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Are We Any Closer to Being Further Away?
I taught behaviorally handicapped middle school children in 1995. The Johnston County School system sent me to a retreat that was held at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, NC. I rode up with a man who taught BEH kids in Smithfield. He was an associate pastor as well as a teacher. We listened to recordings of his sermons during the drive up. He preached with a sing song rhythym and people said "amen" whenever he took a breath. The organist would urge him along when his tempo slowed. A chord would be played, building until its sound overwhelmed the young ministers fading voice. He would increase his volume until it satisfied the organ, equalling or surpassing its greatness. When the tapes were done, the young minister would speak to me in a hopeful, but cautious tone. Often, he would cup his hand on my shoulder when he related an epiphany or personal victory. I'd take my eyes of the road and see him looking forward, rocking as if his entire body were nodding in agreement with the trip, my speed, the horizon, the future...maybe realizing some further knowledge in his story.
The retreat overwhelmed me. I was a first year teacher and most of those attending were veterans of decades of special education. They were there to have their batteries recharged, to have their faith in the repair of broken souls restored. The men had beards and wore corduroy. The women all smoked and carried complimentary gift bags full of every available pamphlet that was displayed on the greeting table. During the seminars some would remove the ones inviting them to Tweetsie Railroad or Valle Crucis or the Biltmore Estate and stare at the pictures.
I skipped out on the Saturday afternoon series on acceptable restraining techniques and went to a book store in Black Mountain. I picked up a new book (in used condition) about the Black Mountain School. It talked about Dreier, Corso, Creely, and Olson, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, and Rober Rauschenberg. In the winter, when the Assembly abandoned the campus it leased it to a collective of intellectuals and academics who forged a collective that taught in a way that really had never been attempted before. I carried the book back to the retreat and sat on the steps of the porch of Lee Hall. I read and when I reached a photo that felt familiar, I raised my head to find that I was viewing the very sight captured in the photo. I was feet from the very columns that were in the picture. I flipped to the index and learned that the location of the Black Mountain School was at the same place I'd come to, well, retreat. Lee...retreat. Well, it made sense to me.
Last weekend, Easter weekend, I went on a fishing trip in the North Carolina mountains. Flyfishing for trout. I caught a few rainbows, no browns or brookies. I released them all. I saw a beaver come out of his lodge not ten feet from where I stood in the Big Horse River. I watched the sun go down while I waded in cold moving water four consecutive evenings. Easter morning I woke early, climbed to the top of the ridge and read St. John's account of the resurrection and of Christ's appearance to the two on the road to Emmaus. When I looked up from my Bible I found I was viewing the very sight described in the apostle's words.
If you can ever wade out into cold, flowing water and feel the pressure gently move you, carefully bring your eyes up from the smooth stones you are standing on and look out. Flyrod or no, it's worth telling someone about.



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post #53
bio: jason
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4/18/2006
22:21

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