I meant to write during my last days on Judy Branch, but something happens to time once you set yourself on a path. Ever since I decided that I really was moving, I have had twice as many things to get done than I usually do. Those of you who really know me are aware that I typically try to fit at least 36 hours worth of living into each and every day. Lately, it's been more like sixty hours a day. And even though I am as incredibly talented at packing as many tasks into a day as I am at packing lots of stuff into small spaces, a full three weeks of this behavior most certainly has had its toll. By the time it came down to packing up the Uhaul and moving my stuff out of Judy Branch, I had gone two weeks with an average of four hours sleep per night. I was wobbly at times, to say at the least. But I pushed on, and with the help of my friends and family, I have managed to get this far.
Somehow, in the midst of all the packing and tying up of loose ends, I was able to squeeze in some quality time with some of my beloved friends and my adopted family. Now that I have slept a little, I can recall some of the highlights:
1. We held a CD Release party down in Big Stone Gap for the Uncle Charlie Osborne: The June Appal Years CD (a special project I produced with the help of some really good friends), and it just so happened that the Osborne family reunion was going on that weekend and a great deal of Uncle Charlie's descendents were on hand to enjoy the music and get a copy of the beautiful CD. I really enjoyed being able to give this music back to Charlie's family and to see some of my good friends down Virginia way.
2. I got to enjoy my last Carcassonne square dance as a local, dancing almost every dance with my good pal Woody Goodman and playing the last dance with Lee Boy. Sadly, Woody was killed last night when a tree fell on him, and I am gonna miss him something terrible. He was my favorite dance partner and most certainly my favorite DJ on WMMT. And, perhaps most important, he and his wife (sister to neighbor Billy Jo) and Carcassonne were my link to Judy Branch. They helped get me here, and I am torn up that my pal Woody isn't going to be out there on Elk Creek or running around saving the world in his Prius anymore. All day as I've packed, I have heard his voice in my head, talking to me about my move to Oregon. At times I can even hear him reacting to the way he died. How ironic, and in someways how perfect, that a true treehugger like he be taken out by a tree?
3. After a dinner gathering of Cowan Creek Mountain Music School faculty, a bunch of pals hosted a special set at the local coffeehouse/bar (yes, the county seat recently got liquor by the drink for the first time in 60 years!), and I got to visit with quite a few friends and play some tunes with some of my best buddies. Faerie Godmother was there and Rich and Brett and Woody. It was sweet, and even though I had to fight sleep and exhaustion to be there, I wouldn't have missed that night for the world - especially when my buddy Haywood serenaded me with Lil' Birdie and Baby Brett sang me Free as a Little Bird.
4. We had a grand goodbye gathering on Judy Branch, hosted by neighbors Bill & Billy Jo, and I got to spend my last "official" night on Judy Branch in the company of my neighbors, my real parents and my two set of adopted parents (Bill & Billy Joe and Cheryl & Ray) and my dear sweet friends Lee Boy and Opal and Charlie & Joyce and Beverly and Shawn & Tammy (and all their wonderful yonguns). We had a great dinner and then sat around the fire, made music, told stories and just enjoyed each other and the beautiful place that is Judy Branch.
It took longer to pack, and I had way more stuff than I thought I did, so I ended up staying one extra night on Judy Branch. Luckily my friend Lora kept me company and helped me plow through the exhaustion and get everything done.
Although I am incredibly excited about my new, yet to be seen, life out west, It was both physically and emotionally exhausting to pack up and leave Judy Branch. And I'm not referring to the three cat carriers, complete with squalling kitties, stacked next to me while I drove away. I have really loved this place and the community of which I have become a part. There's a big part of me that would love to stay in that moment around the fire with my Judy Branch family for the rest of my life. Leaving, in so many ways was impossible to think about. I just had to do it and not dwell on what I was leaving but on where I am going.
There's a whole new level to that now that my dear friend Woody is gone. I cannot bear to think of going back and him not being there. It looks like I may make one more trip up to the hollow before I hit the open road with Bella, the three cats and my dear (brave and kind) friend Carla. I know that Woody wouldn't want me to let his tragic and far too soon passing put a shadow on my big adventure, but I reckon he'd also understand the heartache that his absence leaves with us all. I just can't believe my buddy is gone. Eastern Kentucky has lost one of her finest stewards and colorful characters, and I know that nobody will ever be able to fill his place in our community and our hearts.