More Feels Right

Troublesome Gap on the Day of My Separation, Madison County, NC, 1983.

I had very thoughtful responses to my blog post of a couple of weeks ago titled “representative.” In the entry, I expressed the difficulty in finding words or pictures that are truly typical or characteristic of Madison County given the diversity that now exists in our mountain community. I suggested that one common thread for the vast majority of residents is the place “just feels right” and that perhaps this is the most accurate and true representation of place.

Grant Trevor, an old friend and long-term newcomer to the county, expressed a concern that what “felt right” about Madison when we moved here decades ago – the isolation, the sense of community, and the sheer beauty – continues to be a part of the place forty years in the future. Pac McLaurin, a photographer and instructor from Valle Crucis who moved to the region fourteen years ago, spoke of the complexity of the words “feels right,” and how it’s different for everyone. He also spoke of the changes occurring in Watauga County that have diminished his own sense of place.

I do a lot of driving with my work. In the past year, I’ve made trips north to New England, south to Florida, west to Kentucky and Arkansas, and east to Winston-Salem and Durham. I enjoyed each of these places, some more familiar than others, and the people I met there. There were elements in each place that felt good, but also things that kept it from being a place I would want to live. The heat, the cold, the bugs, the noise, too many people, too big, can’t see the stars, crummy air and water, too conservative – it’s always a combination of ingredients that keep places from just feeling right.

But driving home from any direction, there are specific points on the highway where things seemingly change – mile marker 75 on I-40 and Sams Gap on I-26, for example. In each of these locations, the air suddenly feels cleaner and crisper, the smell is more alive and vibrant, and my vision is stimulated by the uniqueness of what I’m seeing. It’s a physical and sensual response and my body unconsciously relaxes with the knowledge that I’ve arrived home to my spot. It’s a feeling that has been consistent over my forty years of living here regardless of the changes, both good and bad, that have come to our place.

On Lower PawPaw, Madison County, NC, 2012.