…and its opposite.

You’d never guess what’s out there beyond that wall…

Today was my first full day at Arrowmont.  Things went a wee bit haywire before I left; I’d originally planned to leave Thursday afternoon and spend the night with friends in Indianapolis, but that didn’t happen, so I drove here in one go Friday.  And, due to the  haywire-ness, I’ve had to cancel two visits to old friends that had been planned for ages, while wending my way between here and Women’s Studio Workshop. Instead, I’ll immediately return to Chicago for 10 days to take care of business.

Yesterday’s drive should have taken just under 10 hours but took well over 12, due to a chunk of 1-75 that was missing (looked like might have slid down the mountain) outside of Knoxville, and then worse: driving through Pigeon Forge on a Friday evening.  I can’t even begin to explain; I’m trying to forget.  But we are in Dollywood Territory, and what that has become is INSANE.  Giant ‘attractions’ that look like half of the Titanic, packed in next to thousands of others like enormous King Kong figures with glowing red eyes, popping flashing animated signs everywhere, Shark Attack!, fake mountains obscuring the real ones, and traffic to rival a Chicago rush hour. Gatlinburg, which I remembered as a sleepy little mountain town from way back in time, is now like Pigeon Forge’s even cheesier sideshow. I am so, so very sad for the dignity of the beautiful, haunting Smoky Mountains themselves. But when you turn in the driveway to Arrowmont, suddenly, you are in a small peaceful haven, a different universe. One step out, though, and it is immediate, total tourist hell and there are multitudes, thronging the sidewalks, choking the roads. Food everywhere; none of it real. Corn dogs, fudge, taffy, deep-fried Oreos. I actually ate at a Subway, because at least they had a tub of squashed avocados, some shredded lettuce and flabby pink tomato slices, the only vegetables I saw.

One of those dormers is mine.

But tomorrow night, Arrowmont begins feeding us; most of the instructors and students will arrive during the day. Somehow, I had it in my head that classes began at 9am on Sunday; no.  There’s a short session at 7:30 pm. and it all really starts on Monday. I’ve met 4 of the folks in my class; 3 are working here. And friend Kerri is here, working for six weeks, getting a show ready!  Sweet!  So is the little Valley / Voith beater: it overbeat abaca beautifully in just 3 ½ hours today; perfect shrinkage and translucency. With luck, I might not have to go back out that driveway till I’m headed home.