Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Off Slope: Carolinas Overflowing


Changes have been brewing in my life for a while now. And I've wrestled with that some. Like a snake resistant to shedding its old skin, I've been holding onto old things that felt secure, though not always comfortable. At times, I think I've been afraid there might not be a new skin underneath.

Then I flew to Charlotte.

My week in the Carolinas was a time of putting away old things, mostly old ideas and even a few emotions, that just didn't fit anymore. And it was a time of embracing new things: new ways of thinking, renewed commitment, sense of purpose, new hope. It was a bit like pieces of a puzzle slipping silently into place. The picture isn't complete, but there is a corner that makes more sense to me now.

The Carolinas were a blessing, a collection of days overflowing with...

hard rain,
cool breezes,
delicate blossoms,
wise instruction,
sumptuous spices,
mountains that roll like the sea,
endearing smiles,
contagious laughter,
exquisite music,
cleansing tears,
soulful conversations,
and a thousand shades of green.


During my first night in Charlotte, I was awakened by a strangely familiar sound...thunder. It doesn't thunder much in Atqasuk and it almost NEVER storms. I've experienced one significant downpour in six years. 

But I was still a little surprised by my own fascination with the rain as it flooded the hotel parking lot. The fluid reflection of streetlights and a nearby traffic signal reminded me of fireworks in winter. The constant pounding and occasional rumbles were a welcome lullaby as I fell asleep thousands of miles from home.


Many of you are already familiar with blogger extraordinaire, Steve Patterson, and his truly wonderful blog, Balance.  Steve and I have been friends for about two and a half years, but met face-to-face for the first time while I was in Charlotte.  We had a great time visiting over a delicious Thai dinner and a few bites of amazingly rich cheesecake.  Don't be fooled by that innocent Boy Scout expression.  Steve is armed with the uncanny ability to duplicate almost any scene from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou...and he's not afraid to use it!


During a regular year in Atqasuk, eating in restaurants is pretty much a pipe dream. While avocados can be ordered and shipped from Barrow occasionally, they are extremely expensive and are often in pretty bad shape by the time they arrive. Really fresh guacamole is basically unheard of, so when Jennifer (a newly hired teacher who will move to Atqasuk in the fall) asked if I'd like to try Cantina 1511, she didn't have to ask twice! And I wasn't disappointed. The guacamole there is not only fresh, they actually prepare it at your table! I ended up eating there three times over the course of the week. Anytime there was a question about where to eat, that was my suggestion. Anyone in the Charlotte area should definitely check it out.


Bryan and Laurie Board are two of Steve's partners in crime when it comes to Oh Brother, Where Art Thou reenactments.  Between the three of them, I had a hard time breathing through constant laughter (and sometimes groans).  I met this beautiful couple around December 2007 when Bryan started his own blog Serenity Exists.  Many, many emails and a few phone calls later seeds of friendship began to take root.   While I was in Charlotte, Bryan and Laurie drove up from their home in South Carolina and spent the night in the hotel where I was staying.  It was a real blessing to meet and be able to spend time with two such open and loving individuals.  


On Sunday, the three of us drove down to Lancaster, South Carolina to attend the worship service at Steve's church.  Afterward, four ravenous friends (once again) consumed large quantities of Mexican food at Los Mariachis.  Some of us may have consumed more than others!  


Okay, in her defense, Laurie had no idea that her "Big-o Fun-dito" was going to be quite so intimidating.  But it was definitely an excellent excuse for an equally large dose of teasing from everyone else at the table.  And there was plenty of that to go around!  Later we spent the afternoon at Steve's playing Balderdash where it became quite apparent that I was completely out of my league!  For anyone who might not be familiar with Balderdash, it's a game based on convincing other players that your fictitious definition of a word is the correct one.  In other words, it's based on lying.  And I'm usually pretty good at that kind of thing, but my wits were no match for my opponents'.  Laurie, the undisputed Mother Superior of Punnery, held the lead for most of the game.  But, in the end, it was the guy with the innocent Boy Scout expression that came from behind to win.  Interesting.

After the game, the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou reenactments continued.  For anyone in need of blackmail material, there are videos.  I'll be keeping them in the vault until an appropriate occasion arises.   

All in all, it was a terrific day that I will cherish always.  And I'm sure those videos will be a source of amusement for at least that long!


The next day I drove to Old Fort, North Carolina to the home of my first roommate in Atqasuk, AnnMarie.  We spent part of the day in Ashville and part of the day at her home in Old Fort.  Her husband, Eric, graciously took me bike riding that evening and I got a small taste of climbing hills similar to those I will probably face in Nova Scotia.  It was a telling experience.  More about that later.


AnnMarie is expecting her first baby soon.  In fact, he/she may already be here!  I need to check on that!

I have no idea what these buildings in Ashville actually are.  I just liked the contrast of the older building reflected in the windows of the newer one...seemed symbolic somehow. 


