Wednesday, July 22, 2009

dusting off my dulcimer

Truth is, I don't play the dulcimer all that often. It reminds me too much of Tennessee. A state that wrapped me in its arms and taught me to be still. I miss East Tennessee the way people miss first loves. She is my phantom limb. But it wasn't a place I could be, at least not now. When the southern October came my heart broke. There was no chilly air, no need for hooded sweatshirts. Hot cider, hay rides, and Halloween felt like castrated versions of their northern selves. I barked for frosty mornings. The death of my North East Autumn had me packing my bags for the Rockies in 18 months.

With that said, I have regretted leaving Knoxville everyday since. For that reason the dulcimer just sits on my mantle under an antique child's puzzle of the United States and old license plates from places I used to call home. It collects dust. It just makes me too lonesome for fried pies and Cades Cove. Sometimes items become time capsules through no fault of their own.

But tonight I dusted her off and spent a little time looking through old photos of dulcimer hikes in the Smokies. My roommate Heather and I would pack snacks and some backwards mountain instruments (She had a bowed psaltry. This was before we both became fiddlers) and we'd just find a mossy stream in the woods and play. Usually by one of our friend Brian's favorite fly-fishing holes. Tennessee does this to you. It makes sensible Pennsylvanian design students run into the woods to play 100-year-old songs. After Heather graduated from Design school she moved to Knoxville. She could not help herself.

As the sun went home, I played on the porch for quite some time. I strummed soft slow songs, humming as I did so. The same ones I played in the southern mountains. Annie laid her head on her paws to watch me. (A peaceful dog in candlelight soundtracked to dulcimer music is a poem.)

I played those ballads knowing I could always go back, but with a little wisdom and a sly smile. See, I know if I scramble back into those hills I'll be back in heaven, but come late September I'll be barking for a Vermont Fall. There is no Autumn like a New England Autumn, and Vermont is the First Church of that sacred season. But Fall's not here yet, and I wish I could hide in the groves of Elkmont tonight. I want to be bathed in the light of fireflies. You have not experienced fireflies till you've met them in the Smoky mountains. Trust me on this one.

We always want what we used to have.

Tonight was for Tennessee.

15 Comments:

Blogger Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

Cades Cove calls my name often.
My novel in progress, is set in 1929 Cades Cove.Your mind wanders her in your strings, mine wanders her on my keyboard! :)

July 22, 2009 at 10:41 PM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

Awww....Jenna...this made me feel kind of sad for you. I can't imagine what it must feel like to feel pulled by two beautiful areas. There are times I think seeing more of the world would be great fun. But, northeast wisconsin is my home. I can't imagine not being able to experience the seasons and beautiful scenery here. I, like you would bark for my gorgeous fall days and brilliant winter sunsets.

July 23, 2009 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger ammamcp said...

Cades Cove is my favorite place in the world, truly. Thanks for taking me back for a visit!

July 23, 2009 at 12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in West Tennessee where the land is flat compared to the East. Every fall Cades Cove calls me and my husband and we answer. We hike until our legs want to fall off and our bodies beg for more food. I have never been to Vermont or New England, never farther North than Virginia. I love the fall - it is my season. One of these days... I'm going to Vermont.

July 23, 2009 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Jody M said...

That is so true about fireflies. Somehow they make the magic of the Smokeys stronger. I need to get back down there...

July 23, 2009 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger HEATHER said...

Jenna! I remember the day we took those pictures. I still go to that fly fishing stream at least once a month to play. It's still one of my favorite places in the mountains.

July 23, 2009 at 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. I've never been to Cades Cove, nor to Tennessee for that matter (I'm a MN gal) but Jenna you make me want to hop on the next plane south to visit it! I agree with your stance on autumn, though - I would so miss it if I were ever to leave the midwest for warmer pastures. And, as odd as it may sound, I'd sure miss the cold bite of winter too.

July 23, 2009 at 12:15 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

I grew up in Illinois, and have now lived in Texas for about 25 years. I still miss fall (and a proper winter) oh, I'd say...EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I'm rooted though, I'm afraid.

July 23, 2009 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

I can relate. I feel that way about NH/VT. I have only made it home once since 1994. Autumn has always had my heart and i am a die hard new englander. But seems i married a west coastie and now have had to settle down here. But new england always tugs at me ...

July 23, 2009 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Jenna--that is just exquisitely beautiful. mimi

July 23, 2009 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Rhonda Jean said...

: - )

July 23, 2009 at 5:39 PM  
Blogger Tora: said...

What wonderful prose - reminiscent of Prodigal Spring by Barbara Kingsolver...one of my favorite books of all time.

July 23, 2009 at 6:38 PM  
Anonymous dawn said...

so beautifully written, jenna.

July 24, 2009 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

This was beautifully written. I love reading your posts.

July 24, 2009 at 4:44 PM  
Anonymous angi said...

I'm trying to sell my house in WV and move to Knoxville and, wow, if I had any doubts about my decision, that post would have knocked 'em flat. You somehow made me feel homesick for a place that I have never even lived in. Beautiful.

July 26, 2009 at 9:35 PM  

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