5 Days -- Jump Started

This morning I rose at 5 and worked for two hours before I headed to Rabun County Middle School. It was exciting to be immersed in my story and make forward progress! (Thanks again, Enthusiastic Trusted Readers.) And... I was excited to be visiting RCMS, which is home to the Foxfire program.

I want to write about the program in another post -- perhaps in a personal canon post (I haven't forgotten about them).

For now, let me say that I had one of those Uncle Edisto days -- so joyful and so challenging, all at the same time. I saw 7th and 8th graders today, in four sessions. I am ever-mindful of how hard schools work to bring an author to school. Librarian Deana Harkness had her students selling cookbooks they had put together, in order to raise the money to bring me to Rabun. And that's just for starters. She gifted me with one as I left -- I can't wait to sit and read it in front of my fire. Recipes from the north Georgia mountains.

Thank you, Deana! Thank you, students. Thank you, teachers.

I loved walking the halls of Rabun Middle. I imagined, years ago, the Foxfire program just getting its start at RCMS, teachers teaching students how to use cameras, tape recorders, video recorders, connecting the work always to the curriculum, taking students out into the mountains to gather oral history from those who still butchered hogs, caned chairs, dug ginseng, bottled moonshine, churned butter, made their own music, and lived off the land. I took a photo of the mural made years ago by those long-ago students, to illustrate the richness of the stories in these mountains.

Later in the day, I captured three students sitting under the mural, playing guitars and singing.

Not every student at Rabun participates in Foxfire, and (like so many other programs across the country) its funding has been cut and cut again over the years. But I love the fact that it remains, a way of teaching that informed my way of looking at the world. A way of learning that informs my teaching. And parenting.

One day maybe I will write about those years I gathered oral history in Frederick, Maryland, and took fifth-graders with me to listen to knife makers, trolley conductors, seed savers, dairy farmers, corn harvesters, and more. I'm convinced that those years of listening to so many voices tell so many personal stories defined me as a writer. It gave me an ear for dialogue. It gave me a sense of connectedness.

That time stays with me. Those days still serve me, even though what I meant to do was to serve someone else, to create a patchwork of stories that defined Frederick's history. Little did I know I was shaping my own.

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