i travel a very good bit with the teaching end of my work, going to all corners of the earth these days to share with others the various metal working and mixed media techniques i've taught myself throughout the years. those trips have been rewarding and gracious and memorable, but none of them compare to the trip i took this past weekend - at least not as far as milestones go. this little journey was a true first for me, and for robin, my older son, as it was the first time i'd ventured to see him in his own home away from mine. he's been asking me for months and months to come for a visit; but because of my own stupid busy travel schedule, i was never able to carve out a little spot until this past weekend, when aspen and i finally piled into the car and headed into higher north carolina mountains for boone, three hours from here.
it was a tender time. tender, easy, beautiful. robin was an eager host, leading me through the center of downtown boone, going out of his way to introduce me to his friends we'd happen upon as we walked along and ducked in and out of shops where they worked. there was also joshua, a homeless man robin had told me about over lunch - someone who sits up on main street and makes money by cheerfully selling little pebbles and stories that he has written, copied, and stapled. because i purchased two, he autographed them and allowed me to take his happy photograph. i liked talking to joshua, there with my sweet boy robin, who had also kindly purchased stories from him in earlier times. i think that joshua has found a good home there on the streets of boone, surrounded by understanding young folk who treat him with kindness and respect.
from one downtown shop i found these lovely little hands, perfect for holding my favorite "odd" stone of all time, the size of a large marble (found years ago when walking the beach of port townsend, washington). they will always remind me of this sunny day spent walking with my son, being the guest, the newcomer, the mom who had come to visit and play.
after lunch we joined robin's very lovely girlfriend mary and housemate doug for a trip into the woods to a place where robin was told that "if fairies lived in boone, this is where they would live". having just watched the incredible pan's labyrinth in its entireity two nights in a row, fairies were fresh on my mind, and i relished walking down, down, down deep into a an earthy, fragrant ravine where a rushing stream flowed through enormous stones heavily covered in rich green moss. a glance up provided views like this, a wonderful towering white pine tree, sadly dying but magnificent all the same; a glance down at my feet gave me worlds of magical play spots for fairies, such as the stepping stones of mushrooms growing up one tiny tree. the late afternoon air was kelly green, and smelled of damp fresh dirt and moss and rich sweet nutritious goodness; places like this actually seem to have an energy to them, and we all just melted into it, becoming quiet and reflective while we sat on the rocks and listened to the water wind its way down the mountain there below dangling legs and arms. even aspen settled in to the peace of the moment, diving in to the water and biting it with great chomps before climbing up onto a lichen-covered rock to rest.
yesterday we drove over to the nearby community of valle crucis, a gorgeous valley area that is still fairly unde- veloped (rare these days, sadly) and home to the old mast general store. what a wonderful old place, with creaking wooden floorboards, beautiful stairs leading up to a second floor (see the photo at the top of this entry? check out those layers of paint!), where wavy glassed windows look out to the old road and mountains beyond. it smells of linseed oil, old wood, leather, and a history. there is even a working post office, complete with ancient p.o. boxes. i remember visiting this place back in 1982, three years before robin was born; it hasn't changed that much since then, except for the marks at the front door noting where the waters rose for different storms.
i left robin in boone yesterday evening, driving back home with a quiet and pensive spirit. aspen was worn out, and i drove the winding back roads thankful for a son who has the strength of an independent spirit, thankful for his happiness, his sense of place, his idea of purpose and the very obvious fondness and high esteem with which his friends hold him. i suppose i've done well, in this regard; so why was i feeling so bittersweet and blue, on that long and quiet three hour drive back home?