"Don' worry, honey, ya're goin' to the South ya know..." she said, and she smiled. Half a dozen times I heard this sentence the week before the Festival, and half a dozen times I smiled back with having absolutely no clue what it meant. But at least it made me feel a little bit less nervous.
When I boarded the bus (the one with my own favorite Peter Pan painted on its side), and pulled my knees to my chin on the seat, resting my forehead against the window, I wasn't sleepy (which is kind of a miracle because it was 1 am), I wasn't scared (not like my parents on the other side of the World), I wasn't even anxious - all alone, in the back of the bus, I felt like I was part of something. I watched the lights along the road, and I started telling the story to myself:
"Every single year, on the same night, this night, wanderers of North and East, South and West, are on the road, all alone or with company, heading towards the same place, the same tiny town far far away, under the starts, under the moon, just like me, on the bus, on the train, in the car, on the plane, on sea and air and water they come, from their journeys; it doesn't even matter where they are, where they were before, how many thousands of miles they keep to themselves, some of them are already sleeping, already there, but not yet arrived - but tomorrow, with the light of dawn, they will be there. Just like me."
And so I shared that crazy 22-hour bus ride with hundreds of people, Tellers and Listeners alike, and I felt the same a hero would feel when the journey begins (well, not every hero, of course. Some of them would be like "Nooo, let me stay home!". But that's another story).
Tell me about sleep deprivation.
And the South was, indeed, beautiful. I saw forests and mountains and small towns and... well, more forests and more mountains and more small towns, and hawks and blue birds and lakes, and tiny white churches. And then, just before sundown, when we left the mountains and the road took a turn - I looked up, and I saw all the clouds turning from white to rainbow. Not gold and pink, and not circled by a seven-colored arch - their white just turned to colors, all over my head, and stayed like that till the sun reached the horizon (no, it's not an allegory. It's the wonder of light, copyright by Nature herself). And from that moment, time stopped for me, and stood still like a painting, till the end of the Festival.
In the first morning, with the rainwater slowly disappearing in the warm autumn sunshine, I couldn't help but stare. At Jonesborough. At the houses. At the people. At the Storytelling Center. At the tents. At the pumpkins. At the scarecrows. At the Storytelling Center again. At... basically everything. Time stood still, well, yes... but many times I ended up running to arrive on time to the first session of storytelling... running along the road with the tiny shops, the autumn flags, the hay bales, the sunflowers and pumpkins and scarecrows and the butterfly-shaped bench on the sidewalk. I never enjoyed being late so much...
But, really, I should be writing about the storytellers instead. So much about Jonesborough.