New Years Day 2015 and 2016

As I entered 2016, I was wrestling with a situation that was causing me considerable stress. I had prayed for clarity but until New Years morning, I was still very much embroiled in the emotion of it. I’d asked God a few days prior to help me trust His will with regard to the situation, but I was still wrestling. This morning, however, I resolved to trust God with it and remove myself from that roller coaster of emotions. God’s peace then showed up a little while later as I perused Facebook. Following is what I posted after reviewing events of New Years Day last year:

This was my situation on New Years Day last year—spending the morning on Tybee Island after bringing in the new year in Savannah with my sister Lyn and her family. I also got to spend wonderful time with cousins I hadn’t seen since the early 80s when they were in elementary school. Last night I brought in the new year in Maryland with my other sister Sheila, her family, my nieces Jennifer and Kariesha, and their families.

My journey since June 2010, when I resolved to learn to trust God completely, has been an amazing one, and I’m grateful every day for the adventure that is my life. I’ve released things I never thought I could live without and in return I’ve gained much that I can’t imagine living without. Letting go can be hard, yes, but I’ve discovered that trying to hold on to what we need to let go is much harder. It took me a few “minutes” to get that but the moment I accepted that “God’s got me”, the skies opened up, and I began to soar!

I may not know what tomorrow brings, but I know who brings tomorrow. What I know, too, is that God loves me and as His daughter, I’m destined for His absolute best; all I need do is allow Him. My new year wish for everyone is that you let go of the fear, trust God, and let Him do what He does: equip us to live our best lives and take us places we’ve never imagined!! Happy New Year, everyone, and more of God’s peace and His many blessings!!

After writing that, I came across the following on the wall of life coach Cassandra Nkem-Nwosu:

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how for you can go, just remember how far you’ve come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, all the fears you have overcome.” –Unknown

Then there was the Marianne Williamson’s quote I posted on my wall last New Years Day:

“Think of one person you are tempted, for any reason, to withhold love from, and pray for their happiness. In that moment, your pain will stop.”

I closed my eyes, prayed for happiness, and was enveloped in peace.

Journal entry: “Powerful! Amazing! God!”

On the road again…

June 26, 2014: Today has been reminiscent of a day on my cross-country road trip a couple of years ago. After being there for almost two weeks, I left the farm at 10 this morning heading back to Atlanta. It’s a 2.5 hour drive but after five hours of driving, I’m an hour and a half away in a Macon Burger King where I stopped for libations and to Google the exact directions to the Otis Redding monument.

Quarry

Quarry (?) on the US-441 bypass

I exited I-16 in Dublin to take the US 441 Bypass to Ivey. It was a typical drive on a four-lane highway until I reached that stretch of road called Culver Kidd Highway that runs through Irwin County. The views of the valleys, what appeared to be a quarry, and the puffy white clouds were spectacular. I snapped a few shots but couldn’t adequately capture the magic of the moment.

Several minutes later, I was crossing Lake Tchukolako bridge into Ivey. Pronounced ‘chew-co-la-co’, the pristine lake, spanning both sides of the bridge, sparkled in the sunlight and boy did I want to stop!! Laws being what they are, however, I kept moving and found a place to park across the street from Ivey General Store near the river bank, made photos, and inhaled the beauty. The cashier in the store had recommended the best spot for making photos but unfortunate for me, the gate to the “members only” club was closed that afternoon.

A half hour or so later, I was on the road to Macon when I passed a sign to Griswoldville Battlefield monument, a Civil War battle site. I made a U-turn and was making a right turn onto Baker Road a few minutes later. Nailed to a power line pole at the intersection was a sign detailing the history of Baker Road so I parked and made a photo before arriving at the monument three or four minutes later.

