Editor’s Note: Kathleen M. Jacobs is the 2017 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. Kathleen was born in St. Louis and moved to West Virginia as a young girl. She received degrees from WVU-Tech and WVU Graduate College, and has worked as a teacher at the high school and college levels. Kathleen’s writing has been published in various journals and periodicals. Her first book, published in 2016, is a young adult novel called “Honeysuckle Holiday,” and her second book is due to be published later this year. Kathleen will be a guest of Lafayette Flats through the end of March and during her stay she plans to work on a children’s book that is set in Fayette County. This is her third contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog.
Writer Natalie Goldberg directs: “Write about “leaving.” Approach it any way you want. Write about your divorce, leaving the house this morning, or a friend dying.” And so, in this final Lafayette Flats blog post as the 2017 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence, that’s what I’ll do – or at least attempt, reluctantly, as I challenge myself to recognize that this incredible experience is approaching its end – and I’d rather it continue until those delightfully-powerful creative tugs rest just a bit.
Making my way through the “gallery” of the Lafayette Flats, the artwork from wide-eyed, talented West Virginia artists continues to invite me to stop and visit for more than just a few minutes, to look closely at details that have been unfolding with every glance, uncovering something new and reflective. Works by Paula Clendenin, Stephanie Danz, Charles Jupiter Hamilton, Mark Tobin Moore, and many others set the stage for the alternative narrative that hopefully every West Virginian yearns to promote, not just the owners of this fine establishment.
Standing before the built-in bookcase on the second-floor hallway, I gaze at the spine of my debut YA-novel, Honeysuckle Holiday, as it rubs shoulders with literary works by Giardina, Phillips, Harshman, Maynard, and Hickam to name just a few, and I am overwhelmed and incredibly humbled.
Walking the main thoroughfare of town – one of America’s coolest towns – brings to mind every shop owner and restauranteur who has not only provided nourishment to my body, but to my soul and my spirit, as well: the eateries of Gumbo’s, Secret Sandwich Society, Pies & Pints, Cathedral Café, and Vandal’s Kitchen; the welcoming staff at the Fayetteville Public Library; spiritual enrichment found along trails and walkways at the Gorge; and even story ideas from a recovered treasure at the New River Antiques Mall; and finally, there was the day that I discovered Thurmond, as if I had been the one to truly discover it. It was an unusually warm, sunny winter day in late January. The waters of the New River were rolling gently, and although I wasn’t sure where I was headed, I was beckoned to that spot where, if I closed my eyes, waited a few minutes, and opened them folks would magically appear, shops would be opened, and the brick pavers would not yet have been laid. And yet, it was in that moment that I realized that as I soaked up not only the sunshine on a winter day but nature, too, in all its glory that West Virginia was truly Almost Heaven, and the spiritual world took on a whole new meaning for me.
And so it is with sincere gratitude that I bid a deeply-fond farewell to The Eddy, a space I’ve had the distinct privilege to call home – albeit for a much-too-short time. I bid farewell to the Peregrine Falcon – or better yet, the pear green falcon – that has stood like a sentry in the corner of my living space, assuring me that yes, indeed, I am welcomed. The Eddy, ahh the Eddy: “The water brings life and the river flows continuously, but every now and then, an eddy is formed. These eddies can be respites, but more importantly, they are tools used by guides to safely navigate the river. As the water swirls and the currents pull, just as in life, we must acknowledge the experience and right ourselves for the waters ahead.”