CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some tastes I've had to work to acquire.
A taste for coffee was one. Although my nose would feel seduced by the smell of brewing coffee, it wasn't until I began adding much cream and sweetener that I developed a taste.
National Public Radio was another. Before meeting my husband, the only times I listened to NPR were by accident, and I never stayed long enough to give it a chance. Then Geoff introduced me to a few of his favorite shows, which soon became mine, which evolved into my saving sock-sorting and such for when those shows aired.
And, much as I love this state and its people, there was a time when I would cringe at the word "Appalachian," feeling it meant spit and whittle, and held negative, backwoods implications. But then I was part of something amazing -- something so thoroughly Appalachian that no other word but that could describe what it was.
Except maybe "enchanted."
It was the last night of the West Virginia Writers Conference at Cedar Lakes in Ripley. The banquet and awards ceremony had ended, and most folks had moved into the assembly hall for the evening's entertainment. First was a reading by Lee Maynard (a West Virginian and one of my favorite authors ever) accompanied by acoustic bluesman Pops Walker. Next up were Americana musicians Doug and Telisha Williams, who hail from southwestern Virginia (which sounds close enough to being south West Virginia that I think we should claim them).
They performed their own songs, and there was this one -- brand new -- they'd never performed in public before. Telisha admitted to being nervous about putting it out there, but to an audience of writers, familiar with the exposed feeling that comes with sharing something they'd written, nothing could've endeared her to us more.
That song, "I Want to Be Gone," was hands-down one of the best I've ever heard in my life, and her singing of it couldn't have been any more perfect. It's what a voice like hers is meant for, and the crowd went wild.
As good as the performances were, the magical part of the night didn't begin until the official entertainment was over. Many went back to their rooms to change while the campfire was being lit, and though I started to head for the campfire, Lee Maynard invited me to join him and Pops Walker on the back porch of the lodge, and I couldn't resist.
Someone grabbed Telisha and Doug Williams on their way to change and asked them to join us. Pops convinced them to bring their instruments, since he had brought his.
A few other conference goers wandered in, and soon, Pops and the Williamses were playing for us, with Telisha accepting a request to sing a Patsy Cline song, which she nailed in a way I'd have sworn only Cline herself could've done.