I arrived at Ripley a hummingbird on acid. I departed a ghost of a girl.
Three gals packed into a red scoot-about car. Each with more luggage than the last. Enough snacks for a nation. Beverages too. Brunette, blonde, and flame-colored tresses swung. Blended. Connected. A first date really. E Harmony without a man. W Harmony. Words. Women. A little bit a wildness.
Destination? Ripley. Believe it or not. Write Here. Write Now. A word summit. An artesian uprising of literary talent. Education, entertainment, and then some. Classrooms filled with folks painting pages with phrases and flourishes. New. Experienced. Frail. Vital. Trembling with power. Quaking with fear.
And me? For three days I poured myself out, a living sacrifice, like Paul in Romans. I gave all I had to the cause. To the moment. Opened my pores to gulp every item in. A breath. A word. A note. A memory.
A giant of a man with a stick he will not always need, fairly roared. I straightened in my seat, dazzled. I admired how he twisted and almost shouted. No notes. Just a flow. A rhythmic almost rap.
A gentle and generous fairy spirit with waist length, mist-like locks simultaneously cantored and spellbound us.
A chaos of comedy, confusion, and impulses included and amused me. A “this is where and what I was meant to be and do” feeling gripped me with its twitching, velvet gloves.
And Lord help us. That was just the prologue.
Not everyone knew it, but the wise ones did. A legend was among us. Witty, famous, handsome, infamous. Brilliant. Let us not forget brilliant. Man and woman alike leaned forward, palms exposed. To catch every single nuance. A sonorous voice accompanied by six-stringed passion. In the exact same key.
And later, if by chance the man who has lived life so fully it sucked the color from his hair and beard spoke to you, everything behind and around you dissolved. Dissipated. And you became a diamond in a beautiful setting. Elevated, sparkling, and also brilliant.
Soon after, we ensnared a gorgeous young couple, electric in black, with our admiration. His hands were a blur while hers caressed a hulking yet graceful dance partner--an upright bass. An almost virgin song broke us open with the memory (or warning) of how love can cool like coffee. Be not enough, like portions at a fancy restaurant. A mere appetizer to a starving soul.
And then there were circles. ‘Round a fire. ‘Round a porch. Music. Fluids. Laughter. Words. Repeat. A like-minded soil that will surely reap a harvest someday.
We were a necklace. Strung with synergy and synchronicity, or both. Somehow we managed to hover a pinch shy of perfection. Any closer and the pin of jealousy, or some mean spirit, would've pricked our existence. And the pieces of us would've floated hither and yon. Seventeen or more flaps of translucent skin instead of a single, living and breathing, organism.
I am the ghost of the Ripley girl
Bound to travel ‘round this world
Find the folks with words inside.
Say to them, “Write ‘til you die.”
Jot down the verbs and adjectives
Only this will make you live
I am the ghost of the Ripley girl
Every word a precious pearl
-Song verse inspired by Doug and Telisha Williams’ song, “Ghost of the Knoxville Girl.
-Thanks to Sarah Robinson for permission to use her photograph of Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley, WV.