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I’ve been quiet of late. Kelsea was home for a few days, which was beyond wonderful. Thanksgiving was awesome, thanks to my darling husband. Christmas is one of my favorite times of year in terms of the energy of joy in the air, so it brings lots of poignant memories. As we also approach the anniversary of my Mother’s passing, my mood turns inward and indigo. With all the pain of violent acts in our world recently that seem to be stacking up like firewood, my heart hardly knows where to turn. And so I give you another orchid. An orchid for peace. I promise that I’ll perk up and share some fun memories of Christmases past.

Asheville, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” — Mother Teresa

Daily gratitudes:
Cuddly blankets
That Kelsea will be home again soon
The shadows that leafless trees cast against brick walls


Prayers tonight for San Bernadino.


We have spent the last night and day (and now night) in Asheville, North Carolina. 

Our trip from Nashville to here was great.  We took one intentional detour to see the statue of the Giant Pink Elephant in A Bikini (with Sunglasses) – totally worthwhile. 

And one accidental detour in Knoxville, in our quest for the World’s Largest Rubik’s Cube, which we couldn’t find.  I suspect it was hidden in a Holiday Inn.  As we were trying to find our way back onto the highway, we instead found ourselves in the pouring rain under the highway next to the Rescue Mission/Soup Kitchen.  Locked the doors and felt glad to have our trusty companion, “Jimmy” close to hand.

Daniel, our GPS, kept wanting us to get back on the interstate, while I had decided to take Hwy. 441 South.  We finally had to shut Daniel off.  He can be very helpful, but he can be very stubborn when he has his little GPS brain set on a particular route. 

Hwy. 441 South took us through Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood.  No, we didn’t stop there, but we did stop at the Hillbilly Village and picked up several politically incorrect items and took a gander at their collection of old stills that were in the backyard. 

Pigeon Forge is like a more Southern version of Branson, but with fewer shows and more mini-golf courses and rides that turn you upside-down until you projectile vomit onto passersby on the sidewalks below.

Gatlinburg came on the heels of Pigeon Forge – again, lots of age-appropriate amusements and shopping, but much smaller and more intimate than the previous town.  It reminded me a little of Estes Park, Colorado, with a twang.  Immediately after Gatlinburg, we entered into the Great Smokey Mountains.  I’d never been there.  My gods, how magical this place is. 

Primeval forests, mist-licked valleys, hills and mountains in descending shades of blues and deepening shades of greens.  It was Kelsea’s iPod day and so we played the music to “Oblivion” repeatedly, as it matched the mood of the trees, moss, randoming river and hints of sunlight.

As we drove out of the hills, there was a huge stag grazing near the side of the road.  And Kelsea saw her first turkey taking a ramble along the edge of a clearing.   

We suddenly emerged into Cherokee, which is actually the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  The first things we saw was a portly Cherokee gentleman in full yellow-and-red feathered regalia, chatting with someone at a car window. 

While the Reservation has lots and lots of Christian churches and one casino, which is currently expanding, it also has the giant Indian Man Statue and street signs that are all written in both English and the native Cherokee language.  The street signs were, I think, the most respectful and only acknowledgement of the native culture. 

It would be best to forget the signs for Santa’s Playland (or something like that) featuring an inebriated-looking Mr. Claus with a scary twinkle/scar on one eye; the Playland itself, as seen from the roadside, hosted a forlorn-looking albino reindeer and a few other animals that, quite frankly, looked like nothing on earth. 

Back down from the hills, we saw many classic signs and closed stores that were photo-worthy, but we needed to get to the next place and it was too dangerous to continually veer off the busy mountain road to try to take pictures.  We may swing back in that direction tomorrow – there was a junkyard with a full suit of armor outside that we feel the need to check out.  And I know we can get on the Blue Ridge Parkway from there.

Our hotel, the Brookstone Lodge, is new, just fine, convenient to I-40, to Biltmore, and to downtown Asheville.  We had a delightful dinner at the Mellow Mushroom, where they had San Pellegrino by the bottle (!!!!!!!!).

This morning, on heading to the car, we discovered we had a hitchhiker – an orange and tan moth that was about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide that looked like nothing we’d ever seen before.  He stuck with us as we drove to Biltmore – I even asked one of the security guards who was standing by my car door if he knew what it was.  He took a big step back and said he’d never seen anything like it.  Honestly, it looked like it was eating the car.  To make peace with it, I named him Norman.

The Biltmore Estate is as beautiful as ever.  We spent almost 6 hours there, between the house and the gardens.  There are many more rooms open to the public since my last visit 30-some years ago, but there are also many, many, many more people.  The experience was slightly soiled by having to inch through the house in a huge line, but we still loved it.

The gardens and conservatory were stunning.

I don’t think I’d ever been here in summer, only at Easter and in the Fall.  Kelsea’s still-persistent cough was making her feel a little puny, so we skipped the Bass Pond, but we really did get the full Biltmore experience.  Norman had taken refuge under our parked truck, and I made sure not to run him over as we left.  The road out led us past a mile of corn edged by sunflowers. 

We dined in Asheville at Jack of the Wood, a Celtic pub that served an amazing grilled salmon with mustard sauce, and what Kelsea deemed the best french fries she’d ever eaten.  Tomorrow, it’s off to Durham, my old hometown, via the Blue Ridge Parkway, for two days of reminiscing, and then onto the beach.

Sweet dreams.

July 2018
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