Monday, October 13, 2008


I have always been one to scoff at the idea of the supernatural. The notion of past lives has been, for me, a literary device and nothing more. So it surprises me to say that, if, by some unimaginable chance I did have a past life, that life was almost certainly lived in Tennessee. I have been there twice in this life. I recognized this inexplicable affinity on the first visit, but was certain I would get over it as soon as I got home.
Everything in Tennessee seemed so familiar to me. I told myself it was just because I grew up with country music. I could sing you songs about Knoxville, about Gatlinburg, about Nashville. I could take you on a wild musical ride outrunning revenuers with a tank of moonshine in the back. Give me just a few opening chords and I could smell the air of Dolly Parton’s Tennessee Mountain Home. I told myself it was the long-remembered country music imagery that made me think I’d been there, made everything so coherent, so familiar.

I told myself it was the storytelling that made me feel I knew the people there. It was my love of the southern drawl, my admiration for those with such a superior grasp on my hobby. I assured myself that I most certainly could never have lived a past life in a state where they didn’t know we were having an election in Canada, a place where the notion of public transit has gone the way of the dodo.

But then a total stranger mentioned that East Tennessee University is offering a degree in storytelling with a minor in bluegrass music. And though I neither resigned my job at home, nor called the kids in Alberta with instructions to sell the house, both those ideas made a certain amount of sense. So here I am in Edmonton, a safe distance from ETSU, my Airmiles rewards reduced to nothing, generating great guffaws at the suggestion of a degree in storytelling with a minor in bluegrass, wondering when I might next visit Tennessee.

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