RappU and me: A match made in heaven

Roger Flinchum (center) leads a fly-fishing class outing at Lake Schiffman in Sperryville.Raymond Boc
Roger Flinchum (center) leads a fly-fishing class outing at Lake Schiffman in Sperryville.

By Tammy Gill

When my husband and I bought a weekend home in Rappahannock County, I wondered how we would get the opportunity to meet new people. When RappU published a list of course offerings, I decided to see if there was anything of interest — and wound up signing on for six classes!

I came up with a plan wherein I would come down for classes Tuesday through Friday. My husband, John, would spend the weekend here with me and we would return home on Sundays for family dinners with our three grown-up children and two grandsons. This schedule allowed me to spend the better part of the five week “semester” here in this beautiful county learning new things and meeting new folks.

On Tuesday afternoons, you would have found me at Gadino Cellars (Bill Gadino, instructor) learning how to grow grapes and conducting some important sampling of the product — all in the name of science, of course. I never knew there were so many varieties of grapes and that many people in the county grow them to sell to wineries. Here in the Piedmont there apparently is a shortage of grape growers — one can make decent money growing grapes and selling them.

On Tuesday evenings, my sister, Cheryl, who lives in Winchester, would come down to attend the Fly Fishing class (taught by Roger Flinchum) with me. We both had fished before, but we had never attempted fly-fishing. I certainly learned a lot! If you were to drive by the library Tuesday evenings, you would have seen the class members practicing their casting. (One of the county Democrats, meeting in the basement whenever we took over their normal gathering spot, apparently reported that there was a group upstairs “with a lot of whips.”)

There were a lot of laughs in this class, none bigger than when we went fishing on a recent Saturday. The creator of RappU, Doug Schiffman, and his wife, Suzanne, were kind enough to allow the class to come and fish at their ponds. Everyone was assured that they would catch a fish. Well, they lied. I was the only participant who caught nothing. In my defense, I could not see the fish coming (next time I will wear a hat and better sunglasses). To say that my sister was thrilled that she caught multiple fish and I caught none is an understatement.

Last year I took painting classes with my daughter, but by the end of the classes it was clear that there was no improvement in my abilities, and in fact I may have actually gotten worse. When I read that there was a RappU mosaics class on Wednesdays, I thought that this might be an artistic pursuit in which I might actually be able to excel. I figured I would probably be given a design onto which glass simply needed to be glued.

At the first class, instructor Patti Brennan informed my classmates and me that we would need to draw our own design onto a cutout square, and that would become our mosaic. Hearing this, I thought I might get a little sick. I informed the rest of the class of my inability to draw, but Patti very nicely volunteered to help me. I thanked her and told her that I would figure it out. (I figured it out by going home that Sunday and asking my children which one of them was the best artist and could therefore help me.)

The writer finally caught a fish — but in a RappU mosaics class.Courtesy photo
The writer finally caught a fish — but in a RappU mosaics class.

I knew I wanted to make a mosaic of a fish catching a “fly” in its mouth. Little did I know at the time that this would be the only fish I would catch this spring! My eldest drew the picture for me, and every week I would take a picture of the mosaic-in-progress and send it to my family. There were always many comments from them — some snarky, but mostly encouraging. My sister thinks I may finally have found my niche in the world of art. The fellowship I shared with my classmates was really terrific. We would all work diligently on our projects while standing around a table chatting and drinking tea. It was so much fun that the five of us have signed on for six more weeks!

On Thursdays I would take a Golf Swing class taught by Cliff Miller IV. It was wonderful having a class outside. Sometimes it seemed as though the cows across 211 were watching us (or judging us, even). We would all practice our swings and shots while Cliff went around to give individual guidance. Some in the class had never picked up a club; others had a little experience. We all had moments of success and frustration while enjoying the great outdoors.

Friday mornings, I would pack my lunch and head to the River Arts District for two classes back to back. I have been having trouble locating any information on a few of my relatives, so I thought I would sign up for Genealogy with Beth Gainer to see if she had tips for me on finding out about these people.

We learned about many of the free websites to obtain information on relatives of long ago, how to interpret handwriting from earlier generations, and how to find their gravesites. This class was made up of beginners and some who had been working on their genealogy to an almost professional level — one had more than 15,000 people in her family tree. Beth volunteers at the Family Center in Culpeper and offered to help in our searches if we went to visit her.

I had 30 minutes after Genealogy before heading to Armchair Art History. Every week, Suzanne Schiffman would show us slides and talk about different periods of art. This was a class that was so visually pleasing. We would ask questions and sometimes Google various art-history websites for details before discussions. In this class, I confirmed there are still many places in the world where I need to travel. (I may let John come with me!)

The five weeks went by quickly. I enjoyed every class I attended. Not only did Doug Schiffman put this “University” together, he attended every class at least once to ensure that the teachers and students had what they needed. I probably would not have taken this five week self-imposed sabbatical from life had I not read about RappU and the many interesting subjects they had to offer.

I learned a lot about myself and Rappahannock County. I happily filled my time during the five weeks attending the classes, planting a garden, hiking, attending “The Odd Couple” and volunteering at the Food Pantry. Several of the folks I met while working at the Pantry were in some of my classes. I can’t wait until the fall session. I have made new friends and am so happy to own a little slice of heaven here in the county.

And now I need to work on catching a fish.

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