Ch…Ch…Changes Turn and Face the Strange

bowieYup, that’s David Bowie singin’ to you, but in what context?  What’re we talking about Henry?  Music?  Philosophy?  All of the above and a lot more.  I’d made a promise to myself never to write to you unless I had something to say.  My due date was about a week ago…but I kept my promise to you.  But today, boy-oh-boy, I have something to say.

When we’re young, we tend to be braver, more flexible, mostly because we have less to lose, we’re naive and don’t really realize just how big these decisions are.  And sometimes, we just have no choice.  “Fred, we’re transferring you to Japan, Spain or Timbuktu.”  “Where’s Timbuktu?”  “You’ll see.”

Later in life, we settle down, we get comfortable…which sounds like a good thing, though with that, the fear of changing the status quo begins to permeate our very existence and we come up with formidable excuses to plant ourselves in one spot and just stagnate.

Here are the top few:  Can’t move, we have family here:  Yes, that’s true…until they move because of a job offer or whatever, which happens about every three or four years now.  Or…  We have friends here.  True as well, though have you noticed that as you mature, the conversations with old friends can also become comfortable?  Many end up on a Friday night, discussing medications and the pros and cons of one hip replacement socket vs. another.  Friendship should be dynamic.  Friendship should grow and morph lest it wilt and eventually die.

CrossBow in Snow 1

CrossBow in Bucks County PA. Winter Shot, but oh those winters…

When Pamela and I decided a couple of years ago to move to an entirely different world, our friends raised their eyebrows and said, “Huh???  Why?  Aren’t you too tired?  Aren’t you frightened to begin such an utterly new chapter?”  The answer was:  “Hell, yes!!!”   Part of the trouble was, we had eaten at every restaurant in Bucks County, not once or twice, but 40 or 50 times.  Worse, we had a pretty good idea what tomorrow was going to be like.

We had our house tweaked to the point that those who visited, couldn’t even conceive of our moving.  We’d spent 30 years tweaking CrossBow to our own particular  version of perfection…and then sold it.  Why? Why? Why?  Because, life doesn’t (shouldn’t) consist of coasting gently into oblivion…at least for us.  Every last droplet can and should be wrung-out, so that in those last glimmering moments you can show two thumbs-up and laugh out loud at the preciousness and the ephemeral nature of all our lives.

Let’s use the metaphor of a football game.  What’s the worst football game you can watch?  When the score comes up 42 to 0?  What’s the best?  When you’re in overtime with a tie score and everyone in the stadium is screeching and howling.  Then you go out and celebrate the game,, bright-eyed and ALIVE!

Approaching Dragonfly

Lower field entrance to Dragonfly

I’ve devoted more than a couple of essays/blogs to the massive positive change we’ve made, entering the Third Chapter of our lives, and more than a couple of you have wondered if that would change after a few months.


 Short answer:  Change feels good, better than good…it feels GREAT.  Pam and I are the happiest we’ve ever been in our lives, which is saying something.   Every couple of days, I e-mail my son in PA with the same litany:  “Cameron, every single day down here is different.  No two are alike and it’s exciting! ” Challenges keep the mind supple, increase appetites across the board, and generate weird and wild discussions.

Upper and Lower Falls

12 ft. upper falls and 14 ft. lower falls. At the bottom of the falls is where the gold is supposed to be. Our friend and contractor found a tiny hunk in about 10 minutes while we were all celebrating TGIF beneath the falls…and panning.

At the moment, we’re negotiating to have  our first River Arts Festival in the area.  Blue grass, dancers of all shapes and sizes, painters, sculptors, writers…plus a pig roast and (this is a stretch) the first Shine Competition.…..we’re talking moonshine and it’s pretty damned good around here.  The glitch is:  You can’t sell it…not even a thimble-full, but you can serve it if it’s free.  We’ll see on that one.   The discussions, suggestions and ideas about the show?  Mind-bending.

