It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves. ~ Andre Gide
A few weeks ago my daughter and I drove up to Asheville, NC, to a reading and book signing by Barbara Kingsolver, one of our favorite authors.
Even though Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina, I think Asheville may be the most recognized (by people outside the state) and beloved (by in-state residents) city in the state. It’s my favorite.
We left Charlotte early enough to arrive in Asheville for lunch and a little shopping. Asheville is a small city nestled in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. According to the July, 2011, census report, the population was 84,458, just large enough to have many big-city amenities, yet small enough to maneuver by car without getting too lost. (Giggle.) Well, my travel companions might not agree with that last statement. More on that in a moment.
One thing I enjoy when I’m in this diverse small-town city is the opportunity to eat at one of the many restaurants that specialize in vegan and/or vegetarian meals. After meeting our friend C at the hotel, we all headed out for dinner at one such restaurant, Homegrown, near the University of North Carolina-Asheville (UNC-A) so we could go from dinner to the auditorium on campus. As promised by DJ, our meals were delicious and prepared with the freshest, best-quality groceries available. I will look forward to a return visit in the future.
So far so good. We were fairly familiar with the route up to this point. DJ had eaten at the restaurant earlier in the year while in town for a conference. And I had entered the campus from this direction – quite a few years ago. I probably don’t need to tell you that our first approach to campus was a bust. We circled out (I was grateful that DJ was driving.) and took another approach. Thanks to my daughter’s memory which is more efficient than mine, we were successful on our second approach.
Malaprop’s, the bookstore where we ordered our books and tickets, had sent us a very rudimentary map of the UNC-A campus. My attitude was that it couldn’t be very difficult to find the auditorium at such a small school. I’m not sure C and DJ agreed with me but they gave me free rein; they humored me. I figured we could stop and ask a student, a nice young teacher at the gym door, or any breathing human. One time years ago my daughter told me I would talk to a fence post. She was right. I don’t fear strangers.
After several stops and starts to ask if we were headed the right way, we arrived at Lipinsky Hall where Barbara K was speaking. It was a bit of a trek but we’re all three hardy types and the walk in brisk late-fall mountain air was invigorating. (That’s my opinion.)
If you’re a Kingsolver fan you know her for The Poisonwood Bible or Prodigal Summer or any number of other books. Her latest, and the one she read from, is Flight Behavior. I don’t do book reviews but let me say this about Barbara Kingsolver’s work: She doesn’t write just books; she writes literature. Many high school English teachers agree with my assessment, as some of her work is required reading for high school students.
In my version of Barbara’s words, Flight Behavior is a novel about a number of things: climate change, monarch butterflies, marriage, the Appalachian Mountains, family relationships. I don’t remember whether she included politics but it’s a word I would add. I found the book entertaining and thought-provoking. Every paragraph, every sentence is its own little work of art. She’s a remarkable author.
Hearing BK read her own work was a rare and special treat for all three of us. She is a native of the Southern Appalachians as are C, DJ, and I. Sometimes I’m tempted to think that’s why we like her work, but that fact can’t explain why her writing is wildly popular all over the world. It does make me have a special warm spot in my heart for her, I think. And it helps that she pronounces Appalachia correctly. (Sharyn McCrumb, another of my favorite Southern Appalachian writers explains the pronunciation here.)
I would like to tell you that Pat the Navigator got us smoothly back to our hotel from the auditorium. Alas, I would be lying if I told you such nonsense. Suffice to say that the on-ramp we were looking for was cleverly hiding near an overpass and we kept missing it. I stopped counting after three passes. Does anyone know if Apple has corrected its latest map fiasco?