I get up very early on my better days. Preferably about five am. I like to have the quiet of the morning to simply be in the presence of the Divine to the best of my busy brain ability, to at least appreciate the simple moments as the night becomes dawn becoming day. A precious time of the morning. I wake up at that speed and always get creative work accomplished that otherwise is eaten up with the business of to-do lists if I rise as late as eight. Or even seven. To that end I woke just at dawn this morning. I made coffee. Had lit candles in my office and was headed to watch the light outside my window. Then Mama's bedroom door opens and her dog runs out. Ok, fine. Let Duncan out with plans of hustling back to bed. But then Mama comes out dressed like all - Top of the Morning to you!
My mother is not an early riser. This is a well known fact of life. We grew up knowing not to wake her and not to talk to her until she had her coffee because she could be ill in the morning in a mean spirited kind of way. Which is fine with me and sister because we don't want to talk in the morning either. I told Miss Top of the Morning who informed me she had been awake most of the night so she just decided that she was going to get up for awhile and then maybe go back to sleep that I had to go say my prayers. What the translation of this is in everyday language is - Don't talk to me. Don't think about talking to me. Don't make any noise. And don't even THINK ABOUT turning on that television. Then I go up to my office with the candles lit to be all saintly and stuff. Then I sit down to be all thankful for things and realize one of the most thankful things I have to be thankful for is that my Mama is alive and I can sit on the porch with her and have coffee and see the birds. So I get up and go back down stairs and say hey, Mama do you want to sit on the porch and see the birds? And she says Ok. So I make her coffee and go out to the porch.
She says she sure wishes she had a rocking chair on the porch. I tell her we need to get her one of those for the porch. She likes the camp rocking chair that her niece bought her except you can't walk around it. I told her we will take it to the football game if she wants to go. She sits in the chair. The rescue dog Kevin must say good morning which tangles the other dog on the leash. We untangle and sit down dividing dogs among us and look at the birds.
In four.two seconds Mama tells me there is a vine growing that needs to be cut out of a tree. I tell her it would be nice if we could just look at the trees and not start working on my to-do list yet this morning. She says ok. We look at the trees. I tell her how nice and quiet it is. She says yes, I like the quiet. But I kinda get the feeling she is sick of it. It must get a little too quiet while I am at work. I know she misses her corner and her house of fifty years and her neighbors.
Well, the trees are turning and in a few weeks it will look like the Smokies up here. It will be so pretty. She asks me if that is a tree down my hill that just fell over. I tell her yes. She asked me if azaleas grow up here and I tell her I just don't know for sure but I thought I saw some once. She says they sure would be pretty down there if someone could set some out. Of course they would have to put a bunch of big rocks down there to hold the dirt up so it didn't go over the cliff. Yes, I tell her. Maybe someone could do that. She asks me then if Rye grass will grow in the yard if some is thrown out. If there is anything out there for it to hang onto. I tell her there is dirt out there for it to hang onto. That rye grass can find purchase. She said it sure would look better to see some green. That rye grass is really green and she likes green. We happen to be looking out over acres and miles of green as far as the eye can see. She says she likes the light green of rye grass. We sit for a minute looking at all the green that is not rye grass green.
Mama asks me if I got my birthday card from Cousin Deb. I tell her I did not and ask her if she sent it to the house or the po. She says the house. Then she says she does not trust that mailbox. That my birthday card should have come last week. I tell her I just do not know. Then she tells me she has not gotten her bill from Dillards and she should have and I need to call and make sure they have the new address. I tell her it is not seven o'clock and maybe we should just look at the birds and not start on my to-do list. She says ok.
Then the dogs get jealous and cause a problem and need to be petted. And we talk about old dogs and missing Titan and she talks about her little dog that loved her and got ran over and then she is very sad about that. This happened when we were teen-agers. I told her we should just be thankful we have had some really good dogs. She said yes, including my german shepherd that got hit by car when I was a kid and that was just tragic and begins to recount his last hour. I tell her she has now gone from my to-do list to dead dogs. She laughs a little bit and says she will just think of something nice to talk about. We try to go back to the birds.
A hummingbird shows up and that is a happy thing because we thought they were all gone and the feeders had run dry and I thought I had sent them to their doom by running out of sugar when they needed it most. But I found a little and put feeders out full and so at least the stragglers might survive. We identified a blue bird and a dove and heard a crow. It was peaceful for a minute and then Mama said she sure was worried about North Korea. I said, yes everyone is but if he is crazy and sends a missile we will blow up all of North Korea and it will be tragic so let's not talk about it for just a little bit. She said she just wanted to call someone and ask them if they remembered what MacArthur said.
It was quiet for just a minute. Then Mama said, I just want to say one thing about Hitler.
And just like that I decided it was time to go to work.
Wishing you peace this morning in your neck of the woods.
