July 3rd, 2008


A Midsummer Virginia Dream--6/28-29

Before we head of to the pathless wilds of Maine, where there is only dial-up access and I shouldn't be LJing anyway, because of The Book, I thought I'd skive off packing for a little (we're going to be gone 3 weeks, what with Odyssey and Readercon and visiting friends in Boston, so the packing is a little complicated) and tell y'all about our all-too-brief sojourn in the Virginia mountains.

Sunday was all about driving. Avis, for reasons best known to itself, insisted on upgrading us to an SUV that was roughly the size of Rhode Island. We weren't best pleased, since I'm happier driving little cars on windy roads than behemoths, but that's what they had, so that's what we took. It turned out not to be too bad, mostly because the speed limit on the Blue Ridge Parkway is 45, and there was only one occasion when a gentleman on a honking huge motorcycle objected to my stately progress, and I soon pulled over and let him by, so that was all right.

Ellen drove the first bit, getting us to the Parkway, and then I drove, because Ellen loves mountain scenery more than anything, and I don't mind steep, windy roads as much when I'm the one driving. Not that the Parkway's bad in that respect, either. In fact, it was just about perfect. The sky was cerulean, the trees dark and bright. Wildflowers lined the road in drifts of pink and white, with yellow accents. The mountain laurel was just coming into bloom. Also the acacia. When we got out of the woods and stopped at a scenic overlook, we could see for miles, blue mountains folded into the distance, with fluffy white clouds floating over them. At one point, the clouds gathered, turned black, and it poured for about 10 minutes. And then the sun came out.

We stopped about 2pm at Mabry Mills for refreshment. EK had peach cobbler; I had eggs and stone-ground grits. I love grits, even instant ones. These were like corn porridge--chewy and creamy. (I know, I know. I like that kind of thing.) We walked down to the original water mill and watched the cornmeal come out of the hopper, and stopped into the weaving cabin, where an elderly woman was explaining how to thread a loom to some folks who'd clearly never seen one before. Then we realized that we were never going to make it to Abingdon if we didn't get a wiggle on, and left.

There was lots of wildlife on the road. The final count was: 3 deer, 2 wild turkeys, 5 squirrels (3 of them alive), countless butterflies, and lots and lots of cows, including some capering calves. Also 5 pilgrims, walking along the side of the road carrying banners that drooped too much for me to read. The last walker was a Native American man with a headband and his hair in a braid, holding a staff with feathers and (I think) bones tied to the tip with leather strips. I have no idea where they were going or where they'd come from, but they looked absorbed and solemn.

We pulled into Abingdon at 7, finally, and met Charles and Karen at a wonderful restaurant called The Tavern. It's the oldest house in town, a hospital during the Civil War, and a number of things since. There's apparently a ghost in the attic. It must be very contented, since the food is grand (I had crab cakes. Heavenly, light, crabby crab cakes. The very Platonic idea of crab cakes. Also asparagus.) and the clientele correspondingly laid back and cheerful. We certainly were.

We had a lovely time with Charles and Karen. Charles has been commissioned to design and make a fountain for the local theatre company. The subject is A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Titania standing on a tree, ooking into a pool of water, surrounded by fairies and foxes and a tortoise and a hare and many beautiful bronze rocks. Everything's pretty much in place now except Titania, who is nine feet tall and has to be cast in little pieces. Charles is doing the casting himself, with the help of a local sculptor. We saw the foundry and the rubber cast of Titiania's hair and gown and the wax model of her leg and the roses in her hair and the ceramic molds of other bits of her, waiting to have the wax melted out of them and the bronze poured in. It's quite a process. You can read all about it, if you're interested, in Charles's blog: . Scroll down to May for pictures of Titania in progress.

After we'd seen all there was to see, I went and sat in a cafe and wrote for 2 hours because I needed to get Chapter 19 in shape to send my long-suffering test readers and it was pouring down rain anyway.

In short, it was a great visit. The only thing wrong with it was that it wasn't long enough.