The mists gently cascaded over the rolling mountains. The trees swayed softly in the morning breeze. I breathed in deeply. I was at home on a mountain in the wilds of Western North Carolina, finally. Sometimes I think I can feel the pulse of the quartz that bubbles to the surface of the soil all over our land. I feel a peace I never knew I was missing.
Over the last several years, I began a journey that has changed my life; and monument to that journey stands on the top of a small mountain deep in the blue haze of the Smoky Mountains.
Several years before, I had moved to Atlanta, Georgia with my husband. We had both grown up in Suburban Detroit and had known for a long time that we didn't want to stay there forever. The opportunity presented itself to relocate to Atlanta and it seemed like a great option. We didn't really know *where* we wanted to spend the rest of our lives and Atlanta offered us the opportunity to explore the American South East. Shortly after our move, we discovered Asheville, North Carolina and fell instantly in love. We knew that we had a place we belonged.
In 2009, I found myself building a house with my own two hands. My husband had long expressed restlessness with the corporate world of 9 to 5 jobs and work that did not fulfill him spiritually. For him, the solution to that was to explore his dream of building a house on his own. For myself, I had always wanted to live self sufficiently - I wanted to be accountable only to myself when it came to how I spent my time and how I used my own resources to live simply. Those two motivating factors were easily compatible and we enjoyed working together to realize them. When we uncovered the mysterious properties of Asheville we finally felt ready to move forward with those dreams. We were able to buy fifteen acres in the mountains just north of Asheville and began work on a tiny cabin. We painstakingly began to build, having never done anything like it before. Occasionally we had friends help us, but most of the time it was just the two of us camping and building on weekends.
On a weekend in May, I discovered a strength that I didn't know I had. Our building site is inaccessible by car or truck by design. We use an ATV to get supplies to the area. This particular weekend we were to pour the concrete piers for our foundation. The holes had been dug several weeks prior by my husband and a friend using an auger rented from Home Depot. We had hoped to begin the process of pouring the concrete at that time, but we had been slowly learning that projects seemed to progress at their own pace regardless of our determination. Now, the two of us faced the task of pouring the piers ourselves in one two-day weekend. Neither of us had ever done it before. We spent time making sure the cardboard tubes, called Sonotubes, used to set the posts were level with one another and cut to the right height. We transported a small cement mixer, thirty gallons of water, and twenty-four hundred pounds of unmixed concrete up to the building site. We were forced to make trip after trip as the ATV could only carry three bags of concrete at a time. When finally all of the components were safely at our worksite, we began to mix and pour concrete to make eight foundation piers. By this time, it was already after noon on Sunday. Both of us still worked corporate jobs in Atlanta so we were motivated to get this project done in time to get back for work on Monday. Like the proverbial well-oiled machine, the two of us worked together mixing one bag of concrete with one gallon of water at a time, thankfully with the help of a cement mixer and our generator. We would pour the mixture into a bucket and then into the sonotubes. Bucket after bucket after bucket. Time still marched on and while working on the seventh pier we knew that we were running out of daylight. We both started to panic in different ways. My partner was worried about getting everything done to perfection in spite of the time crunch and I was worried about having enough time to clean up the worksite and begin the three hour drive back to Atlanta. Emotions ran high and tempers began to flare. As the last light of the sun dipped below the mountains, we set the last anchor bolt in the wet concrete of pier number seven with only the illumination of a flash light. This still meant we had one more pier to do, and we would have to mix it by hand some other weekend as we had to return the mixer to its lender. Anxiously, we were able to clean up the worksite, pack up the car and leave the Blue Ridge mountains going toward Atlanta. It was eleven thirty when we started the three hour drive back. We were both tired and we drove in shifts and finally made it back around two thirty a.m. on Monday Morning. I had called my office and left a message over night. - I needed some sleep or I was going to be completely non-functional. The gravity of what we had actually accomplished finally set in and by the next day the memory of the event began to change.
To be completely honest, I was miserable that day. It was hard and dirty work that I had never done before. I was frustrated by time not being on our side. Never once was I ready to give up. Now, there is a little house standing at the top of a mountain near Asheville, NC. With our own determination and with the help of some dear friends, we were able to construct a perfectly level and square tiny cabin in the woods. It isn't done yet, but we are very proud of where we are. And still, we haven't dreamed of giving up.