Lucky me - I'm on my way out of town for a weekend in the mountians. It's my 23rd year heading up to Kanuga, the Episcopal conference center outside of Hendersonville/Flat Rock, North Carolina, for our annual church retreat.
It'll be a weekend of sitting on the porches of the 1909 green and white-trimmed cabins - my own cabin and those of friends - talking, reflecting, having a little drink - cheers! we're still here!. There's also plenty of time for slipping off and walking the perimeter of the lake, occasionally pulling off the main path to sit and reflect and even have a good cry.
Sometime tomorrow, and driving past Carl Sandberg's Flat Rock home, I'll make a pilgrimage up to Sky Top apple farm to gather red and golden delicious, romes, galas, granny smiths to divvy up with friends and loved ones when I return. I don't pick my own apples anymore, now that Kate and her friends no longer make the trip. I just go to the main already-been-picked area and gather what I need (including cider, apple butter, raspberry preserves, chutney). But we spent many a year romping up and down the orchard's hills, dragging heavy apple-laden/kid-laden wagons behind us and seeing who could climb to the top of the trees to get the best pickin's. It kinda makes me sad to go there alone, but I wouldn't think of skipping it.
Social-central is the gay guys' cabin (not that there's just one cabin with gay guys, but there's only one famous gay guys' cabin). These crazies get up to Kanuga early and turn their cabin into the decorator dream home - candles, fall arrangements, strings of chili or pumpkin lights. Ya' know it when ya' see it. Well-stocked bar with lots of munchies and some home-made goodies. Everybody ends up passing through at least once during the weekend - just sittin' around, playing music, singing at the tops of our lungs ("It's Rainin' Men," "I Will Survive," all your disco and ABBA favorites) - gays, straights, clergy, lay - yup, everybody. (Shhhhhhh! Don't tell the right-wing faction of the Episcopal Church. Our little secret, OK?)
The big Saturday night dance - this year's theme is Motown - is my annual reminder of how much fun wild and crazy dancing is. It's my excuse for eating whatever I want during the weekend since I'll work it off at the dance. Oh, yes I will! (And there are plenty of embarrassing pictures floating around to prove it.)
Kanuga is as much a part of my year as Christmas or Easter or birthdays - it marks the official beginning of Fall for me and begins the most invigorating, fun part of the year. I miss those years of having Kate and her friends in tow - though we didn't hang around together once we passed through the entrance. Still, the kids would barge in and out of the cabin, roll their eyes at us during the dance, run up and give a hug during mealtimes (because they certainly didn't sit with the 'rents during meals!).
It's different now. More reflective. More time for holding long conversations with old friends, discussing the weekend's program or some church committee's needs, or sneaking off to read under a tree or on the porch swing. And probably the most fun - meeting someone new, getting to know somebody that I'd've never had the chance to meet if I hadn't been at Kanuga. I always look forward to that.
So, I'm off to North Carolina and won't return until Sunday afternoon. Have a most-fabulous weekend!