Going Tribal

When I was a kid, I didn’t realize money was tight. My mother was a single mom before it was in vogue, and I don’t know how she did it on a nurse’s salary, but we always took vacations. We’d pile into the car late at night–my grandmother who lived with us, my little brother, Mom, and me–and take off. Usually, we went to Daytona Beach, where lodging was cheap if you didn’t mind being a few blocks from the ocean. But one especially hot summer, we headed to the Smoky Mountains.

As an adult I know the bluish tinted smoke is the product of harmless VOC (volatile organic compounds, released by the vegetation). But I prefer my grandmother’s explanation, one held by the Native American Cherokee. They called it Shaconge, or land of blue smoke and thought it was magical.

I became enchanted with the notion and dreamed of being a fearless Cherokee princess. I turned my little brother into the unfortunate cowboy who tried to conquer my tribe. I reveled in being part of an imaginary community bound by blood and purpose.

If you’re wondering where this whole Where I Went on Vacation story is going, I’m almost there.

Recently, my dear friend and fellow Wild Women Who Write colleague, Kim Conrey, identified me in a post as part of her “tribe.” Memories of my imaginary tribe came flooding back and led me to what should have been an obvious revelation.

I spent so many happy hours with my pretend tribal members because I wanted to be associated with real ones. And, like most people, I found that connection. Friends from childhood, school, work–I bonded with all sorts of wonderful people and am still close to many of them.

It wasn’t until I started writing that I realized how important tribal affiliations were.

In her recent blog post, Kim describes eagerly awaiting the arrival of copies of her first novel, Stealing Ares. She credits getting by with a little help from her friends as a big part of her success. And I agree.

Without the support and encouragement of family, friends, and mentors, I would never have had the courage to call myself a writer.

For me, there’s more. It’s a long line of connections going back to the land of blue smoke and dreams of belonging to a group of ferocious, like-minded people who care deeply for each other. It’s the reality of those associations continuing in the future for as far as I can envision.

For me, it’s going tribal.

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