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Ada's Pictures 635Ada's Pictures 648 We’ve had heavy rain in North Carolina this week and also, in the high country, dense fog. My mother, the children, and I discovered the latter while driving the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which rides the spine of the southern Appalachians, just below the Virginia state line. Road closures, as well as the murky weather, had meddled with our hiking plans, so we were cruising up and down past lots of trees just like the ones above, and past overlooks giving onto vistas of undisturbed whiteness, while we tried to think of something to do with the day.

That was how we happened into Glendale Springs, a crossroads in the fog, where we discovered the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, better known as The Church of the Frescoes. The frescoes in question are the work of artist Ben Long, a North Carolina native who has painted a “trail” of frescoes in churches, schools and municipal buildings throughout the mountain and western-Piedmont region.

Ada's Pictures 637 Here’s The Last Supper, which dominates the modest nave at Holy Trinity (for a clearer photograph, click here): a strange, spare composition in which the empty wall, lit by a tall window, predominates, and the figures crowd together close to the bottom. It’s the conclusion of the Last Supper, apparently: the washbasin and towel sit discarded at one side, Judas is hastening on his fatal errand, and the rest of the disciples seem also in the act trickling away, leaving Jesus unfriended at the table. I came in at the end of a talk by the retired rector of the church, so missed the explanation for the woman and child at the bottom left of the painting; the dog of course was traditionally a symbol of fidelity, which seems ironic here, as virtually all Jesus’ followers are caught at the nadir of their faithfulness to their Lord.

Ada's Pictures 641The church crypt is also open to visitors, and there we found this odd painting by a student of Ben Long: The Departure of Christ. I kept thinking that the wrong characters had wandered into The School of Athens — in fact, surely that’s Socrates conversing with Plato at bottom right — but this is an interesting choice of extra-textual subject. The placard beside the painting notes that Christ’s eyes linger on the big beam at the right, suggestive perhaps of the future which awaits Him.

Ada's Pictures 642In the crypt we also found what I thought at first was a display of local pottery, but turned out instead to be a columbarium. I’m afraid this picture isn’t very clear. It was hard to find an angle at which the flash didn’t bounce off the security glass. At any rate, pottery abounds in North Carolina — practically everybody’s next-door neighbor, including mine, is a potter — and I was admiring the lovely pieces and remarking to myself that this was certainly an arty kind of little church, lost in the mist at a wide place in the road, when my eye fell on the word “cremains,” on a little placard on the wall. Oh. Well. Nice pots, anyway.

Ada's Pictures 602Back in Blowing Rock, where we were staying, the fog was just as thick as it had been at higher elevations, swathing an already almost unbearably picturesque town in a layer of ethereality — or something like that. It looked purty and mysterious-like. The teenager and I walked down Main Street in the spittling rain and grazed at shop windows, where we encountered, in the window of a gallery whose name I have sadly already forgotten, this arty-pottery curiosity: the Sasquatch Saint Francis. Ada's Pictures 603

We didn’t go inside the Episcopal Church, St. Mary of the Hills, but it did look properly atmospheric in the fog, almost the sort of place where one could set, I don’t know, a series of wildly popular, mildly romantic, Episcopalian-flavored novels . . .

Ada's Pictures 655

So, there you have it. Many thanks to my mother, without whose company we would certainly not have been staying in Blowing Rock, among other things . . . At any rate, if you were contemplating a sort of Trail of Icons and Curiosities for your next vacation, consider putting North Carolina on your list of places to visit.

I’ll just go ahead and rate North Carolina itself, my adopted home state.
[Rating: 100/100]

Beware, though. It’s not all fog and atmosphere around here. In fact, in my little town on the cusp where the Piedmont meets the foothills, it’s a hundred degrees in the sun and not that much breezier in the shade. Time to go strain the lemon balm out of the tea I’m brewing and load ‘er up with ice.

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