Yesterday, was a different kind of excitement:  We’re making an architectural bridge out to a little island in the middle of our pond.   The devil’s in the details and we had to chain the rear end of my Kubota to a large tree, so that we could work without the Kubota sliding beneath the surface, never to return.  At the end of the day…high spirits!  We’d succeeded and…I still have a tractor.

Years ago, I attempted an expose on the Asheville area.  The goal:  To find someone, anyone who had a dagger out to slice-and-dice the area.  After two weeks of interviewing, I couldn’t come up with even one person.  Try that test on your area.   And after having spent three months now, meeting many, many new friends, still haven’t found one.  A bunch of times one answer kept coming up.  “Henry, the reason is, everyone who lives here, CHOSE to live here.”   This has contributed to some very high spirits.

Cameron, Melissa, and Gryffin

Cameron, Melissa and Gryffin.

For those whom we’ve offered our guest cottage to try out the concept, I’m happy to report that my son, Cameron, our daughter-in-law, Melissa, and our grandson, Gryffin, just spent a week here.

We’ve panned for gold in stream, swum beneath the waterfalls, consumed a large number of Dos Equis (sans Gryffin) and explored possibly one-tenth of one percent of the stuff to do around here.

The guest house works.  It  is fully independent right down to its own driveway.   If you’re still brave enough to consider an extremely fun and exciting third Chapter in your lives,  come on down and see for yourself.  I guarantee you’ll return home…changed slightly, and maybe for the better.  We’re hoping the kids will come down for our First Catawba River Arts Festival and help judge the “shine”.  Right now it’s just a dream, but then that’s how this whole thing began.

Ch…Ch…Ch…Changes.  Turn and Face the Strange.  This last chapter of our lives shouldn’t be a coasting chapter.  Reach out and grab life by the scruff of its neck…and shake it and bite it.  Turn and face the Strange…and make it your friend.

Questions we’ve been asked by our friends…a lot:

Have you developed a southern accent…yet?   No and Yes.  Writing dialogue for 30 years may have inoculated me.  Writers must be able to channel a 12 yr. old girl, an ego-maniacal newspaper editor, a little old lady, a southern gent, a woman in a cancer ward.  Yeah, part of my brain is now wired-in for southern speak.  Watching Tim Olyphant in Justified probably didn’t hurt either. “Boyd, you just like to rob banks and blow shit up.”  And “Thank ya kindly,” sounds better, kinder than, “Yeah, okay.  No problem.”

But what about doctors, hospitals, medical treatment?  Is it up to par?  Mission Hospital in Asheville is rated in the top 15 of all the hospitals in the US.  Its veterans’ hospital: #1 as rated by veterans.  Our GP down here?  Best we’ve ever had….and he’s two miles away.  Treatment of patients:  Best.  They really listen and they treat us like old friends.

Stuff:   There’s little or no status consciousness here.  Need a seven-series BMW?  Not at all…period.   Think you need stuff?  You don’t, but it’ll help if you have a good sense of humor.  These folks LOVE…LOVE…LOVE to laugh.

What about being bludgeoned by religious zealots?  Not once in three months.  The Golden Rule works very nicely down here.

Politics:  It’s more balance than expected, but we had to keep our heads down in PA just about as much.

Southern Hospitality:  Strangely, everyone calls Pamela, “Miss Pam”…which she loves, and everywhere we go we’re treated like old friends.  It continues to boggle the mind.

Weather/climate:  “nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the mornin’,”  but, this weather is also WILD.  Sunny day to drenching rain in 2.5 minutes…often, and our picturesque stream has a Jekyll-Hyde capability.

There’s gotta be something you don’t like about the place.  There is:  The same mountains that make you feel like you’re being protected by big sleeping giants also plays holy hell with computer speed.  Watching movies is sometimes a serious challenge…but it’s worth the trade-off.


bear in dumpster

Looking for a little snack

P.S.  Looking to build our first still (for medicinal purposes only),  I’m thinking steam punk with some whirling gears and propellers, lots of old brass and copper, maybe some flashing lights.  Anyone in the market???


