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Unmarked Crossings: a poet and her journeys

Monday, Monday at Connemara

March 15, 2010

This morning, I awoke to my cell phone ringing. Because it was still plugged in, I managed to drop it behind the head of the bed before I could answer it. I returned the call (one of the wonders of technology!) only to find it was Delta Airlines (recently merged with Northwest). After trying to access a representative to find out why I was receiving a call, I gave up. I do have a flight booked for mid-April, when I’ll be flying to Denver for AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs). Perhaps the call related to that reservation. I have yet to book my flight to the Austin International Poetry Festival where I am to be an invited/featured poet, but a few clicks of a mouse and I can do that quickly.

I started out this morning to visit Biltmore Estate, between Hendersonville and Asheville. I stopped briefly at the NPS office to let them know that the oven of the stove (and one burner) is not working properly. My frozen pizza was not cooked after about an hour at 400 degrees last night. The top was getting brown, but the crust was pale as my legs in the winter. I ended up flipping the pizza and crisping the crust with the broiler. It’s not a big deal—most of what I have to cook is stovetop cooking, anyway. I left Connie, the NPS superintendent here at Connemara, my copy of Olive Kitteredge for her to borrow and enjoy.

I had planned on some good old North Carolina barbecue, having seen the Hubba Hubba barbecue place right next to the Flat Rock Bakery when I stopped by there my first full day here. I learned to love that dry type of barbecue (which is unlike that which I was used to in the North), when I lived for a couple of years in Chapel Hill. Dry barbecue, doused in rich, strong, sweet-hot sauce and Cole slaw at Red, Hot, and Blue became a tradition for many Saturday nights during my time in “Hippie Hill.” Having lived in Maine for several years, in the heart of tourist country there, I should have known that many places are closed on Mondays to give the proprietors a breather, as was the case with Hubba Hubba. Disappointed, I drove north on Greenville Road and found the South Rock Grill, which looked promising.

How can something as simple as a baked potato be so delicious? I ordered the soup/salad/baked potato bar and a glass of iced tea (unsweetened, I’m a Northerner remember!). The salad greens were fresh and there were lots of veggies to make a great salad. That and a small bowl of black bean soup with some fresh onions should have been enough. When the gorgeous baked potatoes were added to the food bar, I couldn’t resist, however. They sparkled with rough-ground kosher salt and were so hot one needed tongs to pick one up. Fortunately, the only other woman in the place (seriously) had daintily cut one potato in half; I picked up the other half, along with some butter and sour cream. By the time I had finished that incredibly good potato, I was sorry I hadn’t chosen a whole one.

I drove on North, through downtown Hendersonville, thinking of stopping at a bakery I had seen there a few days ago. Monday. Closed! I opted for a dish of freshly made espresso ice cream (but it was so rich, I ditched about half of it) at a Cold Stone Creamery down the block. I also opted to stay in Hendersonville. If two out of the three places I wanted to go were closed, it seemed a bit foolhardy to travel twenty-five miles only to find Biltmore closed, too. But I was out and about and had sated myself with Krispy Kreme a few days before. I had noticed a theater on one of my many unexpected “turn-arounds” (aka wrong turns), so I headed there to see what was showing. Oh joy! Alice in Wonderland in 3-D, no less. It was a delightful film (after I got used to the cumbersome 3-D glasses).

Upon returning to Connemara, I made a stop at the goat barn to visit my new friends there. I am amazed at how many volunteers there are here. There were four or five people mucking stalls and feeding the goats and chickens. I noticed little Chloe, a half-grown Nubian nestled down beside Mariah, a very pregnant Nubian. One of the volunteers said that Chloe was one of a set of triplets, each weighing around seven pounds at birth. Chloe’s brothers and mother were sold, so she is rather an orphan here. She has adopted Mariah and another female as her “mothers.” Chloe is the goat in the middle in the photo of the three goats feeding. The two mature females on either side kept trying to steal her food; the one of the right had even pulled her by the ear. Poor little Chloe will have a rude awakening soon when Mariah gives birth to one or two babies. I’m told, however, that the new kids will take the pressure off Nellie, who has been pestered and teased by a couple of the Tannenburg does. Amazing how much goats are like people!

I’ve been here nearly a week and have get to write anything except this blog. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’m not making notes and that I don’t have ideas swirling around my head. But tonight, I’ve taken out all my notes for my project, Echo, which has nearly come together. There are notes about Eva Peron, Mary Meyer (JFK’s mistress who turned him on to LSD and was murdered after his assassination), and that old TV program Queen for a Day. At the back of the notebook, filled with loose, varying sizes of pages of notes, I found two student essays with a short news story, clipped from the local Danville, Kentucky paper in November of 2008. The headline reads “Garrard murder suspect indicted,” below is a photo of Luther Creech, who had been my student that summer.

I still have difficulty dealing with the acts of that sweet, gentle man who sat in the back row of my composition class most of that summer. It seems that when someone loses his mind and performs acts that no one can understand, those who knew him say, “He was a quiet man…” That’s how I felt about Luther. A model student—polite, prompt, yet somewhat reticent—Luther would have been one of the last people I would ever guess would brutally stab his wife of a few months, then jump from the balcony of their apartment building. He was found by another resident, lying naked, with both ankles and his back broken. Upon investigation, police found his wife dead in their apartment. People who knew him, including his in-laws, were incredulous as to what happened.

I keep the three essays with that newspaper clipping attached to remind me of the man I knew. They are lucid, well-written, and meaningful. One is a response to the film Bowling for Columbine, which I have my beginning composition students watch as a way to see how information can be used to make an argument. Another is an argumentative essay about how important insects are to the balance of nature. The last is on “The Person I Most Admire,” in which Luther recounts the story of an acquaintance who has MS, yet kept his dignity and love for his wife. I have read and reread these essays, looking for some clue that simply is not there. But I can echo his statement about his friend, Mr. Naylor: “As long as I live, I will never forget [Luther Creech]”.
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