Monday, October 02, 2006

I have seen heaven...

I have seen heaven, and it is Western North Carolina.

Imagine a place that is incomparably beautiful, quiet, away from TV or radio or newspapers or Internet, but with air conditioning and the best food in the world; a place that insists you find your own soul, and that compels you to express your personal creativity in a sharing and noncompetitive manner.  That place was where I have been.

My husband and I rather accidentally learned about the John C. Campbell Folk Art School through an ad I saw in the Artists’ Magazine last April or May.  I looked it up on the Internet and ordered the catalog.  Reluctantly – because somehow things rarely are as advertised – we registered for classes back in July and sent our money in.  My husband signed up for Nature Writing, and I for Drawing.

The trip began on a sour note, courtesy of Delta Airlines again; our flight from Houston to Atlanta was cancelled, we were switched to a Continental flight some three hours later, but of course our luggage was not.  So we arrived at the school late Saturday without any of my art supplies or my camera or the other things I think I can’t live without.  None of that showed up until Tuesday morning.

I was immeasurably stressed when we got there; but the dining room staff had saved some dinner for us and the student host gave us a map with our cabin circled in red.  On the reverse side of the map was a schedule of the week’s activities.  Classes were already meeting to get acquainted, and we each found our spots.  At 9 p.m. Morris came to find me, and without a flashlight we stumbled to our room, some distance away.

In spite of the relaxed environment, the trains do in fact run on time at the Campbell School.  Morning Song (a short musical program that I never got to) starts at 7, and breakfast is from 8:15 until 9.  If you snooze, you lose, and that goes for any meal.  However, there is homemade bread and peanut butter available for anybody who is hungry between scheduled meal times.  Classes start at 9, and the schedule is fairly tight the rest of the day, ending with some special activity or program after dinner.

Those are the details; the rest was enchantment.  Monday night there was a musical program of Appalachian music, sung by a couple of people who must have been 90.  The music affected me so deeply I was moved to near sobbing, and I had to ask Morris if we could leave early.  I still don’t understand exactly what happened, but since my paternal ancestry traces back to those mountains some three hundred years ago, maybe it was some genetic memory.  But it was a powerful experience I won’t forget.  Already I was hooked, and felt I had found my soul.

I have always been such a cynic, and a little ashamed of my Appalachian heritage.  After all, I have understood these people to have been described as ignorant moon-shiners, “poor white trash” and Deliverance-types.  (Who would want to claim that?)  But I found out that whether or not that description is fair, this ancestry is a deeply felt part of who I am.  Far from fear of terrorism, concern with politics or nuclear war, this place gave me a sense of safety and connection I haven’t felt since early childhood.

I bought a few books on the southern highlanders – people who came from Northern Ireland, the Scotch-Irish.  Their ways were different from other immigrants, and many of them were indentured servants when they made their way across the Atlantic.  When they had worked off their debts they drifted west from Virginia or wherever, and settled up in the Appalachians where they ate only what they could grow or kill.  They sang and they danced, adapting music from England and Ireland, and the culture eventually was blended with that of early African slaves and some hint of Cherokee.  

My own ancestors were here before the Revolution.  Eventually they drifted south, and then west, and ended up in Texas shortly before the Civil War.  But there is something left over that resonates deep within me.  The beauty, the silence, the natural environment, the foggy mountains early in the morning and the clear skies at night; the acorns on the paths, the loblolly pines, the plethora of butterflies and hummingbirds, the creeks and streams, these are the scenes of my early childhood and it still exists in Western North Carolina even if it has long since disappeared from Texas.

I am planning to go back.  But if I should die tomorrow, I don’t care; I have seen Paradise.  And I know where I belong.

Friday, April 28, 2006

New Domain

Finally I updated my website.  After I filed for a new domain name after the old one expired and the bureaucracy wouldn’t allow me to renew it.  Even though it was my own name.  Go figure.  So now my site is moved to from A.S., through no fault of my own.  Somebody else now owns A.S. now, and I’ll be (bleep) if I’m going to buy it back from them.

Greg Palast’s new book is finished and is on the market in June.  Order your copy early and you’ll be part of the crowd… it’s a bestseller on Amazon already.  Greg has found a way to tell the entire story of our present status all in one book.  It’s getting too complicated to try and follow the news every night.  I end up switching to three or four different cable news channels just to get the important stories of the day.

I think it is sad that somebody either was or wasn’t raped at Duke University, and I hate that people go missing in Aruba, but in the case of the end of the world and priorities, I think the prospects of nuclear war started by Mr. End-Timer really needs to be the headline here.  And how is it that people who believe that they have to instigate Armageddon also think it’s important to get rid of estate taxes?  I mean, it’s either one or the other, right?