This is a truck that looks as though it is being taken over by lichen. And in the background is another one of Jonesborough’s claims to fame. It’s a wordworking shop.
I remember talking about the national storytelling festival with some friends at Penland one summer, and they got all excited at the mention of Jonesborough. It’s not just famous for storytelling. To my Penland friends, this place was famous as the home of Curtis Buchanan, who makes Windsor chairs the way they were made before the industrial revolution. One of his chairs, commissioned by J. G. Pinkerton as a gift to the storytelling center, sits on the stage where I’m performing this week. That’s as big an honor as opening for Donald Davis.
It was a small audience this afternoon, and small audiences are usually very difficult to perform for. But this small audience was amazingly warm and receptive. I told my mom’s World War II stories, “High School on the Home Front.” Followed by a brand new one titled “Three Assassinations,” which I was nervous about telling. Which Jack sort of made me promise I wouldn’t chicken out on. Which sang on its maiden voyage. And I ended with the story about how I gave away tons and tons of food the summer I worked at Disneyland. One of the people in the audience had taught for 30 years at Orange Coast College, in Orange County, California, where I lived when those three assassinations (Kennedy, King, Kennedy) happened; her response and comments made the whole trip here worthwhile…when a story makes that strong a connection, you quit asking yourself, why am I here performing for 20 people? You remember that it’s not about numbers. You remember that this is a vocation — something that many people search for all their lives and never zero in on. It’s a privilege. And if you make a living at it, you are doubly blessed.
Today I’ve felt the sun at my back.
Tonight I sat out on the back stoop with a glass of wine in one hand, a can of seltzer in the other, and I watched the fog and fireflies. Fireflies! For a brief while, there was an oak leaf being backlit by one of them. It’s a light so soft and subtle and … dear is the only description that does the job.
I feel full and rich tonight.
Tomorrow, “Thomas the Rhymer” will have its maiden voyage. Another one I’m nervous about performing here. Another one Jack made me promise not to chicken out about. His instincts are almost always spot on.
I wish I had a photograph of the fireflies. I hope they come with me tonight into my dreams.