It is with a touch of disappointment that I report that my wife and I will shortly be crossing the Atlantic ocean yet another time in order to live on the European shores once more. There are good reasons for us to move back to Manchester, including the fact we have property there, and a slew of new and exciting projects with European clients, particularly our friends at 3D People. But still, I have enjoyed my year in Knoxville, amidst the greenery and sunshine, despite developing a certain sense of isolation.
Knoxville, a charming college town on the eastern edge of Tennessee, has been a part of my life since 1997, when a friend's wedding brought me here - and led me to my wife. I appreciate the popular conception that people have of Tennessee, and for the most part it is wildly unfair. It is true that this is a fairly conservative state, one in which a conventional patriarchal version of Christianity dominates, and thus a State which prefers to support Republican over Democrat. But beyond the stereotypes of the majority lies a wealth of diversity, and this truly is a remarkably friendly region, with people who would gladly lend a hand to someone in need.
East Tennessee is the liberal side of the State, with the conservative influence being much stronger in wealthy Nashville, or densely urban Memphis. The Christian Churches here are diverse, and there are two Unitarian Churches, one of which has amicable relations with the local Pagan groups. The Pagans, alas, have been having all sorts of problems resolving tensions in their community recently, which is a shame as at its best it is a wonderfully spiritual counterculture. Many refugees from stale-minded Churches have found a home among the Pagans, although it would be wrong to presume that there are not open-minded Christians here. A friend, who alas recently moved to Cincinnati, belonged to a splinter group of Christians within her own church that explored a less traditional interpretation of Christianity in their Sunday meetings.
A fringe benefit of the strong Christian presence here: my wife and I have been able to do our shopping on Sunday mornings, when the orthodox religious community is in Church. The largely empty aisles make for a refreshingly quiet supermarket trip!
My long relationship with Knoxville is not ending - we shall be back here again, no doubt - but my residency here must come to an end. It is with sorrow that I wave goodbye to our many friends here, but it will be with commensurate delight that I greet the many friends waiting for us on the other side of the Atlantic, where we will arrive at the start of June. Until then, we will be lost between worlds, travelling and visiting friends and family.
Farewell, Knoxville! We shall meet again!