What draws me to a place are its people and their lore.
Scenic beauty- the rolling hills, cascading waters and the fresh mountain air are but the icing on the cake; what make up the rich layers underneath are the stories. The history, the art.
We spent the last few days in Cherokee, NC. Listening to stories of the Native American tribe and their ways at the Ocanaluftee village gave me a glimpse into their world, when this land was only theirs. They were and still are a tribe of peace, openly accepting of people different from their own and very evolved in their thinking.
There was no gender bias – there were male warriors as well as female, there are women craftsmen as well as men. A matrilineal society, a young woman always had the right to choose her husband – the only rule being he shouldn’t belong to her own clan. After marriage the man took on the responsibilities of his wife’s clan and came to live with his wife’s family.
“Their ways, simple and rustic were harmonious with nature.“
They had deep regard for every living creature and lived with a knowing that we are all connected. A truth that modern society often pays thousands of dollars to consciousness engineers to understand. (I have too 🙂 ).
Yet, the invading Europeans looked upon them as uncivilized, subjected them to much pain, usurping most of what was theirs. If instead, they had harbored the same regard for women and Mother Earth as the Cherokee did and still do, and taken on some of their beliefs instead, climate change wouldn’t be a matter of discussion today, let alone a political debate. Nor would gender equality.
I left the village and the Smokies with awe for the Cherokee people. Next time when the mountains beckon, I know I will tread the land with wonder.
While hiking in the trails, while wading in the streams the whispers of their wisdom will echo in my ear. I’ll remember that these very mountains, rivers and waterfalls were ones they held sacred and I must too
And the cherry on top of the cake? Well, it was the author whose words, imagination and world mingled with mine in spare moments during the trip. Ruskin Bond. It was an immersive experience reading his stories that emanated from the Himalayas, while sitting in a log cabin here in the Appalachians, isolated from the world.
He had a flair to make the mighty ranges come alive with everyday stories of the ‘Paharis’ and draw the reader right into the simple world of the mountain folk. His tale about the man-eater of Manjari became as real to me, as it did to his characters, Bisnu and Puja. Their tryst with the panther filled me with dread. I could not bring myself to take Leo for a walk outside after dark. And in turn, this fear only compounded my admiration for the brave Cherokee and the Paharis who roamed and thrived in these rough terrains unafraid of the wild and so attuned to nature.
Stories have indomitable power. It does not matter whether they are real, like those of the Cherokee, or fictional- like those of the Paharis characters in Ruskin Bond. They allow you to think and feel differently and make an experience unforgettable!