20 Responses to "Ch…Ch…Changes Turn and Face the Strange"

  1. Henry Harvey says:

    Congratulations on the move. While on the road, working on a reality series, we shot an episode in the “Paris of the South” and I fell in love with the city.i found it interesting that the architecture in downtown was preserved due to depression-era debt.
    Alan Garner

  2. Henry Harvey says:

    Thanks Alan! At first I thought we were moving to a different state. It feels more like moving to a different country…a friendly one where I can actually speak the language.

  3. Henry Harvey says:

    Sounds like you guys found Utopia! So happy for you both! Bathe in the goodness!

    Mary Lou

  4. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi Mary Lou!
    Thanks for your kind words. We’re bathin’ in it. Working right now on a new kind of sculpture so the inspiration hasn’t left. Hope all is well with you up in PA.

  5. Henry Harvey says:

    Great blog this week! We had such a nice time down there.


  6. Henry Harvey says:

    It was wonderful having you down here. Hope we can repeat it very very soon.

  7. Henry Harvey says:

    Love the peach-flavored moonshine!
    I wonder how many flavors are possible.
    Chris F.

  8. Henry Harvey says:

    I’m wondering if we can do rum chocolate. Worth a try.


  9. Henry Harvey says:

    As usual I knew there was a reason your blog found me a few years back.
    It’s been a while since I responded. Kristen and I are discussing the
    same type things now. She could work anywhere. Me too pretty much. I was
    born and raised here in Wilmington NC (have you met my good friends Britt
    ((Toby as old friends call him. from Wilmington)) and Lee Taylor yet?),
    have a small hammock business as well as a Spanish teaching job and I feel
    so rooted here as it is such a great place. I have always been
    adventurous, having traveled a lot on surf trips all over the hemisphere
    and to Europe with students, but I am getting more “curmudgeonly” as you
    once put it and resistant to change. But I’m happy . Not sure though if WE
    are happy. I think it would be so good for our marriage to bust out, and
    your essay today has really helped give perspective in that regard. We
    have already definitely decided to sell the family house (if not to get my
    sisters paid off too) in the next few years as our 3 daughters get older
    (first one should be off to college in 3 years!) and move SOMEWHERE, but
    talk has been if a condo closer to the beach. This surfing thing is real.
    I’m lucky to still be doing it with hip replacements at 48. It is truly
    cathartic and sooooo good for the soul (however there are many other
    places in the USA or the world with much better surf). Yes the friends are
    here. The family close by (siblings in Charlotte and Charleston, SC. So
    they have moved on slightly. One still here). Anyway I’m rambling but I
    like to write to you. I have no real question. Oddly I just feel like I’m
    talking to something akin to a mix between my big brother and my Father
    (deceased. WW2 vet). Respond in any fashion or not at all if you like.


    P.S. I LOVE that song. My brother and I used to rock it out in his car
    when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. But I never looked up lyrics
    and though it was “Turn and face the strain” You learn something new every

    God Bless and stay safe and dry this weekend.

  10. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Jonathan!
    Good to hear!

    FWIW, I did look up the lyrics and it has a whole span of interpretations, some with just “Strain” some with just “Strange” and a couple of them mixed it up. For the purpose of the essay, I stuck with “strange” because it seemed to suit the essay better.

    Been thinking about your hammocks as well. When we moved here, I noticed two big trees looking over the pond, about ten feet or so from each other and with big ole hooks screwed-in.

