Tuesday, July 23

Many Muses


Many Muses

    Aerial shot of downtown Spruce Pine, NC

     In mid-July, in the town of Spruce Pine, NC, situated beside the rambling Estatoe River, with hundred year-old train tracks weaving between the two in perfect harmony, is the Rotary Club’s annual BBQ & Bluegrass Festival. My jobs as a Rotarian vary from selling tickets at one of the gates, to telling visitors where such-and-such is, and cleaning up tables set up under long tents where people sit to enjoy eating platters of slow-cooked BBQ ribs, chicken, and all the fixin’s that go along with them.  As a result, I get to briefly chat with scores of people who pack the tiny town’s streets and parks for two days.

It’s an amazing world we live it. And the people we share this world with are an amazing lot. I meet all kinds from everywhere: The quintessential nuclear family with mom, dad, and the 2.5 kids. (Yes, there really is a .5 child. You should see the teeny tiny ones being maneuvered in strollers through the crowds.) There are also plenty of elderly folks with walkers, canes or significant others they use as human canes.  I particularly admire them for they don’t let advanced age and physical limitations inhibit their participation or fun.  Among the crowd are a fair number of good ol’ boys and good ol’ girls, and not-so-good-boys and the girls who love them.  And there are always plenty of tourists wearing their stiff, brand new “I Climbed Mt. Mitchell!” tee-shirts and mud-free hiking boots, with plenty of cash to spend, while off to the side stand those pooling their change in order to buy one plate of BBQ.

The entertainment is made up of numerous clogging teams (a style of jig dancing brought over from Scotland and Ireland), and musicians playing bluegrass on dulcimers, guitars, banjos and fiddles. Speckled throughout are tents and tables with craft people hawking every kind of art imaginable from dream catchers to jewelry.  And, of course, there are the stars of the party; the BBQ cook teams and food vendors who cook up everything from BBQ’d turkey legs to entire hogs. All of these many different and wonderful people, with their many different reasons for being at the event, bring me to the point of this blog: At this one event, in this tiny mountain town, I’m in the midst of enough material from which to glean a thousand stories.

If a writer or artist of any medium is feeling blocked or “flat-lined” as I refer to it, then go somewhere where there’s a crowd, and there’s nothing that draws more of one than a festival or fair. There you will find an abundance of muses, for everyone has a story to tell if you just give them a speck of time to tell you a little bit about theirs. Not enough people do that—ask someone what their story is. We’re so self-absorbed. Or maybe we’re afraid if we ask a question or two, that’s asking one too many questions and we’ll be thought of as being nosey.  I can’t think of a time I ever found that to be the case, though. When I ask someone about what they do, where they’re from, or how they ended up on the same street as I happen to be on, I find that people are only too happy to tell me. Reason: People love to talk about themselves. They think their story is interesting, and the fact is that usually at least some part of it is.

Perhaps we ought to spend less time looking inward for creative inspiration, and spend more time looking outward. We live in a wonderfully rich world, full of the greatest inspirational resources: each other.


    Crowd assembling for the bluegrass band, Balsam Range.

12 comments:

  1. What a great post, Janie! Yes, yes! One of the best inspirations for writers is to simply listen to the people and the world around us! Thanks for reminder!

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    1. Thanks, Nan! Sometimes we just have to get out of ourselves, don't we?

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  2. I love this idea, Janie, and I do it all the time. Head to our mall (winter time) or amusement park (summer/fall) and just watch the people. It's always fascinating!

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    1. Amazing to see who all we share this beautiful planet with, isn't it, Kristi?

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  3. It's my favorite thing about airports, too. We went to the storytelling festival in Jonesborough, TN one year and it was nearly as much of a sensory overload as a writers conference, but there are still things I remember, and places, and scents... Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Liz! I live a little over an hour from Jonesborough. Where are you?

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    2. In Indiana, but I have a sister-in-law in Church Hill, TN, a granddaughter who's an assistant volleyball coach at Tennessee Tech, and a son and daughter-in-law near Mars Hill, NC, so we spend time in your neck of the woods. :-)

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    3. Just let me know when you're here. I'd love to meet up with you, Liz.

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  4. I agree Janie. Most people love to talk about themselves, if given half a chance. There's a show on Canadian TV called "Hello/Goodbye" which takes place at Pearson Airport in Toronto. The host goes up to people and asks what brings them to the airport. Some of the stories are amazing. I remember one where they interviewed a woman and an older man. The woman was on her way back to Britain. Turns out the woman's mother had never told her, or him, that he had fathered her child when he spent time in Britain. The daughter was meeting her father for the first time at the age of 50. There's always a story.

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    1. That's a great story, Jana. I smell a book in the making!

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  5. I wished I would've known in high school how easy it is to talk to people if you ask them questions about themselves. LOL After working in retail, I'm a master now. Live and learn...

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  6. Unfortunately, wisdom and wrinkles are bosom buddies.

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