My room mate and friend, Mary Mike hiked most of the trails around the campus and brought back a bouquet of small limbs filled with leaves of gold, red, orange and magenta. She put them in a pitcher and sat on her bed and painted them with watercolors. I just enjoyed looking at them.
Mealtimes are fun at Wildacres and the food is delicious. We sit about ten people to a round table and we are served a meat dish in a large platter with a couple of side dishes. A salad bar is set up in the center of the room. Dessert is placed beside each plate. It is good that we have to walk a ways to the dining room and back up a hill after we eat hopefully using a few of the calories we take in.
I love almost every person I have met at this retreat where I came for several years in the past. Lots of hugging goes on when we see each other again. This year I was very happy to see Sidney again. I met her the first time I went to Wildacres. It was her first time as well. It was good to see how far she has come with her writing in the past five years. Her novel is almost complete.
One pleasure for me is visiting the studios of the painters and potters. Dorothy, from Asheville, is a potter. One day I'd like to try my hand with clay. I think the process would be most therapeutic, molding and creating with my hands. I think writing is creating with my mind, but I was once an oil painter and I remember the deep satisfaction I received from watching a scene develop on canvas. I remember the contentment that crept over me when I saw something I created with brushes and paint.
Mike House, Director of Wildacres, is amazing the way he knows all the details about the place. One windy evening he called out to someone leaving a studio, "Be sure to close that door real good. It doesn't always latch, and the wind will blow it open and it will bang all night."
He is dearly loved by the guests and so is his family. His beautiful wife, Kathryn, is on staff and she played balaphone for us one night. Mike plays keyboard and usually entertains us on the last night of the Gathering. This year I requested Forever Young, a song he sang the first time I came to Wildacres, and he sang it for me that cold snowy evening before we left the next morning.
I kind of wish The Gathering was not so popular because now you have to register early or be put on a waiting list. I used to be able to get a private room but now we are told there are no private rooms available.
This year I had the opportunity to talk at great length with Jan Parker, writer from near Raleigh. She is on the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers' Network. I introduced her to NCWN West, our writing group here in the mountains. She gave me a copy of a book of poetry published by Main Street Rag. I gave her a copy of Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, the anthology published by our group. We discussed her visiting us in the coming year.
Wildacres holds many events during the year and there are two gatherings where you are on your own to do what you love best. Check them out. www.wildacres.org