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.
Me and my dear Mama. We are still learning to live together - again. When she cooks she takes a loooooong time. Even if she is just microwaving soup. This is why her microwave soup is better than mine. I want everything in a hurry. Because I am busy with other things. Many other things.
We like to watch different things on television. She likes Fox news. I prefer the BBC. She likes Family Feud. I like Orphan Black. But we both seek to find common ground there as well and we do. Like Grantchester. Since the season finale. I'm searching for a new weekly place we can call a truce and break bread together good old american style in front of the television.
So I was on my way home from running fourteen hours of errands. The last of which was to stop by PETSMART and buy an ELECTRIC LITTER PAN for mom's fat cat. She says changing it breaks her back. Changing it makes me angry. I'm the one that has to drag in the forty five pound box of cat litter weekly after wrestling it into the buggy and then out of the buggy into the car and out of the car into the house and by the time I get to the cat pan I am A LITTLE PUT OUT.
The cat hisses at me and swipes it's claws at me every time I walk past the bed after giving mom her morning medicine. This is the truth. My mom even says - why does she do that? I say I do not know. But it may be because I 'assist' her to go into the bedroom and close the door behind her when she is trying to throw herself down on the floor and NOT GO.
I have had cats and kittens all of my growing up life. Kittens are one of my first memories. My cat Moses that finally had to say goodbye was 21 years old because I kept him alive and alive and alive. That being said - when I walked into the Pet store and wrestled this 200 pound electric cat pan box deluxe edition with hood and auto scooper poopy thing into the buggy, a woman that worked there took one look at my disheveled tired beyond belief face and said -
"You are tired. Can I help you?"
"I hate my mother's cat."
This might not be the kind of response she expected.
"It hisses at me and swipes it's claws at me every time I walk past it."
She said she was sorry again and asked, "Has she been declawed? Sometimes that can make them mean and angry."
"No, we can't do that because we did it to a white Persian we had when I was a kid and she got out and then never came back and my mother knew she couldn't climb a tree or defend herself so it was a tragedy. It has always been a tragedy. Everytime declawing comes up we have to have a moment of silence for Beabea."
By now I have made it to the dog food aisle and appear to be wandering aimlessly. Lost in tragic memory.
"Beabea was a fine cat. My mom's cat is just a - - -"
"Mam, you are in the dog food isle now."
She thinks I've lost my mind.
"Yes, I know what aisle I'm in. We buy my mother's dog food here."
"Oh, what do you get?"
"Blue stuff. I don't remember. Maybe purple stuff."
"Does it look like this? Or this?" She is doing anything to 'assist me' out of the store.
"It doesn't matter. We just bought his food."
Her face goes from perplexed to perplexed on steroids.
"I'm looking for food for a rescue dog."
"Ohhhh, that's nice. Let me recommend this big chunk on special protein no gmo all natural 40,000 dollars a bag for a fifty pound bag."
"The rescue's name is Kevin. Kevin has heart worms."
She pauses. I'm her saddest lot customer of the day.
"Let me see if I can find you a coupon for you that will work."
"Yes, please. A coupon would be very nice."
She finds a manager to override the expiration date on the coupon.
I load the automatic cat litter cleaner with the fifty pound bag of dog food in the car.
After all of this I call mom to tell her I was finally on the way home. AND NOT TO COOK ANYTHING. Because I just wanted to unload the car and pour a glass of wine and watch Grantchester without the sound and distraction of cooking. It was too late. When I called she said I'm cooking chicken thighs. I told her - "Okay fine. If you insist on cooking Then I'm going to church."
I turned the car toward downtown and went to the Breaking Bread at 6 at Christ Cathedral. All because I just couldn't stand to go home and be homey. The service is CASUAL. Last week the priest said - if you have children with you - and then I expected the normal get up and take them to Sunday school but, No. He says just let them be children and make noise if they need to and wander around the sanctuary. They need to feel welcome. I'm thinking - HA! One trip with my precious little Damon will put an end to those rules.
Then we have communion up at the alter and the little children are comfortable being themselves. We get to the point in the service where the Peace is shared and everyone shakes hands with EVERYONE so there is a lot of peace going around. Then we move into communion and everyone is standing in a circle. There is a little girl screaming peesse peesse peesse over and over so I just close my eyes and look down and try to tune her out but she keeps screaming peesse peesse peessee in a two year old voice. Then the woman on my right taps me and says - she's trying to give you peace. I look up and it's the two year old in her mothers arms screaming peessee at me with her little hand stuck out wanting to shake. I shake hands with her, say Peace and she snaps her hand back. Business taken care of. No more chit chat.I go home. Have a tiny glass of wine. Then unload all of it in the house. I open the four thousand parts to the litter pan and begin to read the instructions.
