What a difference a day made

Just yesterday, I was bundled from head to toe against the cold as my niece Savanna and I walked the neighborhood snapping photos of the second Atlanta/north Georgia winter event of 2014, the first a mere two weeks ago, the one I blogged about missing while down on the farm. It was 33 degrees as we snapped photo after photo–Savanna’s alone totaled 160!–the trees were heavy with ice, and the ground that was covered with ice and snow, was beginning to thaw.

Today, I’m sitting by the waterfall at Starr’s Mill, the mill that was featured in the movie ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, wearing only a hood and a scarf draped across my shoulders. It’s a balmy 58 degrees!

Dinah Washington sang it best:

“What a difference a day made
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain”

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Winter weather advisory

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill texted notification of a winter weather advisory this morning that reminded me of last week’s “snow storm” that left roads jammed and motorists stranded. I was out of town at the time, tucked safely away from the pandemonium created by the two inches. It was cold and drizzly down on the farm, but we didn’t get any snow.

It’d been a few years since I last saw snow in Atlanta, and I was regretting not being there to experience it. At that point, you see, I wasn’t thinking at all about the black ice that turned a five-minute drive into two hours that January night in Hiram, Georgia…the black ice that forced me to spend the night in a Hiram hotel rather than drive the 40 plus miles home to Riverdale…the drive that had me longing for a shot of Jack Daniels to calm my nerves when I finally made it to the hotel.

roadsouthNo, all I was thinking of that day on the farm were the photo ops I was missing and that I wouldn’t get to see the wonder on the faces of my little nieces as they experienced snow for the first time. But then Mama and I took a break from watching Gunsmoke and Bonanza to tune in to the weather reports out of Atlanta. Wow, what a shift!!

After hearing reports of drives taking seven hours or more that should normally have taken only 30 minutes; of drivers running out of gas and abandoning their cars; of drivers, teachers and students spending the night away from home, I decided “I’m good.”

With that, I suited up for the misty cold, grabbed my camera, and headed down the country roads of home. I saw plants I’d never seen, took shots of the streams my siblings and I played in as children that, like us, have also grown up.

I ventured off-road into areas I’d never noticed before, areas my brother GB was shocked to learn I’d gone because of the wild boar that hung out there. I didn’t see any trace of them, but what I did see on the walk back to house was an animal that exited the woods several yards from me, sensed my presence, and paused long enough to check me out before heading on its way. I thought it was a dog initially, but discovered that it had left hoof prints instead of paw prints. I described it to Mama and GB, but neither of them could tell me what it was and subsequent web searches have been fruitless. The only regret I have from that day is that I didn’t get its picture.

Writing and reminiscing

It’s been a year since my cross-country road trip ended and after almost nine months on the farm, I’m back in Atlanta and have been reading my blog. I’ve been viewing pics this morning, too, and they’ve put me in the feeling space of those moments and again, it’s indescribable! Here are a few pictures I took in Washington state on Queen Anne Hill and the Space Needle in Seattle; at Jimi Hendrix’s gravesite; at Snoqualmie Falls; on Whidbey Island at Meerkeek Rhodendron Gardens and Deception Pass; on Chuckanut Drive; on the road to Mt. Saint Helens and Leavenworth; and in Kennewick.

Challenges and opportunities

I’ve blogged lately about how wonderful it is being home on the farm. As great as it is, though, my visit here has also presented a few challenges that are giving me the opportunity to resolve some issues. It often feels like I’m walking back in time learning things I missed the first time and unlearning a few things that I did.

The challenge isn’t a problem most days but on the days that it is, I find myself asking, “What am I supposed to take from this experience?” The answer is clear but the process isn’t so easy. I won’t go into detail about it but sometimes I resent having to go through it. I know that once I do, though, it’ll be behind me and I’ll be a step closer to my destination.

I spent yesterday cleaning the deck and chairs then washed my car. During that time, the challenge showed up and rather than confront it, I distanced myself from it. That in itself was a switch because previously, I would’ve cussed and fussed about it. Now, I choose to maintain my peace instead.