Baker Road marker

Baker Road marker

Except for the house with a car parked out front about 200 feet from the monument, the place, in the middle of open fields divided by the highway and surrounded by woods, was deserted. After reading the markers and making photos of the monument and scenery, I went back to my car to read more about the battle and upload pics to Facebook. As I sat there engrossed in what I was doing—and I hesitate sharing this—I heard what sounded like marching but dismissed it because, like I said, the area was deserted.

Battle of Griswoldville monument

Battle of Griswoldville monument

A few minutes later, I heard footsteps and thought it might be a park employee or someone from the house walking over to tell me more about the battle. When I looked over my shoulder, however, no one was there. I heard those footsteps several more times before I left but never saw a soul! It’s a little spooky to think about now, but I wasn’t at all disturbed at the time.

Next stop on my trek to Atlanta was Macon proper. I say proper because instead of going back the way I’d come, I followed the GPS along the dirt roads of rural Macon, first on Mountain Springs Church Road then on to Old Macon Road.

Having decided to check out the monument late evening or in the morning, I drove to the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail and found the river level so low that families had made a makeshift beach on the river bank. I, too, left my shoes on the bank and waded in.The rain came, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the magic so I sat in the car until it stopped and the sun reappeared. I walked over to a nearby puddle to rinse the sand and river mud off my feet before heading to Vivian’s for the night.

Otis Redding monument

Otis Redding monument

I was out early the next morning but not quite early enough to beat the hot sun that accompanied me on the half mile walk to Gateway Park across the river. So, while ‘Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay’ and others of Otis Redding’s songs played at the monument, I found a spot under his namesake bridge to cool off.

I walked the half mile back to my car, retrieved my tablet, found a shaded park bench on which to read and soak up more of nature’s magic. An hour or so later, I reluctantly relinquished my seat and headed back to the city to help prepare for a weekend long estate sale. And that, my friends, is how to turn a two and a half hour drive into a two day adventure.

 

 

The times they are a’changing

It’s 24 degrees this morning, and I was awakened by the birds chirping outside my window. Does their song portend the arrival of spring? Except for the lack of electricity during the last “snow storm”, this was the first time I actually enjoyed winter. Even on rainy days I’d bundle up to meet the hawk that awaited me. Whether I was walking the neighborhood or standing by a lake, I reveled in my new relationships with winter and rain. No longer are they things to escape and avoid. The landscape is completely different then, too, and I want to be present to see it.

I’m recalling that day a few years ago when the pouring rain beckoned me to walk around my backyard wearing a t-shirt and shorts. I was concerned at first about what my neighbors would think but after those first glorious moments of the rain pelting on my face, massaging my scalp, cascading down my neck, and squishing between by toes, it didn’t matter.

There’s also that day when, instead of bemoaning the 2.5 hour drive to the farm in the rain, I was actually excited about it. I knew then that the times, they were a’changing. And they’ve continued to change, as have I.

I snapped these shots at Fork Creek Mountain Park in Decatur, Georgia. I discovered it en route to a friend’s house on an overcast morning after a rain.

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”

Drizzly, overcast, beautiful

I’m enjoying a quiet, drizzly, overcast morning at John Tanner State Park in Carrolton. The mama duck has her babies on the water, in and out of the marsh on John Tanner Lake and because I so rarely see them, I’m tempted to get on the swings. A quiet breeze through the trees while sitting by the lake: beauty.

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The road to Eatonville

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Eatonville, Florida was my destination when I backed out of the drive on Sandridge Road a couple of Fridays ago. I was reminded of the Zora Neale Hurston Festival in January and was determined to attend this year. As the festival weekend approached, however, my resolve weakened and I waffled back and forth about going. I decided finally that I didn’t want to regret not going, packed my Jeep, and headed out.

Instead of driving the full six hours, however, I spent the night in Jacksonville with my niece Erica, my grandniece Koriana, my grandnephew Corey, and their cousins Terrance and Michael. Before dinner, the kids regaled me with their dance moves while we watched their then favorite movie Dance Fu starring Kel Mitchell of ‘Kenan and Kel’ and ‘Good Burger’ fame.

