This must be the place
Editor’s Note: After receiving a heartfelt letter in the mail recently from an inmate at a North Carolina correctional facility, Garret decided to write back. Here is his response.
First off, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the letter you sent. It was filled with such kind words. I often wonder myself if anyone actually reads what I put out there, if my words find themselves in the hands of those looking for something that day, whatever that something might be.
At the moment, I’m sitting alone in a wine bar in downtown Asheville. They don’t open until 2 p.m., but the cute bartender let me stay when I wandered in an hour early. The crisp late fall sunshine is trickling into the large bay windows facing south onto a busy side street. The bartender always seems to intrigue me, each and every time I step foot in here, whether it be on a chaotic, thirsty Saturday night or solemn Tuesday afternoon amid a rainstorm. Something about the way she carries herself holds my attention. Maybe today will be the day I actually ask her out, eh? Who knows? That’s just the beauty of life — chance, opportunity and determination.
I must say, your letter was well written. You definitely have a great command of words and sentence structure. Do you write stories at all? Who are you reading?
Anyhow, I admire your sheer ambition to make a better person of yourself and of your situation. I don’t think anybody truly can know themselves until faced with struggle and adversity. I can’t imagine what being incarcerated must be like. I myself spent a night in jail once and, believe me, I don’t ever want to be a return customer.
I wonder if being behind bars makes you appreciate the small things in such astronomical ways. Like adequate shower pressure or a walk in a park or just looking upwards into the heavens, into vast unknowns that only seem to make you smile in the face of things you cannot explain, but are constantly in awe and appreciation of.
You had mentioned about the subjects I write about. You know, nature, people, unique things and places? I guess my fascination with all of that comes from my Celtic sentimentality. As much as I revel in the present and look forward to the future, I’ve always had one leg stuck in nostalgia. Not the kind of nostalgia that leaves one wearing a 20-year-old Mickey Mouse T-shirt from a long forgotten trip to Disney World, but the kind that stops you in your tracks when a smell, word, sound or sight triggers a memory, an emotion held tightly in the back of your mind, like an old sweater of your grandfathers that you don’t have the heart to throw out, but there will always be space for it in an attic trunk, carefully locked.
I find my time here in Western North Carolina has peeled away ancient layers of my soul, revealing notions, sentiments, and most importantly, levels of love and kindness I never knew I was capable of giving and receiving.
All of this rambling and sentimentality may just be the seasons shifting, where a decaying fall morphs into a silent winter. But, I don’t think so, personally. I think something is in the air, at least in the air I’m currently breathing. It keeps me on edge, keeps me passionate about almost everything I come in contact with.
I hope everyone can experience that at least for one day in their lives. The world, for good or ill, is an incredible place, which can offer the most beautiful things to those who look at it through the right lens. My lens nowadays tends to be a kaleidoscope, where my senses have become so sensitive that I find myself in total wonder overhearing a conversation, interacting with a stranger or simply just listening to a slight breeze cascade by my front porch.
I wish you all the best now and when you do finally get out. The world is yours. I may be young, but I’ve picked up simple pieces of wisdom that help guide me through life, that seem to make my existence that much more rich in enjoyment and opportunity.
1. Start a conversation with at least one stranger a day, everyday.
2. Do at least one thing a day, whether it be a phone call, email or interaction, that will put you in the direction you need to go to pursue your dreams.
3. Always open the door for anyone following in behind you.
4. Kindness breeds kindness.
5. You can never say “thank you” too much, in any situation.
6. If there is a God, he/she can be found anywhere in nature.
7. Music is food for the soul, especially when performed live.
8. Your happiness is a result of your actions and intent.
9. Always tip your waitresses/servers more than 15 percent.
10. Always be in awe of the world and your surroundings, for life is short yet miraculous and bountiful to those who seek passion and beauty.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Garret K. Woodward
1: Strung Like A Horse will play Nov. 21 and 23 at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva and Nov. 22 at the Water’n Hole Bar and Grill in Waynesville.
2: “Ring of Fire — The Music of Johnny Cash” hits the stage at WCU on Nov. 24.
3: Bluegrass legend David Holt performs Nov. 29 at the Martin Lipscomb Performing Arts Center in Highlands.
4: The “Hard Candy Christmas Arts & Craft Show” will be Nov. 29-30 at WCU.
5: Soldier’s Heart and Petticoat Government play Nov. 29 at the Water’n Hole Bar and Grill in Waynesville.