I’ve finished my vacation and come home again. The wedding that I went for was astoundingly beautiful, looking out over the whole Pisgah National Forest above Brevard, North Carolina. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a wedding, and it was really lovely to see two people who choose each other every day, and have for eight years, make a commitment to that love in front of others. It was wonderful to spend time with some of my best friends, and celebrate love.
The next day, one friend and I went up into Pisgah Forest looking for a place where I could do a ritual, for my ancestors that used to live in that place. I truly believe we are surrounded and informed by those that came before us. I believe they provide us with wisdom and guidance, watch out for us when we need it, and kick butt or shake us up once in a while-maybe because we need it, or maybe just to say Hello.
One such greeting came on my first night, in Commerce, GA, which was about as close as I was going to get to Bartow County, because even though I wanted to go spend days in a library looking for old records, this trip was not a genealogical holiday. The first night, I got into my hotel room a little after midnight, after a long day of flying. I went right to sleep, and at 4:50am, the TV in my room went on-with a few words of a voice, and then some pulsing, rhythmic static, but no picture. Bleary eyed and confused I got up to see why it had come on, could not get to the plug, but then found the remote and hit the ON/OFF button. And THEN the TV came ON! I quickly turned it off, and got back in bed just a bit freaked out. There was no way I was going back to sleep after that.
By the next day, I had decided that was my ancestors, saying “Hello!” In another hotel the next evening, I unplugged the TV as soon as I got in the room. So I know the ancestors knew I was “home”. I say home, because North Georgia was their home. I never felt really at home in the 22 years I lived in the Piedmont areas of South Carolina and Georgia, but the mountains of North Georgia, and especially Western North Carolina felt very much like a safe haven-home, without a doubt.
So I wanted to do a ritual, to the best of my abilities as a newly graduated Bard, in the forest that was so beloved by the Cherokee people. It was my gift and a chance to really connect with all that came before me.
My friend and I found a great spot to turn off of the main road and about a mile down found a pull off with indications of campsites and no one around. We walked in a little way, and I found the perfect small clearing. My friend said he was going to take a little walk, but would not go far. He left me to do my business, alone with the ancestors.
I laid out my circle using some of the stones from around the campfire, and I had water from a water bottle, a small copper bowl that I had just purchased the day before in a shop, and I had brought a candle, sage and corn meal from home.
I went through my regular daily ritual, calling on the Seen and Unseen, Ancestors, Gods and Goddesses, Spirits of Place, and Spirits of Tradition, and said a few words to my Cherokee ancestors in their native language. Then I just sat. And it was so magical.
There have only been a few times in my life where I have seemed to slip right out of the bonds of time, into a timeless place where it seemed anyone could be next to me-my friends, my great grandparents, or some Cherokee Grandmother who knows my name…That was one of those times.
And I had a beautiful Oak tree as my guide. He practically danced for me.
I finished my ritual and put everything back the way I’d found it, and my friend magically reappeared at the right time. Talk about someone who is a natural Bard-this man would win my vote-but he said he wanted to give me the privacy to do what I needed to do.
We got back in the car and headed down the mountain-that same road where I have had so many lovely adventures with my “brothers from another mother”-splashing and swimming in cold mountain pools, camping in the rain, hiking, eating berries, and sitting quietly for hours…
As I drove it struck me that I honestly may never be back there again. This was a special occasion, and traveling is no longer in my budget-so maybe I was saying Goodbye. I broke into huge sobs-because that place has my heart-and I love it really more than anywhere else on earth. I quickly stopped-because I’m not a child anymore, and I carry that place in my heart. I felt like a child grown and leaving home, knowing it was OK, and that there is only good ahead of me, and that I take all of those memories with me everywhere I go. We stopped one last time, to have lunch by the river, and crawled down to sit on the rocks by an incredibly beautiful waterfall.
We then drove South and stopped at a place that I had not been to in 16 years, where we-my brothers and me, had stopped for gas the very first time they took me to the mountains-back when I didn’t know there what mountains they were-back when I didn’t know what magic they hold, or that I had people that came from them.
So I take that incredible magic with me-that love that I feel for that place and that place feels for me, her child. I carry it in my heart-and in my pocket with a tiny gold quartz rock I picked up by the river at lunch.
Not only have I graduated the Bardic grade, but I feel like I have graduated from something else too. Maybe I’ve finally grown up. Maybe I’ve let go not only of my own anger and pain, childhood woundings, but maybe in doing so, and in connecting with my ancestors so deeply I have helped them to let go of some of their own pain-so we, all of us, including future generations can be free.