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.
Somewhere in North Carolina, rumbling along in an invigorated Woody the Van, we received a cryptic text message from a marvelous man we had met a few days earlier in DC. “you need to go to elsewhere”. All lower-case, nothing more. While we were racking our brains to decipher this, to even decipher what we’re supposed to decipher, a second text arrived. Elsewhere, it turned out, was a place in Greensboro NC. A magical place run by a magical person, that we just had to visit and meet. So to Elsewhere we went, arriving for dinner and staying the night. It IS a magical place, full to the brim of history and of stuff and of historical stuff. All colors and toys and… stuff. Where objects that have lain dormant for decades are now reborn again and again and again through art. Where collaborative processes take on whole new meanings, on a space/time axis completely of their own.
go to elsewhere: http://www.goelsewhere.org/
And on the same shore, scattered with souvenirs of death and of life, and jellyfish-like-blobs, lay a toppled corpse. Its brethren stood stoically behind its flailing roots, keeping watch. And the waves came and went, and the schools of baby fish silvered the surface, and eagles glided along the shoreline between water and land. And as all of these things happened, minimalist and monumental at once, from the upturned toots blossomed a new forest. A new eclectic explosion of life, which heeds not to what was or what should be, but just is.
As the blankets of night descended upon us, on route from DC to Atlanta, we stopped on the shores of an enigmatic lake where waves materialized from nowhere and crescendoed upon the sand, laying roots bare and tumbling trees. The solemnity and totality of nature were an elixir after several hectic and human-filled weeks. We had left almost all we knew and owned on other, faraway shores, to facilitate exactly this – an all encompassing life process that embraces the unknown, lets go of the past and future and leaps right off the edge, into the now.
Falls Lake State Park: https://www.ncparks.gov/falls-lake-state-recreation-area