The Folk School is a famous group experience. We operate mostly in company, but sometimes we need to take off and wander around. Insight often needs a little walk around the park, or a stroll in the countryside. We’ve got 300 acres for that. And we have trails, which are in the news now, as the Folk School improves them and restores the art on the Rivercane Walk.
As a small-town Appalachian sort of guy it was a revelation to me that folks who spring up in the suburbs and cities learn caution and require designated trails. So we have them. I never had much trouble just taking off and walking across fields and through woods and by streams, and hardly ever have I been shot at by anyone that didn’t personally know me.
Back in the mid-20th century when I was one of Murphy N.C.’s lads, I would grab a peanut butter and green bean on cornbread sandwich out of the kitchen and leave the teeming city behind bound for the deep jungle down the bluff. A weird man-eating plant (later research would reveal it was kudzu) would sometimes trap me or one of the other girls or boys, and we would have to thrash and hack to escape. The tiger threat was always present. Sometimes, to be on the safe side, two or three of us would have to dig a tiger trap—a hole with small sticks across, disguised by thrashed up man-eating vegetation, which was always at hand. Every time we set a trap, we caught a tiger. It was always after an argument over who got to saunter idly down the trail like a tiger and step in it. It was often my honor to step in it. In glorious fall days, when the leaves were gold in the water, we’d pole our rafts along the Blue Nile to its confluence with the Rhine and drift on into Lake Titicaca below Murphy. The great thing about these adventures was that I could always see the top of my house, even from the Congo.
The Folk School trails are a lot like that. You can take your mind for a stroll and not worry about getting lost or shooed off. Crossing Eagle Dancer Bridge reminds us that some of these trails have been here since way B.C. and that river cane once covered all the bottomlands. The Rainbow Bridge is steep, and can be slippery, but it’s really pretty. Annie Pais painted it for our catalog cover. From visits to local schools, I realized that students around here, even if they never see another painting, are shown Monet’s paintings of his bridge. What fun it would be to have a real one in Brasstown! I also wished that we had an elevated spot to get above the cattails and watch the birdies. The late Tim Kris, a bridge builder and the Folk School’s neighbor, collaborated with me on a design for a laminated arched wooden bridge that would also serve as a bird watching platform. It would also be a fun thing to photograph, or to paint, as M. Monet discovered down in France.
We make our daily commutes from home to workshop, to meals and entertainment overarched by old oaks. We wander through rhododendron, over streams and into a mild version of the laurel “hell.” We visit in hushed silence clear forest paths beneath old high-canopy trees, vertical as a gothic cathedral, where in chiseled shafts of sunlight soar complacent pterodactyls. Or maybe pileated woodpeckers—sorry, I didn’t have my bird and flying reptile book with me.
I don’t have a TV, but my fortuneteller does, and she predicts months ahead of competitive incivility. Next time you turn on your TV, turn off your TV. Come to Brasstown, where you can be in good company or take a walk. Either way, it’s better.
Please support the Annual Fund to help the Folk School to be strong, to do a good job, and to be here when you need us.
Love from Brasstown,