The Strange Asheville, NC/Rhode Island Connection

curly willow--nc-biddybytes

I love it when folks, in Asheville, North Carolina, ask me what part of Rhode Island I’m from!  I think it’s hysterical… really.

I want to say:  “If I tell you Warwick, will you know where that is?”  (it’s smack-dab in the center of the state.)

Now, let’s face it:  R.I.’s only ever 45 minutes long, so wherever you’re “in it,” you’re not far from anywhere else.  That’s just one of the perks of living in the littlest state in the U.S.

But apparently our sphere of influence looms large…and that surprises me. Here’s a for-instance.

On trips to Florida, many years ago, my mother used to ask folks named Wilson, if they knew Wilson’s in Rhode Island, and I’d shake my head in disbelief, wondering: “Why would she think that just because they share the same name (“Wilson,”) these Floridians know random Wilson’s in Rhode Island, hundreds of miles to the north?”

You know what?  More times than not, they did know the Rhode Island Wilson’s…They were even related.   I was the one with egg on my face.

“Ashevillians Appear to Love Rhode Islanders”

But here’s the purpose of this post:  I’ve a secret belief that whatever attracted us ( Rhode Islanders) to Asheville, North Carolina, was foreordained, due to the same undercurrent that got others here…

Some feel Asheville’s a location of the earth where strange vibes occur (sort of like the mystical Oracle of Delphi, in Greece.) Those forces have a powerful effect, and they operate on us, without our knowing.

On No. Lexington Ave.,  in downtown Asheville, at Royal Peasantry, I recently spoke with a young clerk who showed us dresses, garments, and accessories pieced together out of wildy-disparate materials, creating amazingly-unique outfits (so very “Asheville.”)  As we talked, she asked:  “Where are you from?”

I answered “Rhode Island.”

She asked, “Whereabouts in Rhode Island?” When I answered “Warwick,” I waited…for I’m no longer smug. In fact, I’m waiting for the next affirmation of Mom’s Wilson’s who are apparently related to all other Wilson’s on the planet.

She then whoops it up, saying “I thought your accent was Rhode Island!” (I don’t have one!)  My mother-in-law’s from Warwick.”

I counter with:  “Well, isn’t that remarkable!” (But I know it isn’t, for this is happening ALL the time.)

Today, while riding in the car, I was fascinated by a truck with curly limbs sprouting from it.  Told my husband to follow it, right into the post office parking lot, where I could get a shot of it, with my camera.

We pulled alongside the driver’s vehicle.  That’s when I met driver Kristy, an entrepreneur who does fresh and silk arrangements, along with fantasy and macabre ceramics.

I asked what type the branches in her truck were and she answered:  “Curly willow…very pretty but watch ‘em:  If you put one of these branches in water, it’ll sprout and encourage everything else around it to grow, like wild-fire.” “Don’t plant it if you don’t want it overtaking everything.  Florists (like her) use them for arrangements.”

She then said:  “Your accent (I don’t have one…) Where are you from?”

I say:  “Rhode Island…Even got the license plates to prove.” (I point to ours.)

She squealed in delight, saying: “Rhode Island’s my favorite spot in all the world.” “We used to go there, every year, for vacations, to the beaches.” “I grew up with clam cakes and chowder” (even pronounced it correctly, as “chowdah.”)

She added:  “I love Rhode Island so much I plan on being buried there.”

I thought about that, later:  “Wow! This Asheville woman’s so invested in little Rhody, she’s going there, for her final resting spot.”

I thought, too: Husband and I were drawn to this region, when no other place similarly attracted.  We knew no one here; we hadn’t come here, as children. Our choice to live here 5 months a year seemed purely serendipitous…

But is it?  When I realize these connections with others, it feels like something else is afoot.  Just sayin’….

If you’re a transplant and care to share how you got to Asheville, please do. If you wish to go to Rhode Island, tell me that, too…I’m now a bit of an expert (oxymoron?), on both…

***Pic is of Kristy, a new Asheville/Rhode Island friend…That’s a close-up (on top) of her truck and better shot of those danged curly willows that apparently are a lot like kudzu, another plant that strangles everything else in its midst.

kristy nk and weaverville--nc

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A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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