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Friday, June 12, 2009


Last Tuesday I was driving home the Pine Swamp way as the Whitehead way is blocked for tearing out the old bridge and putting in a new one. I've aimed to stop at Blue Ridge Gallery ever since it opened. It's open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I came up over the hill before New Salem church and there on the left I saw the sign. It was open. I thought: next time. I want to get home. That is what I always think. Passing it, I hit the brake enough to make right rear tire squeal and leave about a 5 foot slightly black mark.

I backed up and turned up the driveway that almost suggested a maze in a christmas tree patch to the building with the red roof. I had the time, was in no hurry. It is Judy Carmichael's brother Joe Edwards and Joe's wife Melia's place. It is two-level, and suggests subliminally a log cabin and a country store at once, without looking like either. The interior is all bare wood. Log cabins were dark. This one is good light inside.

I had not even a guess what was inside, except the sign by the road said Blue Ridge Gallery. Judy had told me a little about it some time ago. I only knew that Judy's painted glass was in there. It turned out to be two big rooms, one above the other, loaded with gem and stone wonders, chunks of purple amethysts, fossils from before dinosaur times, interesting pottery, paintings and photos Joe made. Big jars made of a colored stone found only in central China where they work the stone into all kinds of pottery-like shapes. Multi-colored stone worked perhaps with a lathe. I think the stone is called Serpentine Jade. Very nice.

Joe makes beautiful wirewrapped jewelry from all kinds of gems and stones. He has several paintings around on the walls. No one was in there, so I was able to visit with Joe and Melia and they gave me a tour of the whole place. A new house is what it is, different things in different rooms. I especially noted a pair of giraffes made of flattened and hammered tin by someone in Haiti. I saw a couple of stone sculptures from Zimbabwe, another of the poorest places in the world.

It seems to me a unique thing to build a country store look alike in the middle of a Christmas tree patch, a red roof among rows of green cones. Brings to mind the Jefferson Davis monument at Fairview, Kentucky, a lesser obelisk than the Washington monument, but just as majestic. Corn in all directions to the horizon. Flat as east Texas. This obelisk sticking up in the air was visible from a long ways. Who can miss a red roof in amongst Christmas trees?

When we came down from upstairs Judy had come in the door and had some people with her, Joe Jones and his wife. They lived in Kansas City before they came here. We got acquainted soon after they arrived because I recognized the tag on their car was KC. Joe's a Republican and I'm not, so we know not to go there conversationally. Better to talk about children kidnaped and sold into slavery in Chad. That way we don't get our backs up and start scratching the floor with our feet, red faced and snorting through flared nostrils. We're friendly Americans who allow the other to believe it as he sees it. It doesn't mean we can't enjoy conversation, just leave off the politics so we don't start acting like cats, 'Pssst! don't you touch me!' We do better than that. We shake hands and say, 'How you doin?'

What Joe Edwards and Melia and Judy are doing there seems like a sensible thing to do. A place out in the country, outside Sparta a few miles. They don't have town rents to pay. And people do come to them. By the time I left, more than half a dozen were in there. I brought home a chunk of the purple amethyst that seems like an indigo purple. The color has the rich warmth of indigo. It's outside taking in the sun, the moon, the rain, the green all around, the air.

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