I got up a bit later than usual this morning and decided to spend the day away from the house. I didn’t go to a park but found inspiration instead while reading a paper my son asked me to proof for him. I recall not so long ago when he, too, was a challenge. I worried that he was ruining his life by not following the path I’d laid out for him, and I did all I could to redirect him. After months of unsuccessful efforts, I finally accepted that he has his own journey and “let go and let God.”

It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done as I witnessed him go through things I didn’t think he needed to experience. I was tempted many times to rescue him and recall one night in particular when my resolve was tested. I won’t share his story but what I will say is that it was the dead of winter and right after declining his request, I started formulating a rescue plan. Before I could complete it, though, I fell asleep. When I awakened the next morning, I trusted that things were as they should be and was at peace.

I had planned initially to leave for my cross-country road trip during the spring of 2011. As fate would have it, however, a few challenges delayed my leaving until January 2012. The first was my mother’s sudden illness and the second, my son’s return home. But here again, these challenges turned out to be opportunities.

We brought Mama to Atlanta for medical treatment and since I transported her to many of her doctor appointments, we spent quite a bit of time together. My relationship with her had been strained for many years but her being here provided me the opportunity to see that I really had released much of what I’d carried for so many years.

During our drives, we talked and laughed; we admired Atlanta’s skyline, something I’d taken for granted the 26 years I’d lived there; we admired the foliage, lunched at various restaurants, and sat by the Chattahoochee River. We even visited my favorite lake at Indian Springs and she met my good friend Diann Wilhot, owner of Mrs. Lee’s Stagecoach Sweet Shop.

Mama’s being in Atlanta was also my first opportunity to let go of what I refer to as my long worn Wonder Woman cape. I had begun to feel that my road trip would be delayed indefinitely, or at least until Mama had fully recovered.

I was feeling especially down about it one Sunday afternoon when a good friend telephoned. She sensed something was wrong and before I could even finish explaining what I was feeling, she stopped me. Diedre (Jenkins Rankins) went on to remind me of the time when, at 14, I began repressing my needs and that it was time now for me to live for me. I will always thank her for remembering my story and for saying what I needed to hear that Sunday afternoon. After our conversation, I was at peace and knew that not delaying my trip was as it should be.

As for Wade, I initially saw his return home as the continuation of our earlier challenges. But what it really did was afford us the opportunity to heal our relationship before we both embarked upon the next phase of our journeys. As I read his “Introduction to Victor Thomas” today, I saw that he has embraced his journey and found the “spoils of war” that my friend Dianne Rosena Jones wrote about in her book, Tragic Treasures: Discovering Spoils of War in the Midst of Tragedy. His goal, he said, “is to touch lives and help as many people as I can both financially and spiritually.” What I also saw today were answered prayers. Again, I was at peace.

Changes

After leaving Wheeler County Library a few weeks ago, I was inspired to do some exploring and took the long route home. Instead of turning left on CR-78, I followed Highway 126 from Alamo until it converged with Highways 19 and 134. It had been many years since I’d driven Highway 126 and even longer for Highway 134 so I was excited to see the changes that had transpired over the years.

On 126, I passed a field of sunflowers and a little further up the road, the house where Mama worked as a private nurse for many years. I barely recognized it, though, because the house seemed a lot grander back then than it does now. A few miles later, I came upon the house were friends once lived. It looked the same as I remembered but another family lives there now.

Storm clouds had formed during my drive so I stopped to photograph them before proceeding to what was once Singing Pines Plantation, a performance horse farm. It’s still a horse farm but a sign announces that it houses a men’s ministry now, too. While at the horse farm, I spotted a couple of dilapidated houses on the road to Towns, GA and decided to get pictures of them as well. I tried recalling the houses from yesteryear but couldn’t remember anything about them except that they were there.

A few miles from Towns, I decided to save that trip for a clear day when I’d have time to visit so at Cattle Road, a dirt road I was sorely tempted to explore but didn’t because it was muddy and unfamiliar, I made a u-turn and headed home.

