Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hurricane Katrina: Living in North Carolina - Friends and Environment

After Hurricane Katrina, I lived in Jackson County, North Carolina, for three years, from May 2006 to May 2009. This post will tell something about my life in North Carolina, focusing on friends and the environment.

DONNA GLEE. Donna Glee has been my friend since we met in New Orleans at Newcomb College of Tulane University in 1971. Donna Glee was sixteen years old and a freshman. I was twenty-one years old and a senior. Donna Glee is a highly creative person. She lives in Balsam, North Carolina, and works in the town of Cullowhee, where she designs experiential week-long seminar retreats for public school teachers through the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. An example of such a seminar retreat might focus on the theme of bread: the participants would learn about the history of bread, hear about the role of bread in story and myth and religion and art, recall memories involving bread, visit a flour mill and a bakery, taste various kinds of bread, bake their own bread, write poems about bread, and experience bread in as many ways as possible.

Donna Glee is very versatile: she is a seminar designer, a teacher, a writer, a Spanish speaker, a problem solver, a registered nurse, and a deep thinker.

I stayed with Donna Glee for my first month in North Carolina. She lives in a brown log cabin on a mountainside in Balsam. During my month with Donna Glee, we took regular hikes up Balsam Mountain and watched old episodes of the TV program Frazier in the evenings. We both agreed that laughing at the Frazier episodes together heightened our enjoyment--we seemed to laugh more heartily together than we would have if we were laughing alone!

MARSHA. After a month with Donna Glee, I moved into what became my permanent address in North Carolina--the basement apartment of a very interesting and creative woman named Marsha. Marsha lived (and still lives) in the main part of the house upstairs. Her house is at the end of a series of ascending paved mountain roads and a long upward dirt road. Marsha's grounds include a wonderful flower and vegetable garden, a large lawn, a forest, and various trails. Marsha also has several blueberry bushes. Marsha's dog, Bella, became a good friend, too!

Marsha is very enterprising. Her enterprises include a thriving landscaping business, a small business in essential oils, a flower nursery business, teaching communication skills and community organizing skills at a community college, offering her home and grounds as a retreat or seminar center, and renting out her basement apartment.

COUNTRY LIVING. I was definitely out in the country, living at Marsha's. I learned that we didn't have to lock our doors! Coming from New Orleans, I had never heard of such a thing! I could see the glorious stars and constellations at night. In fact, I could even walk safely around the mountains at night, often accompanied by Marsha's friendly dog, Bella--who loved to walk with me, day or night.

MOUNTAINS. Living in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, the Smokies, was brand new to me, coming from the very flat lands of south Louisiana. Wherever I looked, there were always the mountains, strong, solid, surrounding. Bare and brown in winter, lush and green in spring and summer, aflame with color in autumn. Roads sloped up and down. When I walked around in Sylva, the county seat, I found that the next block over was often directly above or below the block where I might be situated; in other words, I had to climb or descend to walk to the next block!

DRIVING. Living out in the country, in the mountains, meant that I had to drive to get anywhere. Getting to work was a ten-mile, twenty-minute drive each way, and this was considered close. In New Orleans, on the other hand, I was used to a bike ride of ten minutes or less to get to work. In fact, it was often possible in New Orleans to have a week or more go by without needing to use my car.

SNOW. Snow was a problem, though a beautiful problem. I taught at Western Carolina University, which didn't normally close when it snowed because most students lived in campus dormitories and could walk to class. Although faculty and commuting students were told that we should discern safety for ourselves and not come to the university if we judged the snow and road conditions to be dangerous, I nevertheless felt obliged to be present for my classes if at all possible. The first time it snowed heavily, I actually tried to drive to the university and had a terrible, frightening time. The normally twenty-minute drive took over an hour and a half, and I got stuck twice. (Marsha was out of town that week, so she wasn't present to advise me!) After that, I spent the night at the university on the sofa in the faculty lounge whenever snow was predicted. This got old very fast! I also had to park my car at the bottom of the long dirt road leading up to Marsha's house when snow was expected.

FARMER'S MARKET. I discovered a fantastic farmer's market in Rabun County, Georgia, called the Osage Farmer's Market. Naturally, I gave it a French pronunciation at first--Osahge--but I quickly learned that the pronunciation is Osayge. The Osage Farmer's Market is open from appoximately Memorial Day at the end of May until the end of October or beginning of November. The wonderful fresh produce includes amazing heirloom tomatoes! Oh, these are so delicious! The Osage Farmer's Market also has wheels of hoop cheese and various homemade breads and honey from home-raised bees.

THE FOUR TOWNS. Four towns interconnect in the area where I lived: Sylva, Dillsboro, Cullowhee, and Webster. Sylva is the county seat, with a main street and lots of small businesses. Dillsboro has artsy shops and boutiques and caters to tourists. Cullowhee is the site of Western Carolina University, with many students and professors living there. Webster is a country town--most of the houses are surrounded by land with cows and horses.

WEST CAROLINA INTERNET CAFE. This wonderful internet cafe opened in Dillsboro right about the time I moved to North Carolina. The proprietor, Theresa, lives above the cafe. Theresa offers a menu of delicious soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastries, as well as all sorts of coffee and tea and smoothies. She also has an array of computers as well as wireless service for those who bring their own laptops. The cafe also has a room with a television and a movie screen, and Theresa occasionally shows a film of an evening. Various groups and classes meet at Theresa's cafe. Theresa has two small dogs, Oscar and Rusty. Oscar starred as Toto in Smoky Mountain High School's production of The Wizard of Oz!

SOUL INFUSION TEA HOUSE AND BISTRO. Soul Infusion is a great tea house owned and operated by Karin and Jason. Soul Infusion has a huge variety of teas and beers. Karin also prepares delicious lunches and dinners daily on a rotating menu. Her cream of mushroom soup is absolutely fantastic, and I have never had a more delicious (or more lovingly prepared) Cobb salad anywhere! Interesting conversations always happen at Soul Infusion--with Jason or Karin or with any of the many interesting people who frequent Soul Infusion.

SPRING STREET CAFE. This is the best reasonably priced fine dining place in Sylva. Spring Street Cafe is owned and operated by Lisa. Lisa herself bakes the delicious cakes and pies for dessert. Lisa's blueberry pie is one of my favorites. I always loved the Sunday morning brunch at Spring Street Cafe, especially the Rock Star Oatmeal--delicious oatmeal with soy milk and fruit, a huge bowlful! During the summer months, Spring Street Cafe is open for lunch and serves wonderful sandwiches. My favorite was the one named for my office mate at Western Carolina University, the Lizzie! Designed by Lizzie herself, this is a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with avocado!

EL PACIFICO MEXICAN RESTAURANT. This is a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Sylva where Donna Glee and I liked to eat. El Pacifico serves huge bowls of delicious chicken soup (sopa de pollo) with avocado in it and cilantro, and limes to squeeze into the soup. I always gave Donna Glee my lime because she LOVES lime in her El Pacifico chicken soup, and it's far more fun to watch Donna Glee enjoying TWO limes in her soup than to enjoy one myself!

ARTHRITIS. I've had arthritis, particularly in my right hip, for years. Much to my surprise and delight, I found that when I began taking daily walks in the mountains, the pain in my right hip all but disappeared! I haven't set up a walking routine in New Orleans, but I can tell that my right hip needs one!

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