A day in the LEAF

LEAFAsheville, a center for arts and culture in the Southeast, has no shortage of events that enrich the soul. Fortunately, the local arts councils are also generous with these events, providing free tickets to those who could not otherwise afford them. Little Miss and I were lucky enough to score day tickets to the Lake Eden Arts Festival, or LEAF.

The clouds had burst the night before, and some rain lingered into Saturday morning, but it certainly didn’t extinguish the spirits of those on site. When we arrived, the event was in full swing, concert music spilling into the air outside the tents, a poetry slam tearing words from writers’ hearts, the aromas of hot garlic and smoky grills on the breeze. Brave (foolish?) younguns ziplined down into the lake, now a balmy 50 degrees. One bank of the lake was lined with the tents of those staying for the weekend, the other with the festival venue.

Kids ran everywhere, enjoying being kids, many barefoot, even in the squishy mud left from the rain the night before. Arts and crafts booths lined the perimeter, and soon Little Miss sported her own magenta and lilac African mask on a necklace.

The crowd was a burst of colors, so many dressed in flowing fabrics and “hippie” style. I fell in love immediately with the atmosphere, one which pervades Asheville as a whole, but seemed concentrated at the event in one glorious serving.

The headliner for the music scene was Macy Gray; she’s playing today, so we missed her, but we didn’t miss out. Saturday afternoon, we listened to bluegrass artist Sara Watkins, and as the evening wore on we were treated to a show by Cuban R&B/hiphop artist Danay Suarez.  She’s one of LEAF’s teachers in the visiting artists program at local Erwin High School. Though her concert was in Spanish, even her commentary to the audience, it was easy to decipher her meaning once she began to sing. The reggae and jazz beats reached into the soul and lifted it up.

Such a wild and wonderful combination of folks! We, of course, hunted down our family connections with Lucia and Kevin Barnes from Ultimate Ice Cream (did you know they have a CSA for ice cream???), then moved on. I loved the folks with this sign–good advice was free, and “bad” advice, you paid for. Sounds about right.

I’d had a rough weekend physically, so I had my cane and a folding cart with a camp chair, etc. that I finally set up outside the concert tent. Little Miss announced she wasn’t done exploring, so she spent the next few hours going from booth to booth, talking to vendors, learning about sound healing, swinging on some awesome hanging chairs, smelling incense and candles and much more.  I know it may not sound like much to most folks that a 17 year old worked a crowd, but for those who know the autism spectrum, and Little Miss, this means she overcame the noise of the music and crowd, went on her own, spoke with strangers to gather information, and experienced independence–knowing I was in one place where she could find me if she needed anything. Pretty awesome.

Mid-afternoon, LEAF was treated to a parade with a host of performers like those of Imagine Circus from Raleigh, sparkling and dancing in the sun. 


A glorious day, in the end, though I hadn’t expected it would be.  Something I’ve been working on, my expectations. When you have debilitating conditions, it’s so easy to slip into a niche where you automatically choose not to go out and do things for fear of increased pain or repercussions or inability. I’m trying now to “expect” that yes, there will be difficulties, but the experience is worth it once all is done.

And the lovely Danay Suarez proved my point. The beats of her music got me to my feet, moved me like a hurricane wind from her island. I didn’t look around to see what people were judging this old, fluffy lady, swaying her hips with one hand on her cane and one on her chair. I was simply the music.

We went to LEAF. Little Miss got to be a real teenager. And I danced. 🙂




When the muse leads you to dance…

We live in the hometown of Allegheny College, which prides itself on being “a unique place where students embrace the College’s total educational experience.  Our students have the uncanny ability to create unusual combinations of interests and talents.  These “wonderfully weird” combinations enhance our students’ success here and ensure excellence in their future careers.”

This emphasis on well-rounded, Renaissance individuals brings us to last Friday night and the performance by Orchesis, the student-run dance company that put on an incredible show of dance, music and lights. While many of the students have dance training, a good cross-section are just learning to dance for the first time, for the opportunity and experience.

One of “our” international students, Xinyang Liu (affectionately known to her friends as Amber), was a participant, and we’ve been anxiously awaiting the chance to see her perform. One of her friends posted the video– complete with the enthusiastic Allegheny crowd of supporters. (Note: you might want to turn your volume down at the beginning of the video. The students are VERY enthusiastic. The dance starts about fifty seconds  in.) Our girl is about one-third of the way across from the left, with a thick ponytail. She was fantastic!

Here’s a picture of the family together afterward. Time to celebrate with muffins and pie at Perkins! (You know, that new place…)

I’m a dance mom!

For years, I’ve been a bit envious of all those moms with pretty little ballerinas, rushing off to dance class, watching their little angels at recitals.

My big girls tried dance, found it wasn’t for them (at least the political aspect of other girls being teachers’ pets), and went on to other endeavors. For the longest time, I’d thought dance would go the way of the Boy Scouts–once they heard the “A” word, forget about it.

But thanks to the courage of one local dance school, Movement Unlimited, Little Miss has become a dancer.

She is in a modern dance class with kids several years younger, but she’s there. Parents got to sit in this week, and she kept up with the other girls, and followed directions perfectly, unlike many of the NT girls. She even volunteered when the teacher asked for leaders, and gracefully stepped aside when the teacher chose someone who had more experience.

I hadn’t realized just how awkward movement is for autistic kids, and she does struggle with smooth transitional movement. but she is interested in the class and what she’s doing. She’s even started watching the show Shimmy, and following along. (Although when her father tried to join in, she didn’t hesitate to inform him that ‘THIS dance was for girls!’)

i’m tickled, for her sake and ours. Now I’m one of those mothers anxiously hovering outside the studio, waiting. Isn’t it grand?