giving a library talk, a luncheon talk, a Hughes public lecture, and hanging 46 of my paintings from Letters from Eden in the school gallery. (Art professor Robert Villamagna and I hung them all in about two hours using a only a hammer, nails, a length of string and our eyeballs, the finest measuring device known.) There was a public opening, and there were a couple of dinners, too.
All this happened over a four-day span. It was really fun. I talked a lot, interacted with students and faculty, stayed in the fabulous alumni house on campus:
Yes, that'll do. Just fine, for a few nights.
I felt so honored to be invited, so delighted to share some stories and paintings with interested, like-minded people. I love being caught up in the current trend of honoring area artists and writers. It's smart; it makes sense, and I thank English professor and Hughes Lecture Chair Peter Staffel for thinking to invite me. Let's face it: it's more affordable than bringing someone in from another state or foreign country, and it sends a message to students that there are creative people worth engaging all around us. That sends a message that they have permission to grow up to be one of those people; that they don't have to flee their homes in order to make their mark. If nothing else, at least I can offer them a living, breathing example of someone who lives in Appalachia and writes and paints about that life.
I can function pretty well with a lot of hubbub, and I enjoy it, but there comes a point when it's time to recharge the batteries. I'm a textbook introvert. When called upon to be an extrovert, I can rise to the challenge, but my resting mode is introvert. I'd guess that most writers are introverts, and many, if not most, artists.
Although there's kind of a stigma associated with being an introvert, I don't believe that it's any better to be an extrovert. It's just different. As Murr points out, it's about from whence you draw your energy. Extroverts draw it from other people, from the hubbub. Introverts draw it from within, and they must flee the hubbub to recharge.** Extroverts accomplish a ton of good things, giving of themselves on boards and committees, gathering others around them, sharing their vision. But I think that a lot of good things come from people who like to work and create by themselves. If the world was composed of only extroverts, we'd all go crazy. If we were all introverts, it would be a really quiet, boring place. We balance each other, even if we don't always understand each other. Right, Dearest?
Along about the last morning of my stay, it was time to walk. I wished I had Chet Baker with me. I've found that being alone with him is better even than being alone. He fits perfectly into that special space where I'm delighted to finally be still and quiet and alone, but I'm just a tiny bit lonely, too. He doesn't analyze or criticize, go off on tangents or make any background noise. He just keeps me company.
I drove north up Route 88 toward Bethany and took the first right turn I found, which is Garrison Run Road. I had seen it on my first evening and made a mental note to check it out. Oh, was I glad I did.
To my eye, this looks like a place which has been strip mined and recovered. I may be wrong, but I think that's why it looks like it does. Which is pretty ironic, because I found it heartbreakingly beautiful with its forest dress taken off.
I don't know. Maybe it's just hayfield. Let's call it hayfield. That's a mighty old barn. Maybe it pre-dates strip mining.
There is actually a palm warbler in the middle of this shot. I didn't bring my telephoto lens, d'oh! because I didn't think I'd have a chance to sneak off and be in nature.
There were migrant meadowlarks singing their little hearts out, too. Oh, what a balm that was to my ears.
There was a big clump of foxtail growing up in the bend of the barn roof, catching the morning sun. I'd never seen that before!
In this landscape, you can see some of the taller buildings on campus, nestled in the forest. It's such a beautiful place to go to college. If I studied or worked there, I'd come to Garrison Run as much as I could. I wondered if any of the students knew to come here to get all fixed up again.
Soon I plunged down into the woods, leaving my car a couple of miles behind. It was so golden, so alluring in the morning light. I could have walked down that road all day.
Oh, pardon me! I didn't realize...
May I ask what exactly you two are doing?
They weren't talking, and I still haven't figured out what these two sugar maples, which appeared to be from separate root systems, were up to. Whatever it was, it was pretty sexy, so I left them in peace.
I walked awhile longer, having a conversation with a redtail and some song sparrows, and then it was time to go back to the surreal world.
As I came up out of the woods, the light played across the hayfields
and the chicory set its blue up against the sky and asked me to pick which I liked more
and neither of them won, really, because they were both beautiful in their own way, and I loved them both the same.