Simple Gifts

I and some family members are in a small town located in far eastern Tennessee where the annual Apple Festival is underway. Parking is impossible. Were it not for the citizens offering their yards (for a fee), the festival could not happen. We decide to choose a place at random and are guided by a young boy down a short alleyway to a cordoned off lawned area with meticulously marked chalkline parking slots.

An older man clad in overalls directs us to the last spot available. He is a rather jolly sort, with a disarming smile beaming through his southern drawl. “Y’all locals, or visitin’?” He is genuinely interested. We engage in a lovely conversation about the history of Erwin and why an apple festival would be held in a town and area where they do not grow apples. The man is very gracious and welcoming.

We walk on to browse the huge craft fair with all the usual booths featuring woodworking, quilting, visual arts, foods, and…apples of all kinds and preparations. But the man who welcomed us is what sticks in my mind. The rest is kind of a blur. When we are ready to leave, our kind parking host (who is boiling a large kettle of chicken and dumplings in his outside kitchen) helps guide us out of the tight parking spot so we could return home.

It is funny what grabs our attention in any experience. These days I am more inclined to remember a simple act of kindness and the presence of a real time conversation more than anything else in the human world. On the other hand, my connection with nature overshadows anything else. Hiking a trail on top of Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina is a different kind of conversation. But both interactions remind me of the essential beauty of life.

If we simply spent more time in the natural world of the senses and precious human interconnections, we would not need to start another war. 

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