I’ve been saying this a lot, but March’s planetary movements really have put me through the ringer this month! Between the Virgo full moon and my Saturn return, these tear ducts are all dried out.
What’s a Saturn return, you ask? (Or maybe you didn’t — but I’ll tell you anyway.) A Saturn return occurs about every 29 years or so, and it is when the planet Saturn finds its way back to the same place it was situated when you were born. Basically, it’s the equivalent of hitting astrological puberty (as if the first time around wasn’t bad enough).
Thankfully, I’ve survived both cosmic chaos and the long winter. To celebrate, I clawed my way out from under weighted blankets to catch up with some funny friends for this month’s “Best Medicine”: Erin Hallagan Clare, founder and artistic director of Story Parlor; Hilliary Begley, winner of Mountain Xpress’ Best Of Comic three years running; and Helen Jenny, artist and co-owner of Local Color Comedy. Together, we discuss how they’re going about to find religion, romance and good old-fashioned vitamin D this spring.
Morgan Bost: As you’ve likely gathered, I enjoy the metaphysical world. I majored in religious studies in college and have always been fascinated by the multitude of ways humans attempt to understand the universe, themselves and each other. Which is one of the reasons I moved to Asheville — a city ripe with spirituality. I want to know: Where do you go to lay down your soul in Western North Carolina? Do you have any Asheville-specific spiritual practices in which you partake?
Erin Hallagan Clare: When my family moved to Asheville a few years back, my husband bought me a beautiful Wheel of the Year book from Malaprop’s to assist in my attempt to adopt new seasonal traditions and begin the WNC assimilation process. This question just inspired me to finally give it a read and crack open the “Ostara” section. According to ancient wisdom, there are a lot of rituals this time of year associated with eggs, eggs and more eggs. So, in that light, I guess I’d have to say the sacred practice I’m most looking forward to this spring is my husband at long last getting his vasectomy, which, of course, will be followed by the healing properties of devouring a plate full of scrambled eggs and sausage from Sawhorse.
Hilliary Begley: Spirituality! Shwooo! I grew up in the Pentecostal church, so I’ve always believed we have the ability to access power greater than surface level. Though I have changed subscriptions from the church, I can still tap into that same energy. Now, I just do it in nature or with people that I love and that love me. One of my most favorite places to dig deep with myself is in the river. I’ll hop in the Davidson River in Pisgah Forest and let its crisp cold water wash me clean.
Helen Jenny: I go to Bearwallow Mountain trail to lay my soul down atop billowing grass and pillowy patties. At first, it was for the views and pastoral contemplation. Now it’s to resonate in the cows’ acceptance of my presence.
They aren’t exactly new influences: I used to live near cow pastures in Colorado. As a teenager, I often took long walks home and tried to win them over in passing. They weren’t into it. Weren’t into me. They said I smelled weird and was offensively tailless. “Can’t trust a gal with no tail,” they scoffed. “Bet her butt’s covered in fly bites!” they leered.
It went on like that for years. I just couldn’t hang.
Asheville, I heard, is a place of acceptance, which must be why the bovine beauties here embrace me to the point of near harassment. Some say it’s because people feed them. I say it’s just that exceptional Ashevillean tolerance.
Bost: One of my favorite spring pastimes is crafting an altar for Ostara — the Wiccan holiday celebrating the spring equinox and new beginnings. On Sundays, I like to saunter down to Instant Karma on Haywood Road to get a few crystals and trinkets for my altar. Maybe throw in a seduction candle for good measure (and hope that, like the Counting Crows song, maybe this year will be better than the last in that department).
Sometimes along the way, I’ll stop for a scoop at The Hop and then maybe grab an adult toy from VaVaVooom. It is Sunday after all — might as well nourish my spirit, mind and body.
Bost: I also moved to Asheville for the great outdoors! Where will you be spending your time soaking up the sun in WNC this spring?
Hallagan Clare: You know those cars that are randomly parked on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway? Like the ones where there’s no parking lot … no trail markers … just a tree-ridden mountain of mystery. Is there some great secret hike I don’t know about? Is this where the amazing swimming hole is that my neighbor keeps mentioning but won’t share a drop pin for? I’m inclined to find out (and then not report back). Anyway, if I go missing, just look for the old Subaru with loads of bumper stickers. Oh, wait …
Begley: SPRING! Oh, I love it! I can finally return the depression suitcases back to the Seasonal Store. (I really racked up some luggage winter.) Anyway, I love spring. I love feeling the beginnings of warmth and watching the world turn green again.
