most of all, if all of the craziness hadn’t have happened in that past relationship, I may not even be on this incredible journey with Dottie right now.
I have a vision in my head of a bright turquoise trail that we’re leaving through each place that we go. I see our feet treading on, stepping, tripping, kicking, and dancing along as we must. We paint our path in our tracks, and all just the way that it’s meant to look. The steps we walk, the places we go, the people and creatures we run into. Those serendipitous moments of “This is weird. I’m supposed to be here. I was supposed to meet you. I was supposed to see this. All of that happened so that this could. Otherwise, it never would have.” Trail magic.