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.
Austin, our wondrous host, had connected us to an art lady in the city. We met her to explore possibilities and while we’re talking she picks up the phone and calls her husband (“you have to meet these two Israeli artists, they’re here right now, where are you?…”) It turns out he is jogging near by. In less than 10 minutes we are introduced to the Reform Rabbi of the community. We are independent thinkers and non-practicing in terms of religion, but here we were, sitting with the two of them, discussing mindfulness, life, beliefs, passions and the pursuit of happiness. And BBQ and ice cream. We spoke quite a lot about BBQ and ice cream. One thing led to another, and so it was that on that very Friday eve, we found ourselves giving a presentation of Mind the Heart! to the congregation at the local temple. An old, historic, beautiful building. Preceding us, the Rabbi had curated an evening of texts from the bible and sermons all dealing with mindfulness, many of which were breathtakingly beautiful. His interpretation of the 2,000 year old text felt deeply modern, and connected to our day-to-day secular experiences.
Our second day of walking-working in this excellent city. Among our findings – a baby tree that had apparently just been delivered by stork, vines clinging, vines that have let go, and the scalp of a pumpkin.
Having been snuffed by the Knoxville teachers, we soon landed in beautiful Chattanooga, cradled by mountains and percolating with genuine creative spirit. A friend in Indianapolis connected us to our host here, a superb & gentle & generous soul, who took us in and also took the time to show us around and introduced us to anyone and everyone.
About a week earlier, we had made a rather dramatic detour – instead of continuing south from Savannah to Florida, we had crossed The Carolinas and The Smoky Mountains into Tennessee – all for a handwritten sheet of paper with the names and emails of two teachers in Knoxville. When we embarked we had emailed them, and later also wrote to the Savannah teacher who had sent us their way, but we never did receive a reply from any of the three. But as the saying goes, and we live by it, all for the best. We felt grateful for this thread as it had led to several incredible serendipitous encounters and experiences. And now that we were here, in Tennessee, we decided to pick up some other threads that were given to us months ago and head on to Chattanooga and Indianapolis. So now, on the way to Chattanooga, we made one symbolic stop and left our heart in Knoxville.
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.