Monthly Archives: September 2012

headed toward home

We always travelled the back roads. My Daddy never took the interstate, the obvious way, anywhere. I am like him in that.

In the 1960-70’s, he worked the entirely of our state and knew it intimately: every gas station, restaurant and hotel. He knew the clean and the tasty and the doors that let potential bedfellows enter unannounced, two-legged and eight. When we headed to his family’s hometown, of course, we went the back way. Our path avoided I-75 and I-85 and meandered through names I still  see reflectively etched on Georgia’s green roadway signs: Madison, Eatonton, Forsyth,  Jackson, Manchester and Columbus. Along this way lay a track of road that maintained a stretch of seven swift stomach drops, the best BBQ in Georgia – and Alabama: “Fresh Air Barbeque,” and our elementary-age insistence: a stop at the fish hatchery in Warm Springs. Never mind the Little White House, we went there a time or two-to see FDR’s portrait and the adorable little white house where Eleanor ably ran the country and the first polio center in the US: where my mama swam as a little girl because  her adopted grandfather’s brother worked there.

We had to go see those fish, as in, we would willingly  risk a switching and pitch a fit, if we didn’t get to go. Usually, my fisherman father could be easily cajoled by the cost – free, and the sights we’d see – trophy bass and bream, a few gar and crappie lumbering about just below us in a cement pond I’d pay a $500.00 to have at for an hour.  So we stopped, nearly every time, in Warm Springs- at the hatchery.

When Trent got big enough to put words to his wails – he was an early angler like his mama, he’d holler to my parents packing him off to visit my Pop and Motnie – Daddy’s folks, “Fish, Fish!” For, let’s see he’s 18, for 18 years Trent has begged from the back seat for that break. He will be a jealous fella this weekend. Guess where I am going? Yep. Right dang near Warm Springs…and you better believe I will go see my ol’ bass buddies.

My best friend, probably ever, and I are meeting up at Callaway this weekend. We’ve seen each other rarely these last twenty years.

So, this week  I started to entertain silly thoughts about how I had changed and all the mistakes I have made and remade since our days in school. I wondered if she, who gave me Madeleine in hardback and in the flesh, who knew me first, and called out my unknown to me name, would  know me now? I wondered if time would make me be somehow new and foreign to her? And I thought of the years  I stayed studying in Athens, my excuse the money and the more money the School of Business promised me. How I put off my plans to try to make my name at Literary School and plans to try to make another’s in D.C. I put them off, not truly for the money, but to stay in the best place I had ever found –  living  life near her.

She taught me all the things I stayed to gain: what it was to love long and hard, but not heavy, how to call out a name never before known and hear one instinctively answer and how to believe the best when it has not yet shown hint of itself.

Sometimes, I wonder if my failing to go on east made me miss what could have been. Sometimes, I wonder if my staying only precipitated all the suffering of my now more westward station. I didn’t write those speeches or hear those halls echo my footfalls.  I surely didn’t pen anything that readable. All these years, I just did, best I knew how, what she did for me, and helped folks to hear their names and answer, “Here. amen.”

I know the roads I will travel to meet her. I know them turned backwards out a station wagon window. I know them my legs draping over the center rise in the floorboards, my eyes on the passing clouds. I  know them enough to lift my weight in anticipation of every coming curve and stomach dropping dip; their twists and turns, have long been no  mystery to me.

So, who the heck am I to imagine she will not know me?



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the staircase

I’m linking up today with Amber Haines and her “Concrete” Series. Be sure to check out her post. It is an inspiration as always.

We are ranch people…Not a house in my family had stairs, an indoor staircase. We had functional steps that went down to a basement, out the screen porch  into the yard, but no living space stairs. I remember my mama saying she always wanted a set of beautiful stairs and a two-story house. But, my Daddy was a builder’s child from south of the fall-line; folks down there have cheap land and no worry of frost. Ranch houses are the tried and true way to go. His Daddy built sprawling country club ranch numbers and tiny cheap cinder block squares that made most of his money. So, as I grew, we just kept getting bigger and bigger, more and more spread out ranches.

The only staircase that stands out in my memory was in the Sunday School of my childhood church, Young Harris UMC in Athens, Georgia. The SS building was actually an ante-bellum beauty and Young Harris’ former home. Intricate New Orleans style iron work, stand in the sill, running glass-paned windows and ceilings that soared 20 feet or better made the once ballroom, we five-year olds somehow warranted, a lavish place for felt boards and finger painting. I loved the sound of my Mary Jane’s on the checker board floor where ladies once twirled.

But, the center, the core of that house, was the staircase.  Sleek and perfectly polished wood, it snaked from the second story and came to a stop just outside our k-5 door. We dreamed of a ride down, aware that every old woman about us was wary of just such occurring. I remember longing for the day I would be unchaperoned and left to it. As my sister and I got older, occasionally, we road a rung or two, undetected.

My Nana is the one who let me do everything my mama dared not, or cared not to watch with my baby sister ever clasped to her to side to keep her from crying. My sister’s colic grounded me. The phrase, “I’ll watch you. Go!” summarizes who my Nana is to me.

When Nana died and we had the funeral, all my children and their cousins, who had also long been seduced by those stairs, asked but two things: to ring the great bell in the courtyard and to ride those stairs. We rung that huge bell loud, it pealed across the city block grounds, down the avenue and into town center. Then they raced toward the great staircase, ties and matching dress sashes working free. My sister stood guard for blue-haired wardens. At her “the coast is clear” sign, I told them each, “I’ll watch you. Go!”


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raves and realizations

I’ve been reading over at Megan’s site this morning. Her moniker is FriedOkra, which, of course, I love.  And I love fried okra, not the “sit in steam pan, in the meat and three” kind, but the “hot out of the grease, heaven, but you might burn and not feel your finger tips, for a while” kind. Megan’s words are equally as satisfying… and I know my mind was HS seared as I read them. I could think of nothing intelligent to say in response, so I just said something not intelligent, but really heartfelt.

BTW, my daughter, Molly, a 13-year-old, Paula Deen want to be, whom I graciously let practice every dang night…(I have cooked 3-4 meals a day for us 6 forever and we had 3 restaurants for 14 years, I’ve earned it people) is a master okra fryer. Yes, yes she is. That alone commands a high dang dowry in this neck of the woods. So, to my thinking, Molly’s marrying and my financial future is pretty well in hand. What was I saying?

Oh, Megan’s blog. I read it this morning. She is friends with Leigh, my flesh and blood buddy, who is a real writer. Those two and several other of the greatest talents and hearts out there in Blessed Blog World managed a bonafide get together at the lake. You can imagine the magic of that intersection. Well, if you can’t, Megan so richly renders it out, in oils…and people, it is so dang beautiful, to see what she saw. The Holy Spirit’s help is all over what she shares with us.

As a small aside, (Don’t get side-tracked by my tale, Go read the post!) Jeremy has dubbed me the official Reflector of our merry band. We do things: deeply spiritual things, daring things, dang near crazy things…and it’s my job to help us know what happened.

The present moves so swiftly. I thought about that as I read Megan’s post. I wondered if she registered all she wrote about as it went down, or if she, like me, saw it out the proverbial back window – think 1970’s station wagon and that backward facing waaay back seat. I spent some time there.  Scarred/imprinted me for life, take your pick.

One of the things I too have discovered from the Contemplatives’ wisdom is that life can be appreciated best in that back seat. The Holy Spirit shows us little in the present, the future is a foggy land. But, the past is His playground. He helps me see more…And, those of us willing to sit in that waaay back,  we get to look at life lived  longer than the souls up front, facing forward and all. We get to watch it a while, in what might as well be slow motion.

So, instead of despising my own youth, I am trying to learn from that perspective which I was given. Nausea and gifts don’t seem to go together, but then when one takes into account pregnancy – well, that pretty much makes my case. So, I am climbing on back, picking up my pen and watching the Holy Ghost Slow-Mo, the way Megan’s does with such acuity here: (Don’t forget to go there!) There will be a quiz, students.

