Letters from Asheville & Beyond: “One World, One Breath”

Best of Asheville WNC

Letters from Asheville and Beyond, A Fictional Journey Into Western North Carolina.

Part Three: “One World, One Breath” dedicated to Lisa and Bob Johnson.

Dear Nicky,

Well, you can tell your buddies back home that your grandma Myrtice tasted her first Painkiller drink at the Yacht Club in Asheville last night, and it sure enough did the job. Me and Shelby felt no pain while we were walking around downtown and were glad for the shuttle that carried us back to the hotel. My head didn’t hit the pillow until 11:30! We’re having a big time overall, laughing and seeing the sights. Every time that LaZoom bus comes around we wave like crazy, and the people wave back. Today was extra special because it started off with a big pancake and ended up with us watching some fancy martial arts moves.

Shelby’s been reading the “Best of WNC” brochure put out by the Mountain Xpress paper like it’s the Bible. She told me the brochure said Tupelo Honey was a good place to go for biscuits, so we started out real early this morning trying to beat the crowd. My head hurt some from our late night, but the cure for that is Tupelo’s giant sweet potato pancake with pecans and peach butter. Lord, I couldn’t eat it all, much less my biscuit! Shelby had to help me. We sat at a great table by the window right near this nice couple we talked to, Kathleen and Trent. Shelby embarrassed me when she leaned over to Kathleen, pointed at her food and said, “Now what is that you have there?” They were friendly though and Kathleen told us about the Southern Breakfast Bowl, and how she had substituted something called “soysage” for bacon. “Why would you do that?” Shelby asked, embarrassing me again. Turns out Kathleen’s a vegetarian, doesn’t eat meat, so that soysage is like meat for them, she said. I tried a bite of it and it tasted pretty good. It wasn’t like the barbecue we had the other day at 12 Bones Smokehouse (where Obama went to eat a few times!) but if somebody was to put a blindfold on me and say, “Hey Myrtice, eat some of this sausage,” and it was really soysage, I’d figure it was meat and chow down.

Anyway, we got to talking. Trent told us about how him and Kathleen were getting ready to meet their Tai Chi teacher Lawrence down by Pack Square and the courthouse. Shelby started rifling through our “Best of” book to find some info about what Tai Chi was, but Trent said, “Come on with us,” so we paid up and went. It felt good to walk off our breakfast, even though we moved at a slow pace so Kathleen could point out some landmarks and other good vegetarian places like the Laughing Seed Café. She told me I needed to try their hummus, which I always thought was pronounced HYOO-mus but I guess not, and then Kathleen said the Tofu Herb Scramble Plate at Green Sage Café was the best thing ever. Have you ever had tofu, Nicky? Do you think it would be good scrambled up like eggs with a spice called turmeric? I want to try everything so we decided to come back to Green Sage and probably go to Plant, too, which is another fun spot for non-meat-eaters over on Merrimon Avenue.

When we made it down to Pack Square we saw a number of folks from martial arts schools in the area. Some had Chinese-looking outfits on and some wore shirts that said “One World…One Breath.” Trent explained that World Tai Chi and Qigong Day was coming up at the end of April, and a couple of the students were practicing with what looked like bamboo poles that Lawrence told us were staffs. Several had fans of all colors that they were snapping open, and the noise from them was a little bit of a shock till you got used to it. One of the men in a bright blue costume came up and told us we could join in and a lady nearby gave us some fans to try out. I couldn’t figure how to make my fan pop open like they did but got a big kick out of waving it around. Shelby took some pictures of me fanning which I’ll show you when we get home. I look silly but happy!

We learned that Tai Chi is good for lots of things like staying flexible. Kathleen showed me some moves and said my wrist might get better and not feel so stiff if I kept doing Tai Chi. Also, Shelby was glad to know it helps with balance so people aren’t liable to fall as easy. She said, “Myrtice needs that. She’s all the time doing wild stuff like going down slides and riding tire swings.” Trent laughed and showed us a form called Chinese Water Boxing. It felt like dancing when we moved around and played and breathed and got our hearts going.

Nicky, I know you’d love to hear some of the animal names for moves in a Qigong exercise we got to do, like “Nestlings Receive Food.” But what I liked best about the whole thing was that business about one world, one breath. When me and Shelby were off to the side fanning and water boxing and watching the experts, I felt real good, like we belonged to something. Like we were all in this together, didn’t matter age or color or where we come from or whether we like barbecue or tofu better. I’m so glad we went on this trip to the mountains and hope you can come with me next time. Love from your Nannie.

P.S. Remember when me and you and your mama watched American Idol on TV last year? That nice young man who won it, Caleb Johnson, is from Asheville and guess what: Trent was one of his teachers!! They had a big parade for him here and everything. Maybe I can get an autographed picture of Caleb for your mama to put up in her office at work, haha.

-Writings by Ellen J. Perry