I headed south, and my drive today took me down Virginia’s State Highway 29. This highway runs parallel to the Blue Ridge Mountains and is basically in the foothills. I drove up and down, and followed curves right and left through nature’s beautiful show of Spring. The trees here have blossomed. It’s that Springtime phase, past the bud – not quite fully in summer bloom. The colors are amazing. There’s lime green and kelly green and grass green. There’s yellow. There are trees blooming in white and peach and pink. The redbud are such a deep pink they are almost fuschia. The lilacs and wisteria shade from lavender to purple. My friend Marianne, a true poet, described the mountains as a psychedelic Easter dress. An apt description.
I took a little detour back east to visit Appomatox. To be completely accurate I visited the village of Appomattox Court House which sits about 3 miles north of the present day town of Appomatox. It was there, in April of 1865, that General Robert E. Lee officially surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant. The terms of surrender were signed in the parlor of the home of Wilmer McLean. The house, including the parlor, has been reconstructed by the National Park Service. It was a delightful and historical little detour in my day.
As I drove, I listened to the radio. The further south I moved, away from DC, the more the sounds changed. There was more country, more contemporary Christian. There was classic rock, yes, but the thump of hip hop emanating from my speakers as my radio scanned the stations became more and more rare. There was even one station devoted fully to straight southern gospel. And then, miracle of miracles, there was ‘the voice.’ It was the rumble of a deep baritone - and then those familiar words “it was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown, out on the edge of the prairie.”
As I drove past one Baptist church after another, I caught up with Easter festivities at Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility and what’s new with Pastor Inqvist at the Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church. He talked of Minneapolis, of Bloomington, of the Mall of America. Truth be told, the Mall of America is not my favorite place. Today, I missed it. I miss home. As Keillor puts it so well, we are “a modest people with much to be modest about.” After having spent 2 weeks in a place where image is so important and being important is so important, it was nice to be reminded that life really is relatively simple. And that’s a good thing.
I had been debating about my route home. I had been considering going through Tennessee, having never been to Nashville or to Memphis. Today’s edition of A Prairie Home Companion was broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium. Soon after the show ended and I was back to station surfing again, Marc Cohn came on singing “Walking in Memphis.” I’m taking these as a sign. I’m turning west.
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