On our way from Selma AL to Vicksburg MS, we were connected by email to John in Clarksdale MS. We suggested meeting for coffee the next day, but he invited us to come by faster so that we could join him and friends in a canoe on the might Mississippi, the very next morning. So we took a right turn before Vicksburg, and found ourselves heading north on Highway 61. Somewhere en-route, among half-flooded fields and tempting diverging dirt-roads, we got to Leland – which turned out to be the birthplace of Jim Henson and where he grew up playing in the streams with his best friend, Kermit. We stopped for a quick visit at the “Birthplace of Kermit The Frog Museum” and symbolically parked ankle-deep in a muddy bog created by a broken pipe. The museum is full of the joy of creation, as well as Muppets galore. Stephanie, the beautiful soul in charge, joined the Heart Community and before we even left had already placed her heart with the Frog for Whom It Is Named, the fabulous and ever-green Kermit. We moved on, Clarksdale beckoned.
For the first time on this journey, we returned to a place. On our stay here a couple of weeks prior – at our presentation in the Temple, in fact – a connection was made. It was this connection that brought us back to Chattanooga, to the Willy Wonka-esque Creative Discovery Museum. On the first day, scores of guests were invited to become active participants in the project, getting yarn hearts to go and mark their spots of significance with. We asked each participant to describe what this Museum meant to them, in one word. On the second day, we returned and created a mural encompassing these words, in the form of a crossword puzzle centered around a phrase. Be here now. A phrase that not just symbolizes the essence of this mural, a tangible art manifestation of life passing a specific place at a specific time, but also the base notion of the entire Mind the Heart! mission to promote and induce mindfulness. Be present. Be aware. Be. It’s also a summation of the most wondrous part of being a child – a state of mind of being in the now, completely engrossed in what you do/build/play with/imagine. We couldn’t envision a more perfect setting and context for all of the above.
Having briefly passed through Asheville, we crossed the mountains into Tennessee. Daylight was fading fast and our fuel faster. Fuel light on, we found an exit and thankfully found a nearby gas stop. It had gotten pretty dark, and we weren’t going to make it to Knoxville tonight anyway, so we searched online for a nearby option where we could spend the night. The last few days it had seemed that all camping grounds on either side of the mountains were either fully booked or very expensive and usually both. But serendipitously, we had stopped less than a mile from a place called Foxfire Campgrounds, which – on the phone – turned out to have vacancies. Getting there, it turned out that we were actually the sole guests on the grounds, our only companion the beautiful soul that was Joan, the camp manager. Under a clear starry sky and huddled around a campfire on the riverbank, we shared life stories and adventures. When Joan turned 50, a couple of years back, she had decided that she would celebrate for 50 days, doing one “awesome” deed in each. These varied from helping stranded strangers on the highway all the way to spending a night in jail, and this brief blog-post will not do them justice. Suffice to say, we stayed an extra night at Foxfire, gained a friend and much insight, and moved on.
Our van – Woody Van Hausen, first of his name – is a glorious friend and ally, but he is old and not so sturdy and therefor we seldom drive for more than 4-5 hours a day. Thus, heading up into the Smokey Mountains en route to Knoxville, we stopped for the night at a Walmart parking lot in Hendersonville, just outside Asheville. After a cold mountain night, we went for a quick workout and hot showers at a local gym and there, during our very final stretches, we met Duchess. Glorious Duchess is 77 and still waits tables twice a week at Bay Breeze, a local seafood restaurant. She is an advocate of hugs and their scientifically proven healing power. She has a mathematical formula which says that 7 hugs of 20 seconds each are the just-right-amount to heal ailments and keep degenerative diseases at bay. Duchess told us how state laws prohibit assisted-living staff from hugging the elderly, for health reasons. And so these seniors, many of whom are far from family and that have lost many of their friends, are devoid of that most basic thing – human touch. Many of the clientele of Bay Breeze are elderly, and Duchess, along with Bobbi the owner and the hostess, make sure to give each person a 20-second hug going in and another going out, 6 hugs in all. They then send these seniors on their way with a farewell of “Now go get that seventh hug yourself!”.
p.s. after farewell hugs with Duchess, we went to Bay Breeze where the food was good and the cakes were heavenly. A couple of ladies at the next table struck a conversation with us and we told them about the project. Hunter, our radiant waitress, overheard us talking and asked to hear more. She then went and brought Kayla and Bobbie, the aforementioned owner. All three ended up participating in the project, Bobbie wouldn’t let us pay for lunch, and we left for Asheville with full stomachs and hearts.
Ahoy Decatur, Atlanta and all! This Saturday afternoon you’re invited to become an active part of Mind the Heart Project and share your spots of significance with the world. From 1pm-5pm at the Decatur City Square (under the shade of the trees), we will be giving out 100 hearts for you to put out there. If you’re not sure what that means, check out this page of the ever-growing Heart Community. And there’s more! Within a week’s time, your photos and stories will be exhibited at the Decatur Arts Alliance, in an exhibition opening October 6th at 6pm. So come one, come all, tell your friends and neighbors and family, and help us spread this message of mindfulness – “Everywhere means something to someone at some point, so walk around with open eyes and an open heart”. Feel free to contact us with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
So – Saturday, September 30th, 1pm-5-pm, Decatur City Square. Be at the square or be square.
Special thanks to Core Dance, Decatur Arts Alliance, the City of Decatur and the Israeli Consulates in Atlanta & NY.
So how does Serendipity lead us on this one year journey?
Lessons in intentional randomness.
The leading force of our project is serendipity, which means the places we go and people we meet are not planned
but rather are conjured through initiating random yet meaningful interaction with people we meet on the road.
In turn they send us to that place we must see, thing we must eat, cousin we must meet if we happen to be in…
We put ourselves in the hands of lady luck, let ourselves be bounced in the great pinball machine of life
and commit to a 24/7 artistic process inspired by all this.
Prologue: We went to Boston to meet the sister of a dear friend for breakfast
and ended up staying at her place for the night.
On the second day, we accompanied her for a concert she played at an assisted-living home.
As she wrapped up her gig, she surprisingly introduced us and the project to the elderly congregation
and a brief Mind the Heart presentation and Q&A commenced.
Afterwards, a few amazing and truly inspiring old ladies approached, in turns, to dive deeper into this.
One asked if we were Buddhists. Another suggested we should go to Woodstock NY and meet Marc at City Hall.
So to Woodstock we drove (through Worcester, to meet a couple of Buddhists,
only as we arrived unannounced at the temple door on the weekend, it turned out that they’re all the way in Denmark).
Now, it turns out that Woodstock does not have a City Hall. Instead, after some searching,
we found a couple of wooden huts/offices at the end of a climbing road on the edge of a forest.
We went into the second of those in search of Marc. Marc wasn’t there, but Bill was.
Bill was weary at first of these two strange artists who have come wandering into his office but warmed up quickly,
told some stories of the wonders and quirks of the town and even recommended spots where we could sort-of-legally park overnight.
We gave Bill a heart.
Epilogue: Marc was actually in the first office-hut. Marc also got a heart.
Turns out that Marc doesn’t really know the elderly lady who sent us from Boston.
Also turns out that Bill is the Mayor (in Woodstock it’s actually: Supervisor) of Woodstock.