An Excellent New Adventure
I’m moving back to the Tennessee hills.
Hi my friends.
A lot of people are in transition these days and feel a need to move to where they feel a kinship. I’ve lived in the Asheville area for close to 25 years, but Asheville has changed a lot since the 90s. It’s very busy. And expensive.
I grew up in south Knoxville, about 50 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains. As a result, mountains have been a tonic for me my entire life, but so have the coastal regions where we spent summer vacations. So my novels so far have been set in both regions.
My two daughters and a son-in-law live in Knoxville. At first I thought I would move back to my hometown, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get excited about it. I couldn't shake the been-there, done-that feeling. I’m still young enough to want some autonomy from my family, too. But I also wanted to be close enough to visit whenever I wanted.
So, long story short, after Christmas in Knoxville this last year, instead of going home to Asheville via I-40 East over the mountains, I went 81 North and took a right at I-26. I took the first exit, exit 17, and was immediately met with the astounding landscape of the rolling Tennessee hills and gorgeous farmland. My shoulders relaxed.
The land was complete with old barns, and tractors pulling over to the side of the 2 Lane road to let cars pass. A slower rhythm prevailed. Ancient mountains surrounded the idyllic scene and I felt as though I was glimpsing Paradise.
I remembered something an art teacher told me once regarding discernment—how to determine whether something is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’
He said, “If it's not a ‘hell, yes,’ it's a no.”
Knoxville was a no. But I was now in the land of ‘Hell, Yes!’
I found the heart of the town, and took a walk. I speak fluent Southern, it turns out, and everyone I passed—all strangers—felt like someone I’d grown up with. I greeted them. They responded. Simple people with kind eyes. Down to earth folk who expressed that friendliness that the Southern United States can be famous for.
“How’s your day going?” I asked a woman at the coffee shop.
“No complaints, darlin’,” she replied with a wink.
Just being in new, yet familiar surroundings made me feel as though everything was going to be all right. The thought of a fresh start invigorated me. It was like a cork popped and the champagne was spewing out. I began to see the end of my creative drought. But first I had to move.
In contrast, I had spent the last 7 months in an apartment complex where people rarely made eye contact, but looked at their phones as though their devices were life-support systems that provided their next breath. Not once had anyone winked at me or called me darlin’.
As the weeks have passed a move began to feel destined, as if it was heaven’s idea. Things fell into place very quickly. Instead of overlooking a parking lot like I do now, I found a condo in Jonesborough with a view of a farmer’s field. I could sit on my deck and watch the corn grow. Then more recently I had a strong sense that I needed to not waste another second being in limbo. I was coming alive again. I wanted to work on my next novel, my next piece of art, my next substack post!
So I've been packing boxes for the last week getting ready for a new adventure. As soon as I line up a mover, I will be relocating just over the North Carolina state line to Jonesborough, Tennessee. (An hour from Asheville)
Jonesborough is known as the Storytelling Capital of the World, home of the International Storytelling Festival every Fall, and is the oldest town in Tennessee. It is next door to Johnson City in the north eastern part of the state. But the reason I’m moving there is the land.
To a writer of southern novels, the landscape is often like a main character in a story. Think of Savannah in my Temple Secret series. Or Katy’s Ridge in The Secret Sense of Wildflower trilogy. My novel Trueluck Summer was written as a love letter to Charleston, SC, where I lived for 14 years. You can almost feel the humidity.
We southerners love our land because it is the landscape of our souls.
I am fortunate to have a lot of readers in Tennessee, as well as all over the world. If you live in the tri-cities area, give me a shout out. Or wave at the next moving truck you see. It could be me!
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P.S. Feel free to comment. We are all friends here. What is your favorite landscape?
Artwork: Collage by me, early 2022.
Hello. I have been “writing to you” in my head- for years. I am excited for you.
I very much enjoy the sense of place in your writing.
I am an artist and must send you a card/book I wrote some years ago. It is on its way to you this week. Do message me your address. I think I have it but would love to confirm it. You have my e-mail.
I am excited for you!
Don’t worry - it is not big or heavy! I love the alphabet!
Sounds perfect! We bought our house in Brevard in 2006 and have witnessed SO many changes there and in Asheville. Just before COVID, we moved to a retirement community in Columbus, NC, which has a population about 2,000. The slower pace is lovely, the people have time to be friendly, and it feels comfortable to be out and about. And thanks to the Internet (for all its flaws and frustrations) it is much easier to stay in touch with people who have touched our hearts wherever we have lived, and we are most grateful! And now I have a new mantra as I am going through boxes of memorabilia, trying to decide what to save: "If it's not 'Hell Yes!, it's a NO!"