I am back from my quick trip to the mountains of North Carolina. When I was young, I was surrounded by people who thought nothing of taking a 10-12 hour car trip, just for the sake of saying you had been to some odd town or tourist attraction. Ah, the college years, when gas was cheap (under a dollar a gallon!) and we didn't know of all the ways that a car can break your heart.
We got the retreat planned, and even if you're not a spiritual/religious person, you should think about attending. There's lots of time to create in all sorts of mediums, and it's in the mountains, and it's cheap, as retreats go. Head here for more details.
I love seeing different landscapes. I love driving long distances and the meditative state that such driving induces in me: a calm serenity of sorts, where I can hear the small still voice of my truest self. I love seeing friends at all points along the way. I went for four and a half days with no computer screens or television and only the occasional cell phone screen on my non-smart phone as I called my spouse to let him know that I had survived another leg of the journey.
What all did I see and experience? Here's a taste:
--I saw the ghosts of old citrus groves. I know where they were, and I feel their presence along Interstate 95. Many of them were bulldozed to make way for new development which never came--or worse, for the one or two mansions that were built before the economy crashed into flaming bits. I miss those citrus groves.
--I saw apples in their native habitats: apples on trees! Why did it seem so magical? Was it because of those bulldozed citrus groves? Or maybe I just love seeing fruit growing on trees. That sight makes me feel hopeful, like the earth can heal itself.
--I saw cows grazing in fields of grass that came up to their heads. I saw lots of trucks of cows--I assume they were headed to market? Or maybe some young farmer had bought a new herd? A herd to be shipped by random seeming trucks?
--I heard a radio program that talked about how people look at computer data to determine the presence of a planet. The scientist said that humans are really good at pattern recognition, better than computers. Hurrah for the human brain!
--Before I left, I read part of Tracy K. Smith's Life on Mars. I have already fallen deeply in love with that book of poems, even though I haven't read it from cover to cover. It swirled around my head during the whole trip.
--I finished reading a wonderful book that broke my heart in all kinds of ways: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. Even as it was breaking my heart, I could not put it down.
--I read an enchanting book: The Great Night, by Chris Adrian. What fun! It did make me wish that I had read A Midsummer Night's Dream more recently than I have. Ah well. I quieted my English major self and kept reading.
--Notice how much more I read when I'm away from the screens. A screen sabbatical: I need to work more of these into my life.
--I saw a farm for sale and got out of the car to investigate. It was on the way back to the main road from the apple orchard where I bought apples and jams and mountain honey.
--I continue to try to convince myself that a farm for sale is not a sign about my life's direction. I'm trying not to think about the proud tradition of poet-farmers in this country. I'm reminding myself that a farming life would leave me too exhausted to write. Too exhausted and broke to boot.
--Did I have autumnal weather? No. Even on the top of the mountain, it was still warm enough to break a sweat.
--Did I see autumnal sights? Yes. The trees have started to turn, at least on the mountain here and there.
--Was the trip worth the effort? Yes. For one thing, we got the retreat planned, which is no small thing. And I enjoyed seeing old friends, both the human kind and the landscape kind. And even a small time away can be restorative.
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