The following series of blog entries are compiled from my journal writings during my recent trip to research the historical background of a novel I am working on loosely based on the life of my Cherokee great great grandmother. There are seven days and each has an abundance of pictures. Hope you enjoy the ride.
Preparing our little home for us to be away for ten days was more work than I had expected. We woke to rain and weird red bugs all over the potato plants, feasting away. I worked non-stop all morning and through the afternoon. Our departure time of noon was shot down. We left our holler around 5pm.
The trip to Spartanburg was wonderfully uneventful. Driving through the mountains brought an easy peace to us. The girls were happy and quiet. My body released all the aggression I had been holding onto all day. We had a nice dinner in Johnson City at a Cracker Barrel. Surprisingly, I found suitable food there (or just inside good enough), and we all ate good. Dark clouds threatened rain that never came. We arrived at my family’s home around midnight.
Today, the plan was to be with our kin. That’s exactly what we did. Ivy and my Papaw hit it off as I thought they would. Deladis spent hours playing with an Ewok village that I had spent hours with as a child. She did some painting too.
I took a three mile run, and came back with an awful headache. Lack of sleep really gets to me. We didn’t get in bed until almost 2am. That, coupled with weak coffee brought on a migraine that progressed in intensity through the day.
We lounged and talked. My Mamaw showed me the best picture of Arizona (great great grandmother). It gave me chills to see her in such a regal stance. She was amazing to look upon. Her native features were clear. Her unsmiling lips just soft enough to reveal a proud contentment.
I found out she married around age 16 on Walden’s Ridge. Looking at her brought new face to my journey. I’ll never know the real story, the whole true story, but the one I will imagine will be inspired.
We arrived in Calhoun, GA around 7pm. The four hour trip was interesting and felt very commercial. When we got close to Atlanta, the interstate was lined with billboards. Some were digital and changed advertisement every few seconds, which is something I had never seen. Overwhelming – almost.
There is always a little insecurity that comes with traveling to a place unfamiliar. We left my family this afternoon after a yummy lunch. I fought tears, the urge settling somewhere in the spot where my head connects to my neck. Deladis didn’t want to go and I didn’t want to take the girls from them so soon.
I wonder how Arizona felt. A young girl of 14 or 15 setting out alone through the mountains in an unfamiliar way. Leaving her brothers. The mountains here are more foothills. I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow as we enter into Tennessee. The motivation was apparently too strong and overshot any fear she might have had.
Mamaw shared a letter written in Arizona’s hand in 1919 to her brother Walter that she had left behind. Her husband had been killed in the mines in 1918, and she was writing of wanting to move to a farm in Ohio from where she was in east Kentucky. She had to be attached to the land. She lived in town in Hazard, KY. I know I was always finding safety and solace in the hills as a kid, when I was troubled. I can imagine her wanting that comfort back, seeking it. I don’t think she saw Walter again after she ran away. It had to feel lonesome sometimes.
Now, as the girls play on the hotel beds. I think about where she slept her first night on the run. I’ve been disappointed with this establishment since we got here. The place is in poor shape, the pool is closed and unkept, our coffee was an empty wrapper, so we have none, and there is some kind of reddish brown bodily fluid splattered on the bathroom door. I wouldn’t have expected that of a hotel in this chain. At least we’re together and safe – joyful. I think of Arizona, alone – so young and totally alone.