(*This blog was picked up by Psychology Today and chosen as one of their essential reads. You can catch it here.)
I came into the world in the month of September. The great time of hurricanes. My birthday is only a few days away and Florida is heavy on my mind. Weighted on my heart. Saltwater runs through my veins and as I write this looking over this hill from Tennessee I can see those waves crashing, hear the pounding of the Gulf growing angrier by the minute, the slash and snap of the Palms wild from the wind. Along with the rest of the nation my eyes are now turned to the devastation that Irma has left in the Islands and fearing what is yet to come.
I’ve ridden out more tropical storms than I can remember. For about fifteen solid years I’ve made Tennessee my home but right now it’s in my blood to stock up on batteries, water, canned food. To Hunker down and hope.Had our little brick house turned into Noah's Ark full of cousins and animals and family year after year. My mother managed a restaurant right on the beach where I worked every summer. People sat at tables by the water and watched the moonlight on the waves as they rolled up on the shore. Every year we saw that it was bordered up and prayed for the best through the hurricanes. Every single year. A part of life.
I witnessed the destruction first hand after Hurricane Camille - a raging category five - hit the coast of Mississippi on the way to see my Daddy at Ft. Polk right afterwards. My mother crept the car by a warship that had been tossed onto land and into someones yard like a toy boat. The destruction was eerie. It was like driving through a graveyard at the close of day.
Hurricane Opal was downgraded to a three before it hit but the storm surge of Opal came in at high tide and carved molehills out of the backside of condos. From the front they looked perfectly fine but when you walked around to the back of the building there actually was no building there. The storm surge is a deadly thing.
The first time I actually moved away from Northwest Florida was to transfer with my company to south Florida. A world away. The palm trees were taller than the buildings from my hometown. The scent on the air intoxicatingly exotic. The night blooming jasmine, the orchids. I was 21 and didn’t know what to expect. North Florida is a land of old oaks, beautiful beaches, slow talkers, and porch rockers. Pine trees. Ft. Lauderdale was fast. It became home. I gave birth to a baby boy there in Hollywood just north of Miami where I had friends.
I evacuated one time when it looked like a ‘cane was coming in fast and furious and might land as a strong four and my daddy wanted me to get out. Me and sister packed up two cars with two little boys, two dogs, four puppies, one cat, and all the family photos I could carry. My brakes went out as I skirted storms that sent crashing limbs into the roads. Tornadoes chased us all the way to my Aunt Kate’s door up in Georgia. It was days upon days before we could get back (with new brakes), the National Guard still in charge, the power still out.
The world is full of refugees. It’s a clamoring world problem but sometimes a distant drum from our side of the pond. Until Katrina sent refugees scattering everywhere trying to find a toehold to hang onto. Until Harvey just hit and took our breath away. After the big show, when all the tv crews have moved on, the recovery begins. Recovery is slow. Harvey’s price tag might be close to 190 billion. But crunching the numbers says nothing about the amount of lives that will have to be rebuilt. And here’s Irma with Jose right on her tail and barreling up the same path. This time - we are the refugees.
Millions have evacuated. Millions. I can’t even fathom that number on the move in this country trying to avoid disaster, trying to save their loved ones. That’s a lot of tired, scared, thirsty, hungry people. I saw on the news where a city in another state opened a shelter and advertised for Floridians to keep coming north, they have arms open. I was watching the news from Tennessee but I was watching it as a Floridian. Worrying about family and friends there in different counties. Watching the path of the storms twists and turns. Then I realized, I’m not the only one watching. That the entire nation is watching.
Should you be a praying kind of person, now would be a good time to give a pause, to say hello to God for a good cause. For the children losing homes, for the parents clinging to their children, for the first responders everywhere and those that are standing at the ready to work to rebuild what is about to be destroyed and can’t be held back. For order, peace, provision.
Frank Sundram posted on Facebook a reminder from the old movie Starman. When the alien is asked why he wanted to come to Earth he replied, “Unlike the rest of the Universe, the people of Earth are at their best when things are at their worst.”
With a storm that will be felt across the entire state of Florida barreling its way toward us I see the news reporting that campgrounds, hotels, shelters, cities are all opening their gates to evacuees, I cling to that truth. In the survival against what might be the worst to come that we may prove in a million ways be our very best.
Pennies and prayers. They both count more than you know. Give what you can, where you can from the heart of who you are.
Praying for your peace in the middle of all of life’s storms within and without.
Greetings and Good Tidings!
Wanted to share a few mental snapshot thoughts, little flashes that come roll me as I rise and walk through the day. Thank you for following, for subscribing to newsletters, for hanging in here with me on this side of the planet even when it seemed I'd hung up a sign that said, Gone Underground and then disappeared. Well, I did. Thought I'd surface now and stay for awhile. Hang around and sit down. Put my feet up and live this thing called my life. How about you? What you doing this year?