Back to my job as Chief Reflector.  I go with us…and heck yes, I participate. One can’t catch much in the moment. It’s not like photography. I ride the rapids, fly through the trees, and play the parental, “No you cannot jump from thirty feet in that tree rising 100 into the jungle canopy down into this black river that might be 20 feet deep in a crevice-like channel, even if the natives, who do not speak our language save Hollywood heroes’ names, are waving you on down. I promised your parents to watch after you.”

Anyway, my job is to watch out the back window, rewind the movies, see it all again, slowed enough for the sweet we gulped to settle on my tongue, and write with the best words I can. I’ve written accounts of Costa’s Rica’s breath-catching glory swallowing us like a dream. We have yet to escape it. I’ve no eyelid who would dare lift to do so. I’ve written of nightmare in Mexico – where God walked close to us, His breath heavy and audible… I’ve written of camp outs and early morning manuevers. I’ve written and written and written and done no justice to any of the brutiful glory that was. But sometimes, something I write cues a memory of life not chronicled with photo or that wasn’t even recognized as it occurred… and for another soul, the memory movie plays over through the dusty but familiar back glass window; and they see it, feel it and know deeply that it is, always is, too.


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I need a prompt

I wrote a piece earlier in the week for Amber. It was better than most of the stuff I scrawl here. I write fairly prolifically in some other venues: I have a couple of private blogs I write within: one with other local writers and one with mentors/mentees. I google doc a few unfortunates nearly daily about my latest somewhat strange concern/obsession/genius idea and I journal somewhat regularly. I write rather prolifically and quickly. I can do volume. But, this blog was designed around my teaching discoveries and needs and I don’t teach classes which lend themselves to writing creatively this year. I doubt seriously that you all are up to reading high school seniors’ take on economic questions. I make myself read them… So, since this is the space in which I connect to people outside my little geographical world, I want to find a way to use it well. I would miss all of you terribly.

Oh yeah, I am also working on a curriculum and helping edit a scholarly paper for a friend. Folks, my brain needs some assistance. Do you have a set of prompts that worked well for you? I have used all of my go-to’s here already. Could you throw a few my way?


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the necklace

I’m linking up with Amber, another Alabama girl – who now lives in Arkansas. Her writing voice is creamy and sweetly salted like grits, fresh boiled and buttered. Grits are my go to when I am cold or cringing about something…likewise, Amber’s words always warm to me life and living.

I have a jewelry box whose cavity is crammed with necklaces: heavy gold numbers, I never now wear and should probably hock, slender silver chains which once held this or that identifying icon. There are presents from children, symbols of lush love, and Nana’s pearls which my Dada purchased for her in Japan; they in every way represent security to me. I wear nearly none of them, without a specific reminder..and those too have quieted, as my girls have found fashion.

I have just one necklace which I nearly always wear.  My choice of it is really about the fact that he, who bought it for me, got me right; he understood my essence. I am no demanding gal. The snobby girl I once was has thankfully been slain.  I climb under tables and on desks to make connections in my computer lab/classroom now, not up social or corporate ladders.

One side of the necklace is gold, the other silver. It’s one of those slide deals. He added several stones: real, not fabricated. The stones are commoners, a particular people’s treasure: agate, turquoise, moon rock or onyx. It is solid and substantial, earthy and unpretentious, but beautiful. It holds up well as I wind between crowded chairs telling a people’s story or woo would be sojourners over obstacles of our world’s worry, too engrossed in our journey to protect my person or possession.

I love it as it speaks of what I hold dear, and what kind of treasures I see. He done good.


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Jumpin’ Jack (hot) flash

“Today we played our energy game. Everyone became a country and labored to gain the energy each would consume in a  year. Various forms of energy were sequestered all about the room. Forest fuel low to the ground, hydroelectric required a bit more of a reach. Wind and solar were born on high beams just a jump away and nuclear was settled high above our somewhat demonized sanitizer machine. ( If you get near on a day bad, you can get contaminated…) We built a shrine to fossil fuels, set an altar, lit candles to NOW and paid our penance: one jumping jack per unit required. We did lots of jumping jacks  in our “the air ain’t running ’cause man can heat up but not cool off the earth” room. It was hot. Our 25 bodies quickly made it hotter. Add a few thousand jumping jacks, 25 lit candles and an Alabama afternoon and you have quite an object lesson.

