Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jackson County Revisited

Last week saw my return to CAP for a week of WorkFest 2009. For all of you who yearn for the simpler days of hotterthannewlove, this is your encore.

I stayed with my good friends Ross and Sarah in lovely Berea, KY, in the guest quarters of their chateau, a lovely spring rendezvous. Kentucky was a gorgeous 65 degrees and the red buds and white flowering trees were blooming where the bluegrass meets the mountains. Eastern Kentucky really is the most beautiful part of the country, due to its rolling hills, sharp rock faces, flowering trees and rolling brooks and branches. Everywhere there are little water falls and country roads that lead to outlooks rarely beheld by anyone who doesn't live there.

I just can't write another blog about going home. But it really WAS like going home. Going to mellow mushroom with Taye, Ross, and Sarah, driving in a CAP truck around the curves and dangerous cliffs, the Mennonite doughnuts, putting up siding and soffit in the rain, going to mass at St. Claire's, and truly loving what you do. It was ideal, it was poetic.

And yet, it was most akin to living as a ghost in an old life, wandering like a grey pilgrim in forgotten dreams of the past. Seeing figures and people you've loved and fought side by side with. At the same time though, it is encouraging to know that the good work of CAP continues despite your absence. You can see bits of yourself that continue on, old jobs, friends still doing good work, your nicknames for brigand crew leaders (Black Blackness). But like a grand play, a new act has begun and your character has been written out of the script.

It was neat though to be just another calm worker at workfest. I didn't have to run any crews, didn't have to entertain any volunteers. I could just calmly put up siding with Sarah, or take a couple volunteers aside to teach them how to make a deck or hang soffit. We were working on a new house which Ross designed in Owsley county. I never got to work on a new house build, so it was great to work on a project that was actually square and level.

At various times during the week, people would come up to me and ask, "I was here last year and weren't you part of the Perfect Storm?" I'd just reply, "Naw, that guy is way cooler than me ... better looking too." But, at one point during the week, Ross and I worked together on siding one side of a house. Like the blending of a warm front and a cold front, we worked together seamlessly, almost throwing the siding up, much to the awe of the onlooking college students. So, while the P.S. has passed into the legend of the hills, it also lives on.

Also funny to me was the current occupation of volunteers from last year's volunteers and they include the following; CAP crew leader, GAP clerk, painter, unemployed, teacher's aide, substitute teacher, co-op worker, grad student, Newman Center employee, retreat leader, social worker/unemployed beach lounger, massage therapist student, physical education student, and pecan farmer. It's great proof of how CAP prepares one for a wide range of future skills and vocations.

But, like all homecomings, this one was sorrowful in some ways. I kept expecting to see Tonks awkwardly talking to some college guy, Jesse getting the vote, or UBS man climbing some dangerous mountain peak. But, they weren't there. These were just memories and had somehow passed me by. It seems, once again that memories, memories are all I've got.


Quote of the day:

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.

And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away

p.s. I'd probably have funnier blogs if funny things happened in the town where I work that smells like a fart. But, what with the wedding and our uncertain future, you should get a good mix of adventure and political thought in the coming months. It's all part of the trip.


John said...

That's a good quote. Debbie's dad plays/sings that song on his guitar. I do enjoy. Nice to know that if I learn it, I'll have someone else to sing along with me.

Anonymous said...


Remember the movie Seabiscuit?

I really liked the character that Jeff Bridges played.

But think back about how his "future" was changed so sadly and dramatically from what he thought it would be.

Yet, somehow, he continued to be compassionate and loving as well as passionate and optimistic.

As you say, CAP prepares people for a wide variety of "futures".

And you are prepared, so worry not about tomorrow, or the "future", since you are living the present properly.

dies irae said...

"brigand"? I prefer "confederate".

FYI - The new house wasn't square. By the time we got the roof on, I wouldn't be surprised if it was 3" out.

It was great to see you! Hopefully we'll cross paths again in May.

You got any recommendations as to what goes with Joe's grape juice?

Samwise Gamgee said...

That particular brand of Joe's grape juice is very delicate. Pinot Noir is a subtle and gentle grape juice so it has several subtle flavours and a nose. So you can either enjoy it alone or with a fine red meat or some nice salmon or some Mennonite doughnuts.