Oh, North Carolina, how I love thee.
I can still remember the sights and sounds of the first time I visited this beautiful and magical place. I was eight years old and my big sister had moved away to go to college in Asheville. I had no idea how far away it was from the warm beaches of Florida, but I just knew it she was too far away.
The distance confirmed by the memory of the long, hot, family roadtrip to bring her a compact washing machine for her dorm room. It was the strangest little thing that connected to the tap on the sink, or maybe it was the tub.
Like I said, I was eight. I just knew it was me-sized, and I wanted one. I also recall my incessant begging to stay with her at least one night like a cool grown-up college kid.
It's all a little fuzzy now except for the few vivid memories I have of the rustic cabins at the Log Cabin Motor Court. I had the pleasure of recollecting and describing this wonderful place in my novel, In Every Cloud. There was the rickety swingset under the crabapple tree where I learned not to eat fruit from random bushes unless your parents tell you it's okay. Gah! To this day apples and I have a very apprehensive relationship. I love them, but I don't trust them. :-) Oh, and of course the visit to the Cherokee Reserve where I picked up a beaded tie, bought a mini-loom, and got my first pair of leather moccasin loafers (in an eye-complementing shade of gray-blue might I add). They looked GREAT with socks... right? I mean come on now, what else could possibly complete such a fashion forward ensemble?
I'll never forget my first experience with the crisp cool air, enormous trees like I had never seen, and mountains! Not Florida mountains- which to us is anything higher than 10 feet above sea level, and includes landfills. It burned a love for North Carolina deep inside me, fueled my wanderlust, and filled my dreams. I knew I'd be back one day even if it would be seventeen years later.
My in-laws had sold their dairy in Florida and decided to relocate to North Carolina to raise llamas. The farm, the family, and the surrounding beauty quickly became my refuge. For many years, it's where I ran for both solace and adventure more times than I can count. The eight hour drive was easy because I knew the joy of what awaited me when I would arrive. To this day I could do it with my eyes closed.
Waterfalls and mountains, hidden ruins and history, and the pure pleasure of being there with the one I loved and her family. So many of the experiences I write about in In Every Cloud are not simply moments for my characters but actual memories from my own life. They are based on real personal events that I had the fortunate opportunity to live. This book is not only a fictional story but a glimpse into some of my most precious days.
One of the many moments that rings with truth and humor is the one which leads to Bree Whitely's first unfortunate encounter with Carson Harper. It's a slightly exaggerated, but mostly true, tale of my sister's experience at the Biltmore Estate. It's a story I've heard a hundred times and it never gets old in real life or in fiction. I knew if I ever wrote a book about Biltmore and North Carolina this would have to play a part.
I have so many wonderful memories of this place that it was difficult to decide which to include or exclude from In Every Cloud. It's always a question of how much to give and what to hold back when you write from the heart. How much do I share with you, my beloved readers, and how much do I keep for myself? In the end I decided that these things were worth sharing.
Many things have changed since these happy and carefree days of horseback riding, hiking, and standing in the clouds. In Every Cloud is my way of remembering parts of my life that I hold dear, but it's also a way to let them go. To offer myself and my memories up to the clouds and release them, but not without the reverence they deserve.
In Every Cloud is a story of starting over and letting go of everything you once held on to. It's about realizing that there is something better ahead of you than where you've been if you can only take that one scary step forward. Hearts get broken, but we can't allow the memories of what was good, or even bad, keep us from healing. As Joseph Campbell says, "We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned to live the life that is waiting for us."
Change is downright terrifying, but at some point we have to decide what is best for us and how much the struggles are worth in order to get what we deserve. Take a chance, it may be the best thing you ever do.
I love Asheville. It will always be that place where I want to run away to. It's been too long since I've been back, but I don't plan on letting another seventeen years pass before I return. There are too many things I love there, and this book is dedicated to them.
Much love XOXO,