As the parade to the cleaner resources and fossil altar continued, the more and more hungry mouths sought satisfaction…I saved the US and China for last. China jumped and jacked forever and then cleared the decks of available fossils fuels, save just a few still on the open market. China jumped high to get all the nuclear possibilities…they will be constructing  a great many more plants soon. China garnered all the open market oil…and much which the black market in Congo, Columbia and Equatorial Guinea give up. Finally, China sat down to grow more populous and hungry.

The US was last…she quickly scooped up our home production wind, water, sun…and stared at the wall of oil, gas, and coal before her…”How many units do I need?”

“498,” I answered.

“Mrs. Sullivan, that’s a ton of jumping jacks. I don’t want to do all those. And even if I pay for them, those sources left are too high on the wall for me to reach. What else can I do?”

I looked down the exterior wall, then high to the rafters…solar and biofuels were draped elegantly along them. It was a tough leap, but she was a gifted and skilled jumper. She glanced at them and then ran her eyes around the room…they opened wide. Slack, sweltering students sat caressing their candles,  their energy receipts on the floor before them.

“I can get them, they won’t see me coming,” she whispered.

I shrugged my shoulders. She took off and snagged most of their energy before they could even sit up straight.

The game was over. 

I asked the students to tell me about the energy I had metaphorically placed about us. “Why had I put forest low to the ground? Why was hydroelectric just slightly higher? What was the danger of pursuing the even loftier goal of nuclear energy? Why was wind energy above the door? Why was biofuel just above hydroelectric? Why were only rich nations allowed to worship before the  fossil fuel altar? Why the jumping jacks? Why did we light the candles at the altar of Now? And finally, what were those sheets of red – biofuel, and yellow – solar, material all on the outside of our windows?

They looked at me shocked. In sight and just outside was enough energy for everyone, more than enough. One girl offered that she had noticed it.

“Why didn’t you go get it?” I asked her.

She said, “I knew that I would have to get up and walk outside to get it. Too much trouble, you know. ”

“It would have stopped the game, all of you would have been winners,” I replied. The jumping jacks would have been over, forever…  the air restored to normal temperature… It was right there.

Dumfounded stares.

“Why didn’t you all see it, get it?” I continued. You can get that. You can get it.

For those of you who ask, “Can we?” Take a look. Here. Here. and Here. Then  I suggest you go to TED and find another 100 or so equally interesting energy ideas that work now or very soon will.

Let’s lift our eyes from our worshipful stare and look up and out.

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No allegiance, save love

It was a beautiful night. I went to watch Molly cheer and the JV boys in black and blue play football.

Soon after my arrival, Molly hollered to me from the cheer platform that the Sharps were at the game. I had imagined as much as their youngest son plays for red team on the field.  It is Molly’s plan to be a  Sharp by marriage or adoption, either will do.

I made my appearance in our stands, checked on Molly’s hydration needs and made my way over to the far side of the  field.  I might have stood out in my lost and found black and blue sweatshirt as I approached the stands of red clad cheerers. I paid no never mind and moved confidently up the risers to stand before my dear friends’ adoptive three-year old. Her eyes lit up to see me, her arms reached out as I lifted her into my counter colored  arms. Her Dad and Mom grabbed me tight and drew me into a seat alongside theirs. Honestly, in such company, I felt more me, more home, than among my coordinating comrades.

I yelled for my future grandchildren’s possible papa more than most about me. Later, we girls wandered over to see Molly cheer, holding Danielle’s hands between us. The three-year old yelled as mightily for Molly, her usual Saturday night playmate, as she did for brother, Miles.

I walked them back and lingered amongst them as long as Mama Duties would allow. Miles played well , though he will also be black and blue today.  Molly’s colors scored many times more often, earned the “W.”

Today, of all days, is a good day for me to remember the lesson of last night and see through the eyes of a child.

“…  and a little child will lead them.”  – Isaiah 11:6

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