Storytelling Retreat with Connie Regan Blake – Asheville, NC

By Kathy Pannell Gordon

One morning this week, I went out to my vegetable garden to pick the last of the beans for my supper. As I peeked behind every green leaf to make sure I didn’t miss a bean, my thoughts drifted to Jack. What it would have been like to climb in and around a great big vine with big green leaves. Would the vine support him? What adventure was hiding around the next twist or curl of that vine? Jack had to trust that this adventure, this experience was going to be worth the climb he was making!

Like Jack, I went on an adventure this summer too. I signed up to spend seven days of retreat with Connie Regan-Blake at her home in Asheville, NC. Along with Connie there were ten of us: a teacher, a minister, an attorney, a publishing event planner, three professional storytellers and two retired people. We were a diverse group to say the least! A few of us had some idea of our adventure ahead because we had attended the year before, but knowing Connie, we also knew there would be many surprises.

We met on Sunday night to introduce ourselves and find out where we were on our storytelling journey. Some had never formally told a story, some had told a few and others were already making a living with their stories. The attorney even shared that she told her stories everyday in court! It was going to be an interesting week.

Our days were spent getting to know each other and getting to know ourselves. We journaled, practiced Tai Chi, ate, laughed, cried, read, hugged and told stories. It was glorious!

We went to a concert to hear Laura Boosinger and Josh Goforth pick and sing at UNCA. That night we also heard Lloyd Arneach, a Cherokee storyteller. Lloyd came to next day and spent the afternoon with us. He was wonderful to listen to as well as answer our questions.

Another visitor, Tiffany Bussard spend a morning with us. Tiffany is a voice coach. She helped us understand our voice, how we can use it more effectively and ways to take care of our voice.

One of the highlights of our week was on Thursday. We went on a field trip to Beech Mountain, NC to spend the afternoon with Rosa and Ted Hicks, wife and son of the late Ray Hicks.

Our trip there, up and over the mountains, was spent partly on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The
rhododendrons were in bloom and they were breathtaking. We stopped to look at the views and walk up to a waterfall.

We continued on past Beech Mountain, made many turns and finally were on a gravel road to the Hicks home; a road where you could almost see Ray walking with his cane and pointing out plants and telling stories along the way. Then, as if she were waiting on us, we came upon a doe with two little fawns. We stopped and watched her until she leaped over into the woods. It helped us understand we were going to a very special place. We rounded a turn and there was the two-story house Ray’s grandfather built. Ted was waiting for us on the front porch. Rosa soon joined him. The love they felt for Connie was everywhere. She has become part of their family. Rosa invited us inside. We spent that rainy afternoon listening to Rosa sing and Ted tell astory about the legendary Jack and one of his many adventures. I sat in amazement while he told us all the twists and turns Jack made on this incredible journey. I knew he had Ray’s storytelling gift. The day was magical.

Another highlight of our week was on Friday night. We invited our friends and family to come to Connie’s for an evening of stories. We each told a story we had
worked on during the week. It was a great time.

We met for the last time on Saturday, where we realized our greatest highlight was the close and endearing friendships we had made: friendships with each other but most importantly with ourselves.

So now I know how Jack felt climbing that beanstalk. I was supported and loved by Connie and the group, while I climbed higher and took more risks on my storytelling journey.

I hope I am able to return next year to Connie Regan-Blake’s home and her storytelling retreat. I know I will see old friends and make new ones, visit old stories and write new ones, but most importantly I’ll continue climbing along with Jack, looking for adventure behind every green leaf.

Kathy is a retired teacher, living in 
Asheville. She was raised in the mountains of Western North Carolina by parents who filled her life with their stories and love of mountain culture. Kathy is enjoying telling her stories around Western North Carolina. Contact her: