As no other natural landscape, Appalachia’s splendorous color inspired my soul when I drove home from Matewan, West Virginia, October 15.
Eight days later, Marilyn’s directions led me southwest on I69 to the Charlotte exit on route to another Matewan Garden Club book talk.
I’d never visited Charlotte before, and was glad to see a Big Boy still standing amongst every imaginable drive-through restaurant flanking the road through town.
“Drive until road ends (Mooville on right side) Left on M66 south”, Marilyn’s printed directions said.
“Mooville?” I’d emailed Marilyn the night prior.
“A petting zoo,” she’d replied. “They have delicious lasagna in their frozen section.”
The road ended and there sprawled Mooville, a dairy farm, on my right.
And my destination?
Plainwell, where Marilyn, a good friend from Warren Lincoln High School, lives in a golf community with her husband. To Marilyn’s delight, their daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons live within walking distance.
Marilyn had invited me to her home to meet her “west-side” neighborhood book club and answer their questions about my story. A perfect opportunity for a reunion.
As I drove deeper into the home of W.K. Kellogg Co., the hillier and curvier the roads became. The land felt like Peter Creek, my Appalachian home.
Large ponds with lily pads hugged the roads, a sight I never see in Appalachia. Then, on the next curve, farmsteads with large, rolling fields appeared beyond the gold-leafed hedgerows. As most of the crops were harvested, huge farming machinery sat resting like tired beasts.
I parked my car in Marilyn’s driveway by 3:45 p.m. and found a beautiful table set with china and crystal. She stirred borscht soup, mashed boiled potatoes, and removed cabbage rolls from the oven as the book club members arrived.
At last, our hostess placed on the table a bowl of sliced cucumbers in sour cream seasoned with dill. “Please take a seat,” she said.
We filled and emptied our plates while the sun set, consumed kuchen, a Volga-German cake featured in my story. Members discussed their favorite characters, and what caught them by surprise.
“I like what you named the botanists. I never heard the word before,” said one member.
“Wayfarer?” I asked.
“Yes. It fits the characters.”
The word isn’t original to me. Several of my garden resource books use the term.
“Does everyone have their book for next month?” a member asked.
“Yes,” they echoed.
“I reserved my copy of A Walk in the Woods from the library,” a member said.
I read Bill Bryson’s memoir in 1988 when first released. A story about an unconventional wayfarer.
Dear Reader, if you’re somewhat adventurous, intrigued by what’s on the other side of a hedgerow, mountain, or creek, you’ll find A Walk in the Woods an engaging read.
By the way, I stopped in Mooville on my way home. A container of lasagna waits in my freezer for an occasion to remember Marilyn’s friendship, and this wayfarer’s double portion of October’s color. North to South. East to West.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org