They are too complicated. I leave it for tomorrow.
I pour more wine.
It's time for Grantchester.
Me and momma sit down and break bread over chicken thighs and rice.
The fat cat is locked in the bedroom. The dogs do not eat their expensive non-gmo dogfood. They stared at us with superpowerdogeyes and practiced their hypnotic mind games.
My hate for the cat downshifted to dislike. My like for that Granchester priest grew and for an hour something like peessee settled about the house.
Hope you are finding a little Peace in your corner of the world because it sure is something we need a little more of right now.
*Post script - The FAT Cat has used the auto box 57 times. It's suppose to last a month. It lasted a week. I changed the box last night. It weighed 10042 pounds. I hate that cat.
Hey there. Just a few things on my mind.
I picked up a nail. Which led me to a tire store where I was looking for a patch. Well, if you pick up a nail and it's in a certain place where your tire is worn they can't patch it very well. Which means I gotta get a tire. Cause it's all wheel drive - I gotta get two rear tires. Since Daddy said you always have to buy 4 tires at a time looks like I'll be riding on some tread. Which comes in handy on these high speed rolly polly slippy slidey roads in Nashville.
March is trying to kick up some Spring around here but we've had a serious cold snap. Down to 20 degrees at night -
Shut your mouth.
No, Really. It's some crazy cold for those of us with thin skin. My sister calls me a lizard cause I used to lie in the sun on the beach for hours upon hours. It just charged my battery. I need the sun, need a rock and I'm relaxed.
Closest thing to it - building a fire in the fireplace and lying on the floor rotating myself. Big dog doesn't care for the heat but if I"m on the floor and he's laying next to me it's the best sleep he ever gets. He's got an old dog snore and I swear I could ride that snore to heaven. Its good to know that your company means so much. Just being nearby. You can't ask for more than that. Well you can - but why?
Got some new friends reading Saints, and Messenger, Mercy, and The Gin Girl and asking me why in the world I don't write music because I sure write novels like I write music. I said - okay. I'll write some music. So I have. It's Nashville after all. Seems like it by be a sin not to. At least around here.
Spring's setting in no matter how the cold turns. Summer is coming on. Porch time. Long nights. Fireflies. Shooting stars. In light of that, in spite of everything, it's still a good time to be alive.
What's happening in your neck of the world?
After working 8 hours on my feet and getting ready to walk the dog this late one more time in the freezing cold and go to bed - I remember and think WAIT! It's Advent. It's Day 6. I"m obliged. And, immediately I am both groaning and full of grace. Funny how those things both happen at once. On a regular basis.
So, at the point I was thinking, 'When I get home I need to finish that Advent post . . . ' I was thinking of all the things I had been wanting to say but only one word came to mind - Grace.
It's always something of a sweet truth to me when I lean back and realize that it is by Grace that most of us live and move and have our being. We may think otherwise sometimes - it's our green shake, our will of iron, our money or doctors or survival dna but it's not. It's all by Grace. We get through both our toughest times and our wildest good fortune by grace. Otherwise we'd sink or tilt ourselves into oblivion. Just my opinion but still . . .
My cousin and I were both good girls and also we pushed the limit here and there. We grew up on the beach on the Gulf Coast in the 70's and 80's. There were plenty of opportunities to push the limits and we pushed them a little but not so far really. Bustin' curfew, sneaking in late, was probably one of our biggest issues but - now that we are older and oh, how much I wish I could say wiser - we look back and think - It's a wonder we are still alive at all. And, again - not because we were bad but just because the opportunity to be in the right place at the wrong time was pretty high. But still here we are living and breathing.
I just finished reading the novel The Painter by Peter Heller. Without giving anything away just let me say that there is a man who finds a kind of redemption but with it comes the responsibility of living his life without sinking into a selfish self-centered mess.
As I look toward Advent that's the kind of thing I consider - how I can live my life to the good without drowning in my own painful past and emotional present. It's when I lift my head and look forward toward that hope of new birth and a new day that I begin to breathe a little easier and think a little clearer. But I know that it's only by grace that I lift my head at all.
I pray that this season of Advent coming helps us to embrace the grace that we receive but also to share that grace with others - daily. Moment by moment. Because it is truly that in giving we receive.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.