    The biggie, for me in your e-mail is the “I am happy” vs “We are happy” Everybody is different and every couple is different as well, so I can’t offer any valuable advice. What works for Pam and me might not for you. It’s a cliché to say it, but…communication is sometimes like penicillin, it goes right to the heart of the problem and long term, it can heal wounds better than anything. When Pam got cancer. then lymphedema, it was sometimes like the lyrics in an old Glenn Campbell song, “And I need you more than want you……But I want you for all time.” Need and Love and Friendship are all mixed-up together.
    If you get some time, the welcome mat is out over here at the guest house. We found a place in the water right in the spray of the waterfall where you can sit on rocks, sip, munch, talk…and pan for gold all at the same time…long as it isn’t wintertime. That’s pushin’ it.

    Once again, good to hear!


  11. Phil says:

    Love your attitude. Just think, if half the world shared your new found lifestyle and hospitality, the other half would never have a reason to go to war…or need a 7-series BMW. Way to go my friend.

  12. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Phil,
    Thanks for the compliment…but, when you scrape away all the posing and posturing, I think there’s a huge squirming mass of millions, perhaps billions of people who could put my attitude to shame. There are a whole lot of really good people and I put you and Pat in that category. The glitch (in my opinion) is this: The people who have the dark, pessimistic, destructive personalities truly and deeply resent the people who are seriously trying to find the pony in the pile of pony manure. Resentment is a powerful emotion, as is hatred. I choose to keep trying to see the best in people…though I know I’ll probably never going to find the “pony.”

    Best to you and Pat!!!

  13. Henry Harvey says:

    Something tells me Asheville is going to be home to the most beautifully engineered still on this planet. And not only will it make some good moonshine, it’s going to look wickedly cool!

  14. Henry Harvey says:

    That’s probably the nicest thing you could have said. I’m blushing, but…thank you.
    If you two can break away, we have a place that’s quiet and picturesque to stay in. This area is that good.

    We had dinner the other night at a little place we’ve adopted. FWIW, we’ve eaten at Le Cirque, Le Bec Fin, some of the best restaurants in the country…and cheerfully paid the price. The other night, we had a meal that hangs right in there with the best and the tab for the two of us, with drinks and dessert was $27.75. Add a one to it up north and it’d still be cheap.

    Hope you guys are thriving and happy!

  15. Henry Harvey says:

    Loved it!! You captured it in words so very well! Thanks for you and Pam’s donation of the kiln. Helen emailed me about it. We’ve had very little phone signal and no Internet until about an hour ago. We’ll be home in about an hour. Great time but it’ll be good to sleep in our own bed!

    Thanks again for sharing. I could just visualize it as I read.


  16. Henry Harvey says:

    Glad you liked it! And welcome back!

    Just finishing up a very new type of sculpture using Lexan/polycarbonate/bullet-proof glass…for large outdoor sculpture.

    Had high hopes on this one and was surprised that it actually came out well on the first iteration. Think of a large stained glass sculpture, sans the caning, bulletproof (literally) and can be twisted into a pretzel if desired.
    If you and your guy would like to see what we’re doing up here, we’d love to have you. Gave Helen and John the “cook’s tour” and I’m thinking an art fest just might be viable in the not-too-distant future.

    Happy Labor Day!

  17. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Henry!

    First, you began with my favorite song…sort of my anthem, then you talk about an area that really pulls me in.

    I, too, have always loved the Carolinas. The terrain is awe-inspiring; the pace seems just right; the people are as real as you

    can get, with manners and warmth. Every time I have visited, I never wanted to return home.

    Congrats for making your dream come true. Someday I hope to do the same.

    You have inspired me to make my dream come true.

    Lynn Walker

  18. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Lynn!
    Good to hear from you. You don’t write-in often, but when you do, it’s well worth reading. I had a drink called a Catawba Special just now, (powerful) so forgive me if I wax poetic. Living down here really is different. When I hear certain bluegrass fiddling, it just about captures it. It’s sweet and mellow, but the tone will change suddenly and haunt you and make you sad and melancholy. There’s much humor here, but a moment later, you can get a bite in the back of your throat that haunts you the rest of the night. I love it.

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