Folk School – Part Two: Settling In

My week at John C. Campbell Folk School was about to begin . . . .

Sunday afternoon, the 17th of February, Mom and I left Murphy for Brasstown (a ten-minute drive) and headed to the Folk School. We were still a bit early, so we wandered around Keith House . . .

Keith House Community Room
JCCFS Library (Keith House)

. . . until we were finally allowed to check in and find our lodging. This was mine for the week:

Hill House Room 604
Hill House

My room was on the second floor, the one with the shed dormer windows. Super cute, and my housemates were friendly from the start. (It may have helped that the first thing one of them said was, “Oh, good. You brought wine, too.”) Four of us ended up having a nightly glass (plus chocolate, of course) in our common room. It was one of the few times things slowed down enough to have real conversations with anyone, the kind David always loved. I had a disconcerting urge a couple of times to call him to tell him how great it all was. In the fourteen months he’s been gone, that’s never happened before. So . . . weird. At least I didn’t dissolve in weeping. Definite progress.

That first day, though, was just about getting acclimated. Mom, as an assistant teacher, had a complementary room in another building, so after we both settled in, we walked around taking a few pictures, since rain was forecast for most of the rest of the week.

Then back to Keith House for orientation in the Community Room, then dinner in the dining hall, then to our various studios–for me the painting studio–for class orientation and setup. I was taking Watercolor Gouache with Kathy Chastain, and my mom was her assistant.

It was all a bit like sleep-away camp for grown-ups, in a good way.  Make your own bed (optional). Show up to meals or miss them, as you wished. No KP, except to carry your dishes to the window when you were finished. They offered a 7:15 nature walk every morning, weather permitting. So maybe it happened Monday, not that I was ever going to see 7:15 a.m. in public. I barely saw it in the bathroom mirror. Then Morning Song everyday at 7:45 in the Community Room. Never made that either. I did get to breakfast at 8:15 every day. You could sit wherever you wanted, so I had a bit of middle-school angst at every meal, trying to gauge whether I was welcome at a table or was taking a seat someone was hoping would be filled by someone else. Ghaaaaa! It got better as the week went on–everyone was so easygoing–but it was disturbing to see my insecurities raging to such a degree.

Part of the problem was likely my complete lack of experience with watercolor gouache. I had done a little painting with watercolors, with mixed results, but never with gouache, so I had a baseline anxiety percolating, anticipating epic art failure. The classes weren’t really about that, though. Don’t get me wrong. There was a LOT of excellence going on, especially from the instructors, as you’ll see in my next post, but the students were accepted and encouraged whatever their level of experience or talent. It took me a while to really let that sink in, though.

So the first few days were about finding my feet (not literally–that was only a 7 a.m. challenge 😉 ) Those days were about accepting myself where I was in my learning process, enough to let it go so I could look around and marvel at the talent and expertise of others without reservation. Stay tuned for that!

Here’s wishing you sufficient confidence to forget about yourself long enough to celebrate the accomplishments of those around you!

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