Wednesday, May 30, 2012


In so many ways, this past weekend was about remembering.

 On Friday, we went down to Father and Son, a wonderful, dusty and musty second-hand store on Hargett Street. They had a basket of old black and white photographs and I went through and picked out a few. I have an idea about what to do with them; it has to do with the fact that nobody remembers the people in the pictures. Roaming around in the back, I put these two things together and made a photograph that cracks me up.

On Friday night and Saturday, we attended wedding festivities for a family who lived next door to us. The bride was born after we had been neighbors for a few years, and I remember the Christmas that she came. She married a boy from my home town, a really fine family. I remember when we were all in high school together, younger than the bride and groom.

On Monday we went downtown to the Memorial Day services at the Capitol. There were many Korean War and Vietnam War vets, and some who looked young enough to have served in the current conflicts. I didn't see anyone I thought to be in their late eighties or nineties from World War II. I walked up to many of them and asked about their service to our country. Every one of them got teary. We owe these men so much and understand so little about what they endured. A replica section of the Vietnam Memorial was there, the names tiny and way too numerous.  After the downtown service, we rode over to Oakwood Cemetery where there was to be a Vietnam War memorial service. I took this photograph there.

It was a varied and important weekend, shaped by things that happened in the past and made the present richer and more meaningful.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Standing Still

I'm not a regular meditator, but I've done it quite a bit. And I've blogged before about how holding my body still for a short period of time is helpful for me. I find now that I call on that stillness more often.

I'll walk into my work space, a thousand things on my mind--stories, cards, photographs, laundry, phone calls. I have music playing in that room all the time, and I'll stop and listen to a song. I'll feel the emotions that the song evokes--nostalgia, joy, longing, loneliness, contentment.

When I have something to write, a story or an essay, I pause for a few minutes and I find I write much clearer and quickly.

 In the middle of an argument, I stop talking and steady my thoughts.  Things don't escalate as often.

I'm a fidget by nature, a brain-racing multi-tasker,a cooker-upper of ideas and plans. This new ability, to pause my physical actions, rest and listen, to cool down on short notice, is a habit I'm glad to have developed.

Do you meditate? If so, how has it changed you?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What really happened

“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon
We have spent the last two months burning up the highway to a place called Vandemere. We have been inside and out of a house there. We've been thinking about buying the house and moving there permanently. The property is beautiful. The house was built by the present owner - "Two nails in the whole house," he said - and is welcoming and perfectly sited on the eleven acres. A photographer's dream, his creek a portal to the inner banks.

My mind churned non-stop with the possibilities: writing workshops, photography classes, music festivals, weekends with the house full of friends and family and fellow learners. Gardening, exploring the waterways, pets and chickens. Self-sufficiency with a little belt-tightening. Family holidays with grandkids running the property and swimming from the pier. A legacy home place for our children.

I began organizing and cleaning out my house. Not packing exactly, but thinking in terms of what we would need if we moved there. Games, books, videos. The furniture that would look good in this room or that. I put all my photographs and the children's papers and family memorabilia in containers for storage (the area is prone to flooding). I dreamed some more.

And then, and then, we decided the time wasn't right for this kind of bold move. We need to stay where we are for a while longer.

I won't say I haven't mourned the decision. But a strange thing happened in the midst of the mourning: I realized that all the things I thought of doing there I can do right where I am. Although I won't wake up and walk out the pier with my coffee, I can sit on my deck, private with lush greenery, and listen to the morning chatter of the birds. I can open my windows at night and hear the toads' chorus. I can have workshops and house concerts, rooms full of friends and family. Our garden is in and coming up beautifully.

I realize that my dreams cannot be contained by a place. I still might want to move to Vandemere some day, or some place like it, but I'm going to keep on living right where I am for now. Stay know you'll be a part of my next adventures!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


The church service this week brought me back to my first visit. The music, the talk about forgiveness, the way I teared up, the feeling of being surrounded by love. I thought, "I am at home." I started thinking about home, all the homes I've lived in. Now we live in a house that has grown with us. It started out as a three-bedroom house, our first purchase. We've added on a couple of times as needed, and it has morphed into a sprawling house with a modern feel. We raised our three daughters here, and it is full of their notes and pictures, artwork, old clothes. It holds all the memories of their childhood.
When I was a freshman in college, my family left my childhood home and moved to another neighborhood. Although I never actually lived in this house, for years it held the promise of "home" in the sense that it was where we gathered on special occasions and holidays. My father lived there for over forty years. Although it no longer holds any remnants of our time there, I can still picture each room: the wall of books, the kitchen with my mother's needlepoint, my father's room with the stacks of CDs and his reading pile, the bedrooms my children piled into with their cousins, the dining room table filled with relatives always welcome to our large gatherings.
Most of my childhood was spent in this house, this split level that was the epitome of the post-war housing boom. Our basement with its fireplace where we huddled when the power went out and where I got my first kiss. The cramped bedrooms where we waited for our "roommate" to spend the night out so we could have a friend in. The back yard where we staged plays and played canasta and ball. This house was only part of the setting for those years though. The woods, the streets, the creek, the shopping center and schools within walking distance, our church at the end of the street. The place of tragedy: a neighbor's child run over by a truck, a mother with breast cancer, divorces. Home was chaotic with five children, but it represented a place to come to at the end of the day.
I couldn't find a picture of the house I lived in until I was seven, but I remember the porch where we drew with crayons, the black and white television, the pony that came around the neighborhood, first homework, learning to ride my bike and coming home with my face skinned up from falling. I remember Eddie, a boy I had a crush on. This photograph was taken after my next-to-the-last sister was born. Soon my mother was pregnant again and we moved to the split level.
I was born in a house on Shady Lawn Drive, pre-war construction. I found this photograph of me and my father, taken at that house. It speaks of love.
During the time I was day-dreaming of home, the choir sang a song entitled, "Grace," a contemporary version of the song "Amazing Grace." I was amazed to hear the words, "I shall go home" in their four-part harmony. I carried the thought of going home out the door, driving toward my house where I store all the memories of my past.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Greensboro NC to Greensboro GA

This weekend I went to Greensboro GA with four of my friends from Greensboro NC.  To look at the picture of the five of us, taken by a kind boater, you would probably see five sixty-year-old women.  But when I see the picture, I picture us when we were younger, forming ourselves, being formed by our parents and our experiences.

Out of ten parents, only one of us has a parent left.  One girl is divorced.  One girl is divorced and remarried.  We have children and grandchildren.  None of us has settled far from home; all live in the southeast.  Some have been hit by tragedy.  In short, a typical group of women.

We have so many memories of our time together.  I've known one of the girls since the fourth grade, the others since junior high.  When we gather for these brief weekends, there doesn't seem to be enough time to remember it all; we skim the surface of some of our past while digging deeply into other parts.  We feel free to reveal the truths of our home lives now that our parents are gone.  We don't have to keep secrets any more.  It's freeing!  It's healing.  It is safe and enveloping.

It's morbid, I know, but I've lost a couple of friends in the past year or so, and I can't help thinking that one year we'll get together and one of us will be missing.  I stare into each face on the porch in Greensboro GA, seeing the girl I knew in Greensboro NC, and can't bear to think of it.  Before we say good night on our last night together, we talk about next year, where we'll go, who to invite into our circle of friends from the past, making a future with all of us in it so we don't say 'good-bye,' just 'see you next year.'