How My Mother Sent Me To The Mountain
I dreamed a room where
not-quite-chairs and giant protractors
and four foot sheets of plexiglass slid
toward me, dancing me
against walls, into corners, attaching
themselves as if I had become
a human magnet.
Frightened, I awoke, scanned my body
for foreign parts, then my mother,
four years dead, glided toward me.
(I drew her with my loneliness.)
She looked how lately I feel her—
thirty-five with dark-again hair, waving
a rose silk scarf, boundless in her freedom.
She knows things now.
I wondered what would happen if
I touched her. Would my hand slice air?
Would it burn in angel light? Could I draw
her to me tight like life draws death, death life,
a riddle of attraction, opposed yet irresistible,
charged by something we cannot divine?
In 1998, I came across an ad in Poets and Writers for a writer’s critiquing workshop at Wildacres Retreat near Little Switzerland, NC, about an hour and a half from Asheville. I felt my mother had guided me to that ad and wanted me to go. My life, at the time, was dissolved in drama, depression, anxiety, and lack. Although I was still doing leatherwork—custom orders for hand crafted deerskin bags with natural edges, some with braided seams, painted designs, and unusual adornments—and working on my first novel, A Love Apart, my life felt lonely and unsettled, especially financially. I couldn’t imagine how I would get the tuition to attend the workshop.
I thought about it for days, then contacted the director for further information. That brought up even more anxiety. I was not comfortable with having to share my space with a strange roommate, or being in a large group of people (about a hundred, I was told), especially when I knew no one. Still, I wanted to go, to get serious feedback on my writing, to crawl out of my cave. As for the fear, a very wise and loving Spirit Guide once told me, “Gotta a fear, make an appointment,” which was exactly what I did.
After much consideration, I elected to sell the few pieces of jewelry I had of my mother’s. It was a very difficult decision, but I kept feeling her encouraging me. I took what I had and brought it to a large pawn shop. The owner offered me $485, not a penny more. The hair on my arms spiked in that “covering of truth.” It was the exact cost of the workshop! Feeling my mother hovering close, I cried all the way home, apologizing for having sold her jewelry, thanking her for the reassurance. And, the workshop that year started on July 4th! the anniversary of her death.
The hair on my arms spiked in that “covering of truth.”
For nine subsequent years, I spent two weeks—the workshop week plus a retreat week—with the family of kindred creative spirits I had longed for and found in the literary Brigadoon that came to life atop Piney Knob each summer. I looked forward all year to those two weeks in July. It was there I parked my ego at the door, honed my craft—at that time, mostly fiction—formed deep friendships, danced under a yellow moon, gathered in the auditorium for readings, and afterwards on the porch for music played late into the night. It was upon that mountain each fourth of July that I celebrated the memory of my mother and her message of freedom and courage.
During those summers I dared to experience feelings I’d long forgotten, try things I’d never done before—reading my writing in front of a hundred people; walking down the blacktop by moonlight, arm in arm with friends singing every Broadway show tune we could remember; performing in satirical literary vignettes, a workshop tradition.
Our “magic mountain,” as we called it, seemed to strip away pretense, to instigate every emotion, and over the course of those years, I’d felt my spirit lift to the stars and my heart crack into bits.