Before leaving the next morning, the kids and I had “Coffee and Conversation”, a tradition started a few years ago when I babysat them. It must’ve been a secret they kept from their parents, though, because not a word about coffee was ever mentioned until their parents had left. Over coffee that Saturday morning, we discussed school, grades, and their pets Khi and Khia, which, by the way, are a cat and a dog. Corey was having trouble in math and since his cousin Michael is good at it, he agreed to help.

Luther Smith

My nephew Luther Smith, RIP

By noon, I was on the 95 freeway heading to Eatonville when I decided to go with the flow instead of going directly there. So, in honor of my deceased nephew Luther, I stopped first in Green Cove Springs where he lived at one time. Approaching the left turn that would take me into the city, I spotted ahead what turned out to be Shands Pier on St. John’s River and went there instead. After snapping a few photographs from the pier and enjoying the sun and breeze, I stopped next at the St. John’s River Bridge. One couple was fishing from the bank while another fished from a boat. It really was a beautiful day to be out. I snapped a few more photographs and reluctantly headed back to the car to drive the few miles across the bridge to Green Cove Springs.

There wasn’t much to see and too early for lunch so I made a U-turn and pointed the GPS to Eatonville since I’d visited St. Augustine before. A few miles down the highway, though, I saw a sign to Crescent Beach, made a quick exit and headed that way. Again, it was a gorgeous day to be sightseeing—sunny, breezy and mild—so I grabbed my camera and headed to the ocean with its white sandy beach despite the several cars parked there. It seemed that quite a few others had the same idea as I did as we all stood there on the pier admiring the beauty of it all. The seagulls soared overhead while the sea oats swayed in the breeze. As difficult as it was to tear myself away, I headed back to the car to drive the 92 miles to Eatonville.

I found the St. John’s River again in Sanford, Florida and was reminded of my drive up the Pacific Coast Highway as I drove US-1 out of Los Angeles with the ocean on my left. It was a beautiful sight then and a beautiful sight in Sanford.

It was after 5 pm when I finally made it to Eatonville. I drove past the venue, found a hotel, and had dinner. It had been a beautiful day but I was whipped and wanted to go straight to bed! I spoke briefly with a classmate I hadn’t seen in over 30 years before settling in and ended up watching Lifetime’s ‘Betty and Coretta’ before drifting off to sleep.

I was on the festival grounds well before noon and walked about feeling historic Eatonville before visiting the Zora Neale Hurston Museum. Eatonville was one of the first Black towns formed after the Emancipation Proclamation and remains to this day “The Oldest Incorporated African-American Municipality in America” according to the city’s website. A favorite writer and the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God as well as many other novels and short stories, Zora Neale Hurston claimed Eatonville as home. What an amazing feeling to walk where she walked so many years ago!

After the festival Sunday, I met my classmate in the Altamonte Mall parking lot. Happy to see each other, we hugged and hugged, talked and talked, and never made it inside the mall or anywhere else. We stood out there catching up for over two hours!!

Shortly after 4 pm, I headed back to Jacksonville where I spent the night with my cousin Jean. We visited my 97 year old Uncle Braiford who’s recuperating in a rehabilitation center. As wonderful as it was to see him, he is no longer the vibrant and handsome man of my memories. He’s still handsome, yes, but very fragile now. My visit with Jean reminded me so much of my visits with cousins Barbara and Marvin in Atlanta. They’re so genuine and easy to be around that you don’t want to leave. But I left Florida Monday afternoon anyway, stopped in St. Mary’s to visit Crooked River State Park where I took pictures of the river and journaled before driving the 60 or so miles back to Sandridge.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “never put off tomorrow what you can do today.” It was a wonderful trip, and I’m so glad I didn’t put off going!

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My journey continues

It’s been almost a month since my road trip ended but my head is still in road-trip mