The Mill, Huntsville, Alabama, December 30, 2021

            Traveling in and of itself can be intoxicating. The ordinary and the mundane can become foreign, tinged with the sheen of the exotic.

            I mean, who knew that IHOP had pancakes, right? Delovely and delightful pancakes that elevate butter and show off maple syrup.

            Perhaps it’s the flight above the iceberg clouds, or the Lilliputian networks of lakes and rivers that glimmer like rose-tinged mercury then turn a dark quicksilver during the long leaf-fall onto a mirror world that looks like your own, but isn’t.

            Huntsville, Alabama was, in my eyes, breaking through the looking glass.

            I found Willa Cather in Alabama. I found Death in Venice in Alabama. I found Twister in Alabama.

            I found art.


Upon a recommendation, we discovered the Mill. Having opened in 1900 and surviving bankruptcies, a fire, a myriad of changes in the U.S. economy, the Mill is currently a converted space, an artist’s haven, that in the past has been many things: a manufacturing hub for cotton “duck” canvas for the U.S. military; NASA were tenants once, developing the Lunar Rover there. They were home to a multitude of textiles manufacturers forever and a day.

            It was a late Thursday afternoon when we took to wandering, my wife and son and I, through the brick building’s hallways. While the building was open for business, about two-thirds of the workshops and display rooms were closed. There was a pleasant trickle of visitor, which worked fine for me.

            Peering through the windows of the painters and sculptors and lithographers and candle makers and confectioners and even a whisky still and tasting room, the ambience evoked the writer Anne Elliott’s collection The Artstars. I fell in love with her evocative and delicately heartbreaking and melancholic yet profoundly uplifting The Beginning of the End of the Beginning. The Mill was a space, a background, a stage upon which I imagined many of her words, images and stories played out on.

            Magic and beauty are where you find them

            And there was a fine chocolate candy shop there as well.

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