We Bid Farewell

After 20 wonderful years, it’s time to say good-bye. “Adieu, North Carolina.” We are ready for a change, for many good reasons, yet before the final hugs and kisses, I feel compelled to share a reservoir of ‘go-to’ memories, which we will cling to as we remember the Tar Heel countryside.

When we arrived in 1997, Asheville was on the cusp of increasing growth. We were newlyweds and each time we came to visit, we asked ourselves, why not move to Asheville?

During our third visit, we sat facing west on the Grove Park Inn’s natural stone patio and savored a spectacular sunset. This was the defining moment that soon brought us here. Surely, the Blue Ridge Mountains had bewitched us. We were filled with an incredible joy that we had been, perhaps, ‘called’ to live here.

Within the first month at our honeymoon apartment, I received an offer to be the first school counselor in an elementary school in Hendersonville. With grit and determination, my handy husband started his own home repair business, finding odd jobs referred from our church community. Shortly after, he had more work than he could manage. Within two years, he was hired as an associate professor at Mars Hill University as a practiced teacher and graphic designer. The students loved him, almost as much as I do.

Saturdays became our day for exploration. A drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway led to uncharted hikes, hidden waterfalls, and clean picnic areas. The ride calmed our spirits, while we drove downward on winding mountain roads to historic towns where Appalachian life had once flourished. One favorite adventure led us to Cataloochee Valley, where villagers had farmed fertile land and lived a simple life. Elk are abundant since being re-introduced to this part of the Smokies. We watched them peek out of the forest at dusk, eating grass under the watchful eyes of the lead male elk.

Fascinated with their protective nature toward young herd members, we marveled at their majestic head size and counted their antler points – well worth a trip on some rickety stone roads!

I think one of the best hikes in western North Carolina is Max Patch Mountain. Once you climb the very steep path, you are rewarded by a 360-degrees magnificent view at the top. We backpacked a thermos of coffee and snacks, reveling in such beauty while chatting with weary Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) explorers. I admired their stamina for this 2,174-mile adventure. Being a romantic, I fashioned a wreath of wildflowers to wear home.

I remember a hike into the Pisgah Forest where we came upon a movie company filming the next edition of Hunger Games. We were thrilled to be given permission to stand on the sidelines while they ‘re-dressed’ the forest twigs and moss. I came away from that experience certain that western North Carolina is a magical kingdom where dreams are shaped.

Another weekend, I went searching for the legendary site of the Shelton Laurel Massacre, which occurred in Madison County during the War Between the States. I met a farmer sitting on his tractor who inquired why I was on his property. I told him that I had tried to ask permission to visit the cemetery, and the reason for my visit was that I was a writer and photographer (truth) working on a story. He agreed that I could enter the hallowed ground. I took his picture with my Canon.

The strangest thing happened upon leaving. I had an eerie feeling that I was being followed, as if someone meant to make certain that I had left the field undisturbed. Many years have passed, but I can still conjure up how I felt, as if I had left a piece of myself there. Weird, isn’t it? And I have photos to prove it. My fascination with the Civil War has led me to feel deeply about the tragic sacrifices that were made, especially by communities in WNC. My perceptions have been altered since coming from the North and I am grateful for the opportunities afforded me to gain those insights.

On a brighter note, summer brought Shindig on the Green. We raced to hear authentic Appalachian folklore and ole timey music. Settling on a picnic blanket with camp chairs, we sipped our brew of sweet tea (adult beverage added) while listening to forgotten stories and ballads from an era laced with fiddle, guitar, and harpsichord melodies. Families of all ages chose their favorite spot while children roamed and danced, unabashedly, to a night of sheer pleasure. Oh, how we will miss those sultry evenings.

Although our full-time jobs took a lot of energy, I found time for quilting and writing. The art of quilting takes many hours and is not a skill easily learned, but I dove into it like a silky seal from an offshore island into an undersea abyss. When I discovered the finest fabric store in Asheville, with its row upon row of delicious fabric, I felt like a kid at Christmas. I studied the craft and am proud to say an original quilt of mine is hanging in the Weaverville House of Healing.

Another hobby is tracking unusual vanity license plates. On a whim, I decided to write about my travels on the road. I keep a log in the glove compartment but pay special attention to North Carolina state plates.

I found the most unusual ones right here in Buncombe County.
(WNC Woman published that story last spring.)

So, why are we moving? When we sold our last house (owned three), we pocketed good money, yet the cost of living here is sobering. Retirement is upon us and so is an affordable budget to live on. Real estate has skyrocketed and everyone cannot afford to live here, ‘us’ being one of those.
Optimism is an elected attitude. We will rejoice in family ties where we are going. We are deeply grateful for the wonderful people we’ve met and loved here. We will sing your praises, North Carolina, no matter where we roam. Home is where the heart is and we carry our bounty with us. Thanks for the memories.

Wendy E. Murray is a retired human services employee. She is currently working on a memoir of her family, titled “It’s Not Cheaper By The Dozen.” She is the third oldest in a New York State family of 10 natural and 2 adopted children.
Email her at: elizabeththebrav@gmail.com.


Written by Wendy E. Murray