Ode to Asheville

As I prepare to bid adieu to my home for the last 10 years of my life, I find myself becoming a bit sentimental. Asheville hasn’t always been an easy place for me to be, but it has never failed to nurture and comfort me through the growing pains it induced. Only now that I’m leaving do I see the extent of the community I’ve built for myself here, and for a recovering hermit such as myself, that’s been no small feat. I am letting myself grieve for Asheville. I know I will miss it, but I also know it is time to move on. I have learned what I came here to learn.

I came to Asheville alone, with no plan, and not knowing anybody in 2003, following the unexpected death of my brother. With the assistance of my sound healing mentor, I was welcomed by a Nepalese family and given a job in their shop. That year had been a strange series of endings and beginnings. I had gotten divorced, my work contract ended, my lease was up. So I moved temporarily to Garden of the Goddess ranch in Cerrillos, NM and spent my days chanting Ngondro and my nights battling the mice and listening to the coyotes. I didn’t know where or how, but I knew I would be going somewhere else soon. All the signs were pointing to, “Go!” On my cross-country travels which included sound healing studies in Pennsylvania with my mentor, it was recommended to me to pass through Asheville. That pass through has taken me to 2014.

There is a myth about Asheville spitting people out if they aren’t ready for the energy here. I heard story after story about how hard it was to make a living…that people either love it or hate it. Like many others, I knew instantly I had to be here. It was something about the Smoky Mountains. They sang to me when I drove through them. They knew me. Somehow, I always managed to find a decent job, often with pay that exceeded the pathetic minimum. I don’t know why I was so fortunate, but when I needed it, Asheville even coughed up a business grant and eventually, my house.

I think I became an adult in Asheville…a real adult: a person who knew how to be there for herself, take responsibility, and face what needed facing. I went through some serious karmic trials, from a horrible stalking relationship to illness to the death of my Dad, but through it all, I somehow discovered a love for myself. It helped me break many bad habits like hiding and hating life. Asheville drew me out of myself.

It did that by giving me endless opportunity: to dance, to sing, to write, and to make friends. I found here a family that shine brighter than any people I have ever known, genuine people who have been tempered by their own trials without being soured by them. They are artists, musicians, writers, teachers, and creatives of all kinds, gentle and open-hearted, generous souls who appreciate the gift of life.

I am so grateful to this land (this holodeck of jobs, friends, and entertainments) for providing for me these past 10 years. I am so grateful I got to experience one last glorious fall season here. I am so grateful for my dear friends and creative colleagues…several relationships I know will last a lifetime. To a woman such as myself, a Dorothy always looking over the rainbow, Asheville gave me a true experience of “there’s no place like home.”

And perhaps most importantly of all, I know that place is within me.

Where to Land Continued: UK

Last post, I talked about some of the variables associated with living in France. This time, I will be ruminating on the pros and cons of relocation in the UK.

If, as an American, I applied for a spousal visa in the UK, it would cost upwards of $850. There would be postage fees and costs associated with obtaining my biometrics in Charlotte, a city two hours away and the closest immigration service center to me.

One of the good things here is that having applied for a Visitor to Marry visa not that long ago, I am quite familiar now with the UK visa process. The applications aren’t that different…just much longer in the case of a spousal visa. Since the visitor visa, once spread all over my floor, when compiled was about two inches thick, I’m thinking the spousal visa will end up being even thicker.

Do you have any idea what goes into these applications? I certainly didn’t. In some ways, it feels like everything under the sun…bank records, tax documents, birth certificates, divorce decrees, proof of marriage, what I’ve eaten for the last 3 years, and oh, something really fun called a financial requirement form. It looks like a real nightmare to fill in, but I won’t go there right now. (I’m just kidding about the what I’ve eaten part).

Now, one would think that since I had to have my biometrics taken for the visitor visa a few months ago that I would have already met that requirement. Not so! Apparently, I would have the joy of doing that all over again. No biggie; just a pain.

Stuart is currently in France. We are lucky though because he is contracted by a UK company and is paid in the UK, so establishing proof of income won’t be an issue. The challenge is that Stuart will have to find a place for us to live. While finding something is not an issue, timing certainly is. This application process can, according to a friend who went through it several years ago, take as little as three weeks. It can also, according to a recent article, take up to 12 months. Why should Stuart uproot his life in France now when it could take a year before we got visa approval?

Enter the cousins. We are blessed that Stuart has generous cousins, a married couple, who have offered to open their home to us so that we can take the time to find a place of our own. This makes everything so much easier. With an address, we can now apply for our visa without Stuart having to rush to relocate in the UK.

Apparently though, getting a UK driver’s license…I mean licence (that’s another thing…all those misspelled words over there!) is no less joyful an affair than trying to get one in France. The success rates are about even…44% passing. However, the fact that the test would be in English and not a language I barely understand is a definite plus. In fact, being in a country where I understood the road signs, the mail, the food labels and everything else would certainly make life easier. Documents wouldn’t need to be translated either.

The other benefit of living in the UK is that it would be so much easier for me to re-establish my client base, and I could be teaching workshops in no time. Plus, I could schedule book signings and increase my book sales there.

Sounding pretty good, ain’t it?

The main drawback of life in the UK is…well…life in the UK. It’s cold, it’s depressing, and it’s expensive. We’d relocate to the sunniest coast, but even in the height of summer, temps don’t generally break 70F. That’s practically still winter!

Asheville, NC

During my visit for marriage, one of the first things that struck me was how miserable everyone seemed in the cities. Living in Asheville for 10 years, one of the happiest cities in the US, has spoiled me so!

The area of Devon was nicer than the central areas, and I could see myself living in certain parts there even despite those narrow little roadways.

In fact, my whole life, I have wanted to live by the sea. So maybe, just maybe, the UK would be OK if we lived by the shore. And the grocery stores there, after having been in France, Eee!!! Delight!

But I also recall how upon disembarking from the ferry once back in France, the whole sky opened up and the sun shone down gloriously! I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing as I removed my “tea cozy” hat, scarf, and sweater (which I had to wear in September no less!). The whole world was smiling again.

But it would also be much simpler for us to eliminate the third country from a complex-enough two-country life. And it certainly would be nice to ultimately share a country with my Honey and not just be a permanently floating expat. Who knows? Maybe establishing residency and then citizenship in the UK is the best way to do that.

That’s all for now. Next time, considerations for the US…