But what I really enjoy is taking a stroll down to Weaver Park. My most favorite thing to do there is punk out little kids for my turn on the swing set. I’ll get as high in the air as I can, feel breeze blow through my hair on the downswing and smile ear to ear while listening to the faint cries of little Timmy telling his mommy about the fat lady that took his swing! Can’t hear ya kid — I’m catching air!
Jenny: This spring, I’m going to rebuild my garden and finally assert dominance over the encroaching marmots. Last year, they destroyed my crops and repeatedly insulted my cavalry (cat on lawn chair). This year will be different. Because this year, those buck-toothed imperialists will be banished to the great beyond (neighbors’ yard) through nothing less than biological warfare.
What sort of biological weapon can deter such mysterious off-brand beavers? Fox urine.
Marmots fear foxy predators and will retreat after sensing the superior swiper’s presence. As an added bonus, urine is great for plants. Consider supporting your local fox urine distributor today!
Bost: While I love all the classic, outdoor Tinder pastimes (hiking, tubing, camping), I think my favorite outdoor activity hands down has to be urban waddling.
An urban waddle is a day spent meandering, soaking up the sun at the best bar and restaurant patios this city has to offer. Think of it as a daytime, sober bar crawl. (Though you’re totally welcome to make it nonsober if you’d like!) Waddling is the act of wandering without purpose. Being led out of the house by pure intuition, no destination. Always enjoying the journey. Always with treats!
Best suited for a bright, mild morning, an urban waddle typically begins with several rounds of caffeine, starting at Odd’s Cafe. (This being the cafe’s third “Best Medicine” mention, I think it’s only fair to now inquire about sponcon — just saying!) From there I go where the treats may take me. Maybe grab a cinnamon bun at West End Bakery before making my way down to the RAD. I pack a book and a notebook and spend the day being a tourist (not including the lousy tips). While it may not get the blood pumping like Blue Ridge backpacking, a springtime waddle is certainly good for the soul!
Bost: Before I even begin, let me say, I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t you just have a dating question in last month’s column? Correct. But as the self-described “Asheville Carrie Bradshaw,” it’s critical that I keep my finger on the pulse of Western North Carolina dating culture at all times. This month I want to know, what are your Western North Carolina dating deal breakers?
Hallagan Clare: If you’re Carrie Bradshaw in this analogy, I’m the outdated pair of shoes stuffed in the back of her closet, never to see the light of dating again.
Kidding, not kidding? I’ve been with my partner since 2009 (which is also when I bought my last pair of shoes, coincidentally). As a mother of two toddlers and owner of a local arts space (also still in its infancy), my idea of a romantic night these days is getting the kids to sleep by 7:30 p.m., promptly changing into my frumpiest pajamas, enjoying a new episode of “1923,” bed by 10 p.m. and then having dreams of traversing the African savanna with Brandon Sklenar … er, my husband, I mean.
Some free dating advice: Bring your married, parent friend along as a wingman when out looking for love. We’re not in competition; nothing shocks us anymore; we’re chomping at the bit for a night out; and it’s guaranteed we always have snacks. Plus, I’m dying to see some action — I’m just too damn tired to be the one getting it.
Oh, and a WNC dating dealbreaker: People who blast music for all to hear while hiking. WTF!
Begley: Dating?!? I never. I literally don’t think I’ve ever dated anyone. I never enjoyed the apps. I’m in a relationship now, but like all of my previous “relationships,” we didn’t really date. We were friends, and then I ensnared him with my siren song. Before I developed any real semblance of self-respect and self-worth, my song would bellow out for anyone that was remotely nice to me. It was quick. They’d either be sucked in and never really go away, or it would scare them so badly they would break up with me before we were together. Dating is wild, and I’m not into it!
Jenny: My new Asheville dating deal breaker should’ve been a deal breaker for the last decade, but this land is rife with the type, so let’s dig in.
No more Peter Pans. The eternally youthful, stubborn, arrogant, fairy-dust-addled men that sun themselves on sidewalks and give you dumpster-rescued sweets are not as loving as they seem. Even though happy thoughts and fairy dust are all he needs to fly, you may want more, and he will hate you for it. The thing about Asheville is, despite our best efforts, it’s not Neverland and Peter Pan types are actually more akin to Captain Hook. Remember readers — time is a ticking clock inside a crocodile’s gut that thirsts only for Hook. Do yourself a favor and step out of the way.
Bost: For me? I-26. I once broke things off with a man because he lived in Arden. Sorry buddy, I drive a 2007 Kia Spectra and I’m not trying to do long distance.