Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hambidge Update #1

Here I am at the Hambidge Center, a writing retreat located on 600 acres in the beautiful mountains of north Georgia—which really is like living in a rain forest, with almost endless rain during this, the dry season.  So I’ve mostly stayed holed up, writing and reading, listening to the drumbeat of the rain on my cozy cabin roof. 

Oh, listen to me talk like I’m some big hiker…when I did walk down a trail earlier in the week, one that looked wide and flat and simple and straight, I turned around the minute it intersected with another trail, one that looked narrow and steep and curvy.  In my defense, I had neither a trail map [which I can barely read] nor water, so turning around was probably smart.  Also, I didn’t have my colony-issued “bear bell” or my colony-issued orange vest, which I was advised to wear so the wild pig hunters don’t accidentally shoot me…apparently there’s open season on wild pigs and the way they’re hunted here is with packs of dogs wearing GPS collars.  The dogs find the pig and then the hunters find the dogs (I’m sorry, but that seems a little lazy?).  So, I ask you, which is scarier—wild pigs, packs of dogs, or the men with the guns?  See why I’m using the rain as an excuse to hole up?

But yesterday, I had no excuse:  no rain!  I grabbed my trail map and off I went, Lewis & Clark-style through the woods, trail after trail, for 45 minutes.  I never realized how beautiful  mushrooms could be!  Soft light filtering through tree leaves!  Ferns!  Babbling streams!  Once back, I was feeling flush with pleasure, then I remembered someone mentioning all the poison ivy around...oops.  But since I was wearing boots and pants, I would be fine, right?  Um, not necessarily, according the the internet which helpfully told me that poison ivy oil remains on clothing about forever.  Immediately, I started to itch  psychosomatically. Nothing stuck, so perhaps I'm out of the woods (haha). I suppose the real issue is how about I avoid stepping on anything that looks like poison ivy...which would be about every plant out there, except the mushrooms.

The food here is amazing.  We get vegetarian appetizers and dinner Tuesday through Friday, and the chef really knows her way around vegetables (and desserts!).  Which was the better dessert, red velvet cake or little blueberry doughnuts…oh, so hard to decide!  Last week we all learned about zipper peas, which I’ve never heard of and which were yummy…and I saw a five-pound bag for sale in the freezer section of the Piggly-Wiggly (yes, I just wanted to drop in that name).  In fact, there were a bunch of peas and beans I’ve never heard of.  I’m not normally a pea/bean person, but the zipper peas have given me courage. 

On the other hand, I’ll report that the weekend barbecue by the produce stand on the highway is awfully good, so let’s not do anything rash with regard to vegetarianism… One of the side choices was cornbread salad, something I discovered in South Carolina that you never–ever see up north!

One night several of us went to a local bar and heard a great Southern rock band.  The people in the bar were pretty welcoming, and I learned where the speed traps are, heard about why NASCAR is fun, and got an earful (as I knew I would) about the evils of the movie Deliverance, which was filmed around here.  I had just reread the book (recommended!) which is set in this area; people are still angry about the portrayal of the people living in the mountains.  No one really comes off well in the book, I would say, not the suburban men either, but I will definitely confess to feeling creeped out those late nights when I was reading the book.  (Here’s an interesting article from the Oxford American by James Dickey’s daughter about the area and its relationship with Deliverance.) 

On Saturday night, there was a reading/presentation for the community, and it was a joy to learn more about my co-residents’ creative pursuits.  Really amazing stuff going on here…if you’re interested, the next application deadline is September 15!  (Application info here.)

Back to work!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.