Making Good Stories

“Is this crazy?” Stacey asked.

“Not at all,” I said.  “Besides, it’ll make a good story.”

“And you gotta live in order to have stories to write,” Stacey said.  So she called the number.  The woman on the other end – an actress in one of Stacey’s favorite childhood movies – said of course she would love a visitor.  Really?  Well, okay then.   So we got directions and took off for her nursing home.

We found the woman in the afternoon singing group.  She wasn’t about to leave that, so Stacey and I waited in the living room for 45 minutes while they sang songs they all knew – most of which I didn’t.  Lucky for me, there was a community puzzle out as well.  I pieced together a couple birds while Stacey sang along.  A lover of old movies, she knew most of them.

After the singing session was over, we followed as the woman’s personal aide wheeled her back to her room.  Stacey and I visited with her for a spell then Stacey got a picture with her.  With that, we got in the car and returned to Kiawah Island.

We hadn’t started the day with the intention of visiting the former actress.  We simply decided to take a day trip to Charleston – it’s a mere 45 minutes from Kiawah.  We parked at the visitor center and took off on our separate paths.  Stacey walked all over town – the art museum, a couple galleries, a recommended restaurant for lunch.   In the four hours we were apart, I only made it three blocks.  When’s the last time I took that long to get anywhere?  I’m not usually one to dawdle.  But have been enjoying slowing down a bit –  taking my time, seeing where the day takes me, spending hours playing with settings on my camera.

The ironwork under the front porch of a historic home caught my eye.  So I took the straight on shot first (blah)…..

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Then, I got in there, played with some settings, and got something I liked much better:)

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Then the fence across the street caught my eye.  After quite some time I figured out I liked the light better on the other side, so made my way over there to take these…

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Turns out that fence was surrounding the Second Presbyterian Church.  I got down on my back to take a couple pictures of the door.  They didn’t turn out like I wanted, but I had a lot of fun trying.

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Behind the church was a cemetery.  Before the battery got too low on my camera, I caught this on the side of an old tombstone.

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And played with the “vintage” setting on my camera….

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Camera battery low, I headed out to do some more exploring.  Spent a good bit of time checking out someone else’s photographs of Charleston in a shop along King Street.  Turns out the girl stretching a canvas behind the counter took half of them.  She and her father are in business together, so we talked a bit about her craft and her business.

Then I was off to meet Stacey.  At the time, I had no idea I’d spend my afternoon in the nicest nursing home I’d ever seen.  While I had been dawdling, Stacey had remembered a kind act this actress had done for her many years ago.  So she started to inquire about her, knowing she had at one time lived in the area. After enough asking around, someone knew someone…and off we went.  I’d love to share more details, but we were warned by another of her visitors not to let too much out “so people don’t come looking for her.”  Honestly, I’d never heard of her.  But apparently there are plenty of people out there who would come visit if they knew where to find her.

Hayesville –> Asheville

Yesterday I moved out of my lovely home-away-from-home in Hayesville, NC and headed to Asheville.  On the way, I enjoyed lunch and browsing at the City Lights Cafe and Bookstore in Sylva, NC.

I’m in Asheville for two nights couchsurfing with David and Deanne.  I met them yesterday at 4pm and we’re already making plans to see each other again.  They’ve hosted over 100 couchsurfers!  As former teachers, they joined couchsurfing.org because they like interacting with “younger” folk.   I’ve enjoyed my time hiking, eating, drinking, and conversing with them.  I had never tried puttanesca, but David’s concoction has changed my theory that I can’t eat food tainted by hot pepper:)  Tonight, I cooked for them my signature quinoa dish.  By “signature” I mean that it’s my go-to dish when cooking for friends on-the-road.  I can get all the ingredients easily enough, and usually my hosts have the spices required.  Oh how I love to cook and eat with friends – old and new!

Tomorrow I’ll meet my friend Lois bright and early (7AM!) and we’ll take off for Kiawah Island for a week-long writing retreat.  Lois and I met in 2008 during my first class at the John C. Campbell Folk School.  This year, we’ve rented a place with Lynne (also from that first class) and Stacey (from our second writing class at JCCFS).  The plan is this: write, eat, drink, tell stories, laugh, write, critique, eat, drink, laugh over more stories, write, sleep.  We did this last year and it worked out splendidly.

As I continue on my journey, I thought I might try to update my blog each time I’m in the midst of a transition to my next step. I make no promises, but at least for the next week you now know where I am and what I’m up to:)

A Retreat

Today I’m off to the Rhode Island coast for a weekend retreat with my favorite sisters.  I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to have a “favorite” order of religious women, but oh well.  God understands.  I know this because he tells me.  Doesn’t that make me sound like one of those little kids in the scary movies who says she knows the house is going to blow up because the voices told her?  Well, in real life it’s not like that.  I consider God the voice in my head.  You know – the one that tells you…well, I don’t know what he tells you.  But he tells me it’s okay not to capitalize pronouns when talking about him.  And lets me off the hook about a lot of things that growing up Catholic made me feel guilty about.  My favorite thing is to make him laugh.  I do that a lot.  You know that saying, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans”?  It’s true.  I make him laugh all the time.

Anyway, I must get packing.  One of these days I’ll figure out how to get the pictures off my phone so I can post one of this place.  Picture three story circa 1950’s inn sitting on a rock ledge.  Over the rock ledge?  The ocean.  Picture going to sleep at night hearing the ocean.  And if I’m lucky, they gave me a room overlooking it:)

A Writing Retreat

I love that we can learn new things at any age.  In my first writing class at the John C. Campbell Folk School two years ago, not one of us had ever before attempted writing our own life stories.  And we were a group with participants in their 20’s up into their 70’s.

My experience there has led to all kinds of wonderful things.  Not only did I recognize a talent for and a love of writing stories, but I got the motivation to keep it up: a group of us stayed in touch and started an on-line writing group.  The first of every month we send pieces out to each other for critique. This past March four of us from the group reunited at the Folk School for another writing class.  And now we’re planning our own yearly writing retreat!

I would love to again have that feeling of being so excited about life that I can’t wait to start each day.  But in the meantime, what keeps me going are  trips.  A while back I came across a website for a place specifically dedicated to hosting writers for a week to months.  I sent it out to our group saying it seemed possibly “too quiet.”  That’s when I was thinking of going alone.  But to host our group it is perfect.  Five simple but beautifully furnished rooms, large front porches, all overlooking the James River in Virginia.

One of the many fabulous things about my on-line writing group is that when someone throws out an idea, the responses are usually nothing but the enthusiastic let’s-do-it type.  The plans are coming together.  I volunteered to supervise the food schedule.  Each of us will have one night we’re responsible for the meal (there’s a communal kitchen).  Each of us will also serve one night as the sous-chef.  And yesterday I called and e-mailed The Porches to inquire about our dates.  We’re planning for next summer, but a few of us will probably go this summer to “check it out” as Lois says.  (Really, of course, we just can’t wait a year to see each other again, to get away, and do some writing!)

So you know all those things I say about how good it is to do things alone once in a while?  Here’s another reason: you may make some fabulous friends and years later find yourself in a beautiful old home with them overlooking a river, laughing, cooking, and writing.