Sometimes you have to listen to your inner instincts. The small voice we hear that whispers, this way, follow me. For some it is the voice of God. For others their sixth sense. For me I’d say it’s a combination of both considering they are one and the same.
Fifteen years ago I moved to Nashville following that voice. That’s the short and simple version of the story but it was that clear. Nashville. No other place on a map filled with other places, many options. I knew no one in the city, had no relatives in the area, and no particular job. It was the city where I had to be. I’ve never regretted following that voice but never more-so than last Monday when the celestial heavens aligned.
While others across the nation had carefully plotted their path for many years I lived oblivious, caught up in the daily rapture and apocalypse of my own life. It was only a few weeks ago that I actually realized the eclipse was headed my way. Or that I was headed toward it. Then I began to feel a bit unsettled. I blamed it on the news, the rolling tide of my emotions. On deadlines or fatigue. On just being me - artistic and emotive, passionate.
Plans were in the making all around me. All of the big events, major parties, bands and eclipse watching gala's. Glasses sold out, were recalled, sold out again. I never bought any. I bought Guinness. There was that small instinctual voice again. Alone, it whispered. So alone it would be. I would sit on my porch, watch and wait with expectation. Experience the unknown of what would come.
I woke up Monday saying Eclipse Day! As if it were Christmas morning. I was giddy. Such a silly word but I felt silly not melancholy. I worked on a short story about a woman waiting for the eclipse. The refrigerator man came to repair the fridge. I looked at my watch. I told him that it was about to penumbra was coming. I told him he could take a Guinness with him. I might have been hinting.
My house is circled with trees. Large Oaks of every kind, Elms and Hickories. I love the light passing through the filter of their leaves. The sun on their bark, the fog that moves through their limbs in the early morning dawn. I have a relationship with these woods.
I sat on my tiny, front porch, watched the shadows shifting forward, opened a beer. There was the singing of the cicadas and the birds. Dogs barked off in the distance down the hill. It was the middle of the day but night was falling, the shadows lengthening. There was the slightest of breezes and I felt the coolness on my skin as the day gave pause, began to bow to the passing of the moon.
I watched this approaching night for the hours it unfolded and then at the speed of atoms splitting, totality crashed over me. It was as if the keys of a thousand doors were unlocked at once and forever. And it took my breath. I whispered Jesus, Jesus, Jesus - not in fear or even in prayer - but in awe and wonder. A word of praise and thanksgiving to have lived in this moment in time, to have lived in the path of this happening and to be experiencing it in such an immediate and profound way.
I stepped out into the open beneath the dark sky where stars had appeared. Fireflies lit up the grass everywhere as if they had been standing by waiting for their orders to lift off. There are few moments in life this powerful and profound.
Day began to slide out from under the moon again, sweep across the yard, shadows being chased away by light until the fullness of day returned. The sound of the crowd miles away at the Riverfront irrupted into cheers.
Late that afternoon I watched the Nasa coverage, the interviews with people from all nations. This moment so exciting, so breathtaking. So unifying.
The following day I was in Parnassus Books greeting customers Visitors who had traveled all these miles to be right where I was all along. Sharing stories of where they’d been, how they’d watched. One man from Texas looked at me and said, “Totality is everything.”
"Yes," I said. “90% isn’t good enough,” he continued, adamant about this. He was preaching to the choir. “No sir,” I said. “Its totality or nothing at all.”
Another couple had traveled from Tampa. The man told me that they had run from the clouds farther up in Kentucky. Ended up pulling off of the interstate and watching from a field behind JC Penny. The woman said it was perfect. Her eyes were still filled with the wonder that I had felt. “An Indian man from New York and his family stood next to us,” he said, “and he watched the whole thing with his hand on his heart. He told me afterwards that in his religion this was a spiritual experience.” He smiled at me, tired from so many miles but so fulfilled. “I told him, buddy in my religion it’s a spiritual experience too.”
Another man told me, “You know, for just a minute we all stopped fighting. It wasn’t about politics or arguing. We were all in the same place. Suddenly we were all on on the same page.”
Eclipse books were on sale. People were buying them up. Opening to the pages for their next pilgrimage. Marking the trajectory. “Argentina,” one woman told me, “I was born there and haven’t been back in thirty years but I’m going for this.”
I realize that the world has scoffers, people who fall into the category of - What is all the noise about? Big deal. Sun, moon, eclipse - I get it. And those that say, Well, that was an interesting show, now let’s get back to business. But there’s another group. The ones who were deeply affected when those celestial bodies aligned, who felt an awakening of bold Illumination. When for those few minutes we became one people, looking heavenward, eclipsed by the vastness of the universe, our politics as small as those distant stars in the horizon. When all the pleasure and pain of simply being human traveling through this vast corridor of time was the greatest miracle of all.
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