It's a rainy day on the hill I call my home. The fog rises but never clears. Today I live in a cloud. Today I don't mind. It's the time of year where fog and rain bring a little thing known as WARM. Later this week I will see clearly in the sunshine so bright I'll have to wear shades but that will be paired with a coat. I don't own a winter coat right now. Except for my inherited beaver. I wear it sometimes because it is the warmest thing I own and it is soft and I thank the Beavers and God for making furry creatures and my Aunt who owned it once upon a time and my cousin for blessing me with it when she passed so that on freezing days this Florida girl who makes her home in Tennessee doesn't catch pnemonia and die. The "and die" part is a permanent part of my language from my Grandmother who warned us kids about all manner of things that we should be wary of. Don't go down by the creek or the current will get you and you will get pulled in - and die. Don't play in the field or you will get snake bit - and die. Don't go out there without your coat or you will get pnemonia - and die. It's the song of my people. Death is at the doorstep. Defy it. Work hard. Be determined. Set your face like flint to the thing before you and take it down one step, one nail, one board, one broken heart at a time. Survive because you are born from the blood of survivors.
All that great DNA and some days I just get overwhelmed by laundry.
The fog rolls and falls between the naked tree limbs, mist and entity, tangible grey beauty.
Moved Mama in with me. This is a working story in progress. Yelling at Big Dog to shut up because he barks into eternity and it is LOUD and he couldn't care less if I yell shut up because he knows I love him and I'm rolling his medicine in Roast Beast and he doesn't care what I say because he will keep barking, barking, barking until the cows can't stand it. Pack their udders and move to the city just to get some peace and quiet.
Mom: "Don't tell me to shut up! I'm not going to shut up!"
Me: Was talking to the dog Mom. Not you. Not telling you to shut up. It wouldn't do any more good than telling him.
Me to little dog Duncan that came with Mom: - GET up, get up off that cushion.
ME: turning to Mom - What are you doing? Where are you going?
MOM: You told me to get up.
Me: I was talking to the DOG!
We are off to a great adventure. Stay tuned.
IN THE WORKS
On the forefront - 2017 is bringing in great things.
GREAT NEWS! The audio book for Saints in Limbo release. So excited about this project and love this story. Very befitting for the year as it is Mom's favorite of all my novels. I will be doing the reading personally so hope you love it.
FINALLY - Confessions of An American Mystic: Stories of Faith, Fiction, and Faraway Places - actually gets complated this month and goes to the sweet hands of the impossibly talented Adrienne Ingrum from Jericho Books/Hachette. The subtitle is going through all the stages subtitles do - might throw it to you for a mastermind vote :)
Taking a special look back this week at some of my favorite books from 2016 and the ones that I have chosen to kick off 2017. Watch for the post.
An amazing journey lies ahead this year. Within and without. Please stay close as we travel together on this great road trip we call life. And, hang on tight 'cause I hear freedom calling, the scent of green chilis roasting in the air and west coast waves calling. It's going to be a wild ride!
Rocky was movie of the year and fittingly Bowie was singing Golden Years. They were.
I've been no-show for years. Here and there. Popped in at 10 and 20 and had a blast. Then I fell off the earth in a way. I've been busy here and there and swamped with life. Everyone has.
I liked everyone. As I remember it everyone else was just downright nice. (If things were different don't tell me now.) Of course it could have been the High School - Bay High was a true melting pot. We were beach boys, and suntanned girl. We were a bunch of pot smokers, over-achievers, football players, band members. Believers and day-dreamers. We came from every side of the tracks and run of the road. We rolled with that.
So for years we rushed ahead living our lives everything feeling more or less as if we were just a step away from graduation night. Just a few long days and short nights from the halls of ringing bells and laughter. Young couples holding hands. Favorite teachers (Hello Ms. Kelly, Coach Lawson) and each other. Just a step away from our parents being young enough we fought and argued over things like curfews and grades.
Then it happened.
We slipped into stages that were beyond Dan-D Donuts and Talley Ho. We fell out of our neighborhoods and into our lives. We loved and loss. Mates, children, parents. Friends and Family. Each other. We were broken and we healed. We picked up the pieces.
Now as I think about those days I realize even those of us who seemingly had not so much in common but a bus ride have come full circle. We have everything in common now. We've weathered this many years together and apart. We have suffered and survived this beautiful, messy, broken life.
And for just one night on the beach I'm going to celebrate all of that with those who are able to attend.
Right there on that beach, by those waves where I used to wear Banana Boat, swim in the Gulf and run the Miracle Strip at night.
For this one night I'm going to celebrate the fact that in spite of everything, because of everything, we are still alive while remembering that once upon a time we could be anything.
On this one night, on this special year, I intend to raise a glass to celebrate all that we were and all that we've become.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.