That July day was a wonderful trip down memory lane but what I’m remembering most is the day a week or so before when I left the library and debated driving through the neighborhood where I’d spent time growing up. I’ve done this drive-through many times over the years and even though cousins and friends lived there, I seldom stopped to visit. But while I’m debating whether I’ll drive through that particular day, my car is heading in the direction of the neighborhood as if it had a mind of its own until we, my car and I, eventually end up in my cousin’s driveway.

That wasn’t the first time this had happened to me, though. I’d had a similar experience in Atlanta several months before my road trip. I was deciding whether to drop off a donation at Christian City or go to the consignment shop first. During the course of that debate, my car was heading to the consignment shop, the opposite direction of my inclination towards Christian City. Even though it was unplanned, the stop ended up being a divine appointment. While there, I had a most amazing conversation with Linda, a woman I’d never met and whose shop would ordinarily have been closed that day.

A few months before, I’d heard Wayne Dyer lecture about “traveling light” and the idea so resonated with me that I was practically shoutin’ as I drove down the 85 freeway! On the fateful Monday in Linda’s shop, I was thrilled to be decluttering my life but not quite sure how far I wanted to go with it. As it turned out, she had been traveling light for several years and loving it. And although I was a complete stranger, she shared all the details of how she’d come to that point and how her life had unfolded afterwards. It was an awesome couple of hours that confirmed that I was indeed on the right path.

But back to the visit with my cousin. She’s 80 years old and even though I’d spent the night with her daughters several times as a child, she and I had never talked. That day, however, we talked for over two hours about her child- and adulthood, work, marriage, raising children, my road trip, and God. Aside from sightseeing on my trip, it was the best two hours I’d spent in a long time.

By the time I left, our experiences had uplifted and encouraged us both, and her pains had dissipated. It was a wonderful afternoon and a perfect example of divine providence. It also exemplified the benefits of following Spirit’s guidance, going with the flow, and the transformation that’s possible by surrendering to both.

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Rainy days and Tuesdays…

It was raining buckets when I left Atlanta Tuesday, but instead of dreading the rainy two and a half hour drive, I was actually excited about it. As I looked out of my friend’s window at the rain and the sky, I remember thinking what a beautiful sight it was. I then imagined listening to Never Change, one of Elizabeth Berg’s books, during my below-speed-limit drive to Glenwood. So, I said my goodbyes, set my GPS (for speed and ETA), loaded my book and was on my way.

As I approached my exit in Dublin, I remembered the Saturday afternoon a year or more ago when I passed Beulah Baptist Church on Highway 19 a few miles from Glenwood. There was a car parked under the trees in the church yard and the driver, head bowed, appeared to be reading. It was a peaceful scene that I’ve longed to experience each time I passed but for whatever reason, I never stopped…until today.

Before exiting the freeway, I decided that today would be the day that I follow my inspiration to create that memory and as I type this, I’m parked under the trees in the church yard. It’s so peaceful here! It’s drizzling lightly with only the crickets and the occasional passing car breaking the silence. It feels good, and I’m really glad I stopped.

It’s been a few days since my stop at Beulah Baptist, and I’ve wondered since then why we so often procrastinate doing what we want to do, what we feel inspired to do it. Perhaps your reason is the same as mine: hurrying to reach the destination. What I discovered on my cross-country road trip, however, is that the journey to wherever can be just as enjoyable as the destination. When I’d leave my hotel room, I’d have a general idea about where I was going but I was always open to adventure and seldom was I disappointed.

Since I’ve been roaming around the country roads of home–some I’ve traveled many times before to and from Atlanta–I’ve been seeing them as if for the first time. I’m seeing houses that went unnoticed before; a flower-pot couple lounging beside the highway; and even a flock of goats grazing in the “field” between two houses. I’m so glad that I’m now appreciating the journey just as much–or more–as my destination and that I’m seeing all the things I missed before.

I’m also enjoying this time with my brother. He took me fishing a few days ago but that didn’t go too well; it was way too hot, the gnats way too many, and the fish biting too few. So for now, I’m putting away my fishing tackle until cooler days but in the meantime, I’ll continue capturing the scenic countryside in picture.

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