We were in southeastern Tennessee this weekend seeing the wedding of my godson Paul Ashey. Now I remember Paul when he was born nearly 28 years ago. I had just moved to Texas to work for the Houston Chronicle and I stayed with Elise and Mark Ashey – old Lewis & Clark College friends and had stayed with them while searching for housing. Elise was close to term with Paul at that point and Margaret was 2. I remember those days; Paul two years later spending Thanksgiving dinner putting olives on his fingers. And now….he’s doing theater in New York and getting married. And Margaret – who was a bridesmaid – had already been married five years. It’s like seeing time pass in front of you.
The wedding was atop a mountain so to speak in Sewanee, home of the University of the South, which
is an Episcopal liberal arts college with a seminary down the street. The campus was to die for: all sandstone buildings, bell towers and even a building dedicated to Tennessee Williams surrounded by trees and modeled after Oxford – all near bluffs overlooking the valley below. I got a look at their refectory and that was one nice college cafeteria. Obviously a ton of money behind that place. The wedding was in All Saints chapel, the Gothic church in the middle of the campus and it sure looked like a mini-Washington Cathedral from the inside.
Weddings, by the way, are tough for me for obvious reasons. At this wedding in particular, everyone was dancing except for me as I had no one to dance with. It’s very depressing at times and a huge reason why I rarely go to these fetes. Funny that 10 years ago this month, a friend of mine from BBC got married in London. She and I and another journalist had been part of a trio praying that all of us would find husbands. And she did, at the age of 45. But the other woman and I – who flew to London to see the wedding – never have found anyone. I think she and I are still out there reminding God that two-thirds of those prayers remain unanswered! Before showing up for the wedding, Veeka and I went hiking about South Cumberland State Park, which was a series of trails, ravines, caves and canyons on the Cumberland Plateau. It’s hard not to miss this plateau; while you’re heading south on I-24, you start to ascend this huge ridge of limestone. It’s an odd sort of park as it’s made up of 10 sections scattered about four counties. Veeka and I hiked to one of the better-known spots: a formation known as the Stone Door. After a mile through the woods, we got to the cliffs where this was, only to discover there were no guard rails before one plunged down a 120-foot drop. Naturally I grabbed Veeka’s arm like a maniac and refused to go anywhere near the edge. NOT a place for kids.
This weekend, as it turns out, is the beginning of Veeka’s week-long fall break. Long fall breaks are an innovation of the South, I’ve found, as nowhere else seems to have them. We have a few things planned. One thing we did a few weeks ago was go biking at Pinson Mounds State Park, a place of old Indian burial grounds that has paved bike paths – a necessity for Veeka. We got a bit lost on one, which went through a swamp but ended the day better than we began when we found some pleasant long rides. And I invested in a bike carrier but had the worst time getting it on the car. So I went to a local bike shop, bought something from the owner, then asked him to help me with my carrier! Could not have done it without him, must say.