Sam and Josh don’t know it, but that sound they make started as a howl atop Black Balsam Knob. It ran down both sides, descending along Greasy Creek and the Middle Prong through the wilderness past Cold Mountain, running into the Big Pigeon and knifing its way through the gaps into Tennessee till it hit the French Broad, then ran downhill past Josh’s people in Maryville, past the inundated bones of Old Hop, past Sam’s people in Benton. Then Sam and Josh picked it up, brought it back across the ridge and howled it from a stage, releasing it into the atmosphere on an evening when the clouds hang like saturated rags above Asheville.
There are more Subaru’s per capita in Asheville than anywhere, and more self-described pagans per square block.
St. Lawrence’s Basilica is baroque to a fault. Fine frescoes in the apse converge on a crucifix that looks like something hastily made in Monterey; dust-covered and bronze as Moses’ serpent. Off to the left, in the shrine dedicated to Mary, a half-empty bottle of Crystal Geyser spring water – bottled in Benton – was left at the Virgin’s unshod feet.
A hot cup of spiced chai smells like St. Mary’s Church. The wiry reader smolders like flax while the tall, gaunt 80-something priest lifts his draped arms like an unbroken reed. There are four of us besides for a Friday night, reminded that Boniface was an 8th century Billy Graham.
Out the glazed, gothic window, in the failing sun the catbird sings a song he caught on the ridge some time ago.