First Steps

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” — Martin Luther King

The past month has been a whirlwind.  On January 8th I flew to North Carolina to celebrate my mom’s 92nd birthday, see my family and to look at a piece of property in Roan Mountain, Tennessee that I hoped would become my new home.  The visit was a dream come true.

My sister Peggy and my mom picked me up at the airport in Asheville and we headed to my sister Nancy’s home in Plumtree, NC.  It was so wonderful to all be together.  I had missed Peggy’s visit in April of last year as I was still recovering from shoulder surgery and was unable to make the trip.

In the morning we all loaded up and headed into Roan Mountain, a beautiful 30 minute drive through Western North Carolina and just over the border into Tennessee.  We were early so we drove up into Roan Mountain State Park.  I had loved my previous visits to my sister’s and the drives and hikes through the Blue Ridge mountains, but it was Roan Mountain that called me home.  The wild, breathtaking beauty drew me in and I knew that this was where I belonged.


Ice on the drive up Roan Mountain

On the way back down I remembered that I had seen a short cut from the house we were going to look at to the park; a short-cut that took us down Teaberry Road.  It seemed like a fun thing to do to explore the area so off we went.  It all started out well and was really a beautiful drive.  The sun had come out a bit and was filtering through the trees as we drove.  This was looking like a viable alternative route to the park for future reference until Teaberry Road turned into a dirt road and before we knew it became a one lane, somewhat bumpy drive that wound down the mountain.  To our left there was a pretty steep drop-off so we hugged the right side of the road as we crept along.  The next thing we knew we rounded a curve and here was a man coming the other direction.  Unlike us, he seemed completely unconcerned and didn’t even wait for us to get to a slightly wider part in the road before he whizzed by on our left.  Luckily, it all worked out well, although it would have been him that would have ended up off the side of the mountain had it turned out badly…it was, after all, his side of the road.  Note to self:  No trips to the park via Teaberry Road, at least not in a car.

The Perkins Hollow property, as we had begun to call it, was all that I had hoped for.  An adorable 1200 SF house on almost an acre of beautifully landscaped property with a little creek running through at the back.  I fell in love immediately.  I began to imagine my life there:  ideas for making the house a home for me, Pippin and Cowboy; turning the vegetable garden into a butterfly and bird garden; hiking trips to the state park, Smokey Mountain National Park and all of the other breathtaking destinations in the Appalachian Mountains; all of the photo ops.  The first step in seeing my dream come true.

Two days later I was headed back to Austin, ready to make an offer on the property and make the final push to get my home in Austin on the market.  Long hours were spent painting, cleaning; trips to Goodwill, and getting the yard in shape for the big day.  On Saturday, January 30th I took a break  to go with friends on a birding trip to Granger, TX.  On the way home I received the final counter offer from the sellers in Tennessee and the minute I walked in the house I printed, signed and scanned the documents to email back to my realtor.  By Sunday, I had a binding contract on the house.  Step two.

Wednesday was the big day that my little house on Campden Drive went on the market.  As my realtor, Kellye Hancock (Hindsite 20/20 Realty) put it, her phone exploded.  Texts were coming in every few minutes from realtors wanting to show the property.  By the end of the day we’d lost track of how many people had seen the house and we had three offers, two of which were well above the asking price.  Kellye put a deadline of 5:00 p.m. the next day for any other interested parties to submit an offer and Thursday started with another wave of prospective buyers.  By the end day there were three more solid offers.  Potential buyers were sending me letters along with their offers that included heartwarming stories and promises to take care of the native plants and the birds; one girl sent a picture of her dog.  I melted into tears of gratitude.  This was beyond my wildest imaginings.  By Friday morning, just 48 hours after the listing went live, I had a contract on the house.  Step three.

This has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, a magical journey; one that I never expected.  I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and doors keep opening.  I still need a job  and there are inspections and closings and moving to be done, but I have faith that all those doors will open as well.

I subscribe to this thing called “Notes from the Universe” (  Each morning, Monday through Friday I get an email from “The Universe”.  This is what was in my inbox this morning:

“If you can see it in your mind, Judi, it’s real.

All that remains is merging the present you know and the world you’ve imagined, which is my part. And you can best help me align circumstances, coincidences, and chance encounters by getting busy, going out into the world, and moving in the general direction of your dreams, even if only to do what your peers might do, who know not of life’s magic.

But you know the truth, Judi.  You know how life works.  Do not waiver in your march.  No matter how humble your steps, this is how I will reach you.  And as you witness one dream come true after another – first the small ones, then the big ones, then the huge ones – you’ll remember why you were first drawn to the jungles of time and space, if you haven’t already figured it out.

Crazy kid,
   The Universe

P.S. — And when you know, Judi, would you please clue us in so that we can finish the documentary?”

Thanks Universe, I’m grateful.



Going Home…


From the Appalachian Trail on the top of Roan Mountain

It’s completely unlike me to quit my job and choose to move 1200 miles away on, what might seem to some, a whim.  I mean, we’re talking about the person who has lived in the same house for the past 24 years and has worked at the same job for 22 years.  It’s comfortable; safe; secure; familiar.  Why would I want to change that?

I came home from a visit to the Appalachian Mountains around my sister’s home in North Carolina last July and started looking for property around Roan Mountain, TN; about 20 miles across the North Carolina/Tennessee border from where my sister, her husband and my mother live.  We had taken a visit to Roan Mountain State Park and I was totally smitten by the park and the breathtaking landscape that surrounded it.  I lost count of the number of times I said, “I could live in a little cabin in these mountains.”

Truth be told my love affair with the mountains of Eastern Tennessee began shortly after I graduated from high school and took a trip with friends to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   Ten glorious days in early October hiking around in the mountains and touring the surrounding countryside captured my heart and my imagination way back then.  Life and work brought me to Texas a few years later but there was a love for those mountains that  resurfaced the moment I returned.  It felt like coming home.

So, despite the fact that, as of yet I have no place to live and no job, I’ll be moving to the area around Roan Mountain shortly after leaving my job on April 15, 2016.  The person who, at one point in her life, would have been panic-stricken at the idea of not having a well laid-out plan and a giant safety net is taking a leap and is trusting that this is meant to happen; trusting that there is a plan for me in those mountains and that I’ll figure it out as I go along.  Have there been moments when the fear has set in?  Absolutely.  There is also a sense of peace about it all and a sense of trust that it’s all going to work out.   I want to hike in those mountains with my dog and my camera, doing my best to capture the essence of what drew me to them all those years ago.  When it comes right down to it the only thing that could stop me is fear and I won’t let that happen.

This past January I participated in a creativity retreat with dear, dear friends that was called “The Choice of Art.”  During that weekend we were asked to write our future biography and we read it aloud to the group.  Mine started out like this:  “Judi is a nature photographer who lives with her Border Collie Pippin in a log cabin in the mountains of North Carolina.”  I guess I called it in.

I am so excited about the life that lies before me.  Is there fear as well?  Yes, but it’s not the overwhelming fear that I would have felt 5, 10, 15 or 20 years ago.  It’s not the paralyzing fear that would have kept me from making this choice to begin with.  This feels right and the one thing that I am struck by is that there is not a single friend, family member or acquaintance that has asked me if I’ve lost my mind or cautioned me against making this change.  It’s friends and family like that that have brought me to this point; people that have modeled courage and inspired me.  People who have offered encouragement and support and have cheered me on.  To say I’m grateful doesn’t begin to cover it.