AnnMarie's and Eric's driveway was actually the most frightening hill we encountered.  I walked the bike up that one and made generous use of the brakes on the way down.  I know what you're thinking, but it's steeper than it looks!


Old Fort is a beautiful area.  Instead of searching for scenic views, all I had to do was point the camera in any direction.



Throughout my wanderings in the Carolinas I encountered plants of every size and shape that were completely unfamiliar to me.  Anyone have a clue what kind of tree this is?...or what those seedish things will turn into?


After seven days in the Carolinas, I was literally brimming with excitement and joy.  As I drove myself back to the airport, I scribbled this sentence onto a scrap of paper...

If I could pour my heart into a cup it would surely taste like honey
laced with the fragrance of all the flowers that have added to its sweetness.

Reading that sentence now, it sounds pretty corny. I'm very tempted to place the blame for that corniness squarely on the shoulders of Will Ackerman who has been my constant companion on this trip. With the right guitar playing in the background, even the most flagrant cliche can sound like divine inspiration (in my mind). Corny or not, though, it's still an accurate sentiment.

I'm thankful for the opportunity, the inspiration, and the friends who generously wove meaning into our moments together, moments that were far too few.


Steve said...

Kimberlee, what a beautiful and sweet posting! Speaking for myself only (although I doubt that caution there is necessary), I wish to be quick to point out that you were the blessing in those occasions. Thank you for the grace and perspective you brought with you, and for the time you spent with me (all of us) during your odyssey.

What you have written here is a treasure, illuminating some of the fine goodness that flows down the valleys of these charmed hills. Do come back.

Kimberlee said...

Thank you, Steve. I'm so glad my thoughts translated well. It was a wonderful visit, but way too short. I do hope there is an opportunity to return one day. Until then, I'm thankful for this connective chord (the internet) that makes friendship possible regardless of geographical boundaries!

Steve said...

Regarding your mystery tree, at first I thought it was obviously an Eastern Cottonwood. But looking further, some of the detail from the photo doesn't appear right for cottonwood. So it might be a Princess-tree. It's hard to tell, but that's as close as I can get at this point.

Kimberlee said...

I think you're right, Steve. I found a website dedicated to North Carolina nature (plants and animals) and emailed photos to the host of that site. He also tentatively identified the tree as a Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) and said that it's very common in the NC mountains, but is an exotic invasive tree, not native, unfortunately. From photos that I've found online, the pods blossom into pinkish trumpet-like flowers. That might be nice. I'll have to ask AnnMarie about it later in the year.

Thanks for the input, Steve. You've got a sharp eye! :)

Rm said...

Hello, Kimberlee,

Thanks for sharing your vacation photos. AnnMarie has a wonderful drive to her house. It looks like a nice place to take a leisurely ride. I was afraid of all the flights and different locations being too much work to have fun or rest on your vacation. I'm glad your trip is turning out to be so much fun. Definitely need info on your Canadian adventure! Love you!

Kimberlee said...

Hey, Rm!

Fun...yes! Rest...no such luck! By the time I get home I will probably not want to step foot on another plane for a couple of years, but right now it's worth it. I have had a lot of fun and it's been WONDERFUL seeing old friends and making new ones. Another thing about the Carolina leg of this journey was that I got to drive a lot. That was a special treat and a definite part of the blessing. When you live most of the year being able to see the end of the road from your doorstep, driving for hours without an end in sight is AMAZING! I have LOTS of photos yet to blog, but internet access has been sketchy. I'm leaving for Nova Scotia in about thirty minutes and I'm not sure if I'll have access there or not. SO...I guess we'll see in a few days. :)
Thanks for checking in on me! I'll talk to you soon.

Love you,

Laurie B in SC said...

Hi, it's Laurie! Your posting is marvelous! I loved your descriptions of our visit and the time we got to spend with you. The whole weekend (it Seems like just one quite long day) was great. It amazes me how an online friendship transitioned seamlessly into a real face-to-face relationship complete with hugs, laughter and tears. You are a precious lady and I'm truly priviledged to call you my friend. My heart is full. Thank you.

Laure said...

hi kimberlee,

i thoroughly enjoyed reading about your sojourns. how blessed you are. by the way, "conferring with the moon is one of my all time favorite cds of wm. ackerman's. hope the new skin is a better fit!!!

Lore said...

It sounds like it was lovely! And how nice to see all that GREEN when I opened your site today! Hope that your time in the lower 38 was rich and restful!

Kimberlee said...

Laurie...ditto on everything you said. I found it difficult to narrow our weekend down into just a few words! Now you and Bryan need to start planning your trip to Alaska! :)

Laure...Nice to meet you! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and took the time to comment. I've seen that Will Ackerman CD, but haven't heard it. I'll definitely give it a try...can't imagine anything he plays sounding bad. :) Thanks for the tip!

Lore...It's so nice to hear from you! My trip has been awesome. And I'm definitely enjoying all the green across the continent, although, Atqasuk probably has an abundance of plants/flowers thriving right now as well. I'm sad to be missing it, but I am definitely thankful for the experiences I've had this summer.