As I drove into the Blue Ridge mountains last night, I felt once again that familiar comfort of returning home.
Shrouded in hazy atmosphere, the mountains rise up from the earth like comfortable, stolid ancestors, so calm and steady, so unhurried and unworried. They know who they are, and when I am among them so do I.
It’s funny to go to a place that you’ve never been before and instantly feel at ease, like all your defenses can drop because you’re finally in a place where you can be yourself.
Is it because they are so ancient, among the oldest mountains in the world? They’re miles of land that have changed so little over the centuries compared to the rest of the country. Miles of land that have never forgotten their roots. Somehow, going among them is like being in a vortex, a space to download information about the past, or go through some collective species memory recall. You go there and you think:
I’ve been here before. I’m welcome here.
I don’t know what, exactly, drew me to Asheville, but it called me with the deep longing of a mother calling her wayward, lost and shaken child home from wandering in the wilderness. To step into that place is like stepping out of the chaotic confusion of the shadow world and into a transcendental clarity.
A few weeks ago, I had dreamed of a brick building with “1926” worked into the brickwork above it, and of walking up hilly streets with art galleries and pottery in the windows, and of exploring and making new friends. I had never seen this place in my dream before so I thought it must be an amalgamation of memories of Pittsburgh.
Two days later I decided, on a whim, that I needed to visit Asheville very badly. Immediately, in fact.
I packed up my things and decided that I would be open to whatever came my way, and I drove to Asheville. As I turned off the highway, I made my way onto a side street and looked up, and there, in front of me, was the building with “1926” on it. I had come home.
As I drove through town, I recognized more buildings from dreams of the previous week, and experienced multiple moments of déja vu, not from any dream in particular but from some sense of knowing all of this already. I had been here before.
If I describe for you all the activities I did and the things I saw, it sounds mundane. But the intense emotion behind all of it was startling and took my breath away. My heart raced. My senses were super-charged. My head seemed to float above my body. Sometimes I felt like bursting into tears, more from having no other bodily way to physically process what I was feeling. I was unlocking something, remembering something. Something activated, and I can’t say exactly what.
This weekend I went back, and the effect was even stronger. I went into a music shop and heard a sound healing demonstration, in which the woman in the shop played singing bowls and chimes. I sat with my eyes closed and let the vibration of the sound wrap around me and sink into my core, vibrating my skin, my organs. The colors began to explode in my head like they always do–bursts of electric blue and deep indigo, in pulsing succession. I felt like running around and shouting, I was so elated.
All day after that I felt super-alert and floaty, again that feeling of being out of my body. By the end of the day, though, I was exhausted and drained. By 9pm I was ready for bed.
I don’t understand exactly what happened, though I wonder if, being tuned in, I was absorbing energy all day long by everyone and everything around me like a sponge. I certainly felt by the end of the day like I’d been wrung out.
I came back to my Airbnb and lay down on the bed, feeling better in the calm and quiet within about 15 minutes.
So there is Asheville, a special place indeed. What it does to people, I can’t say for sure. But somehow, I think I’ve been here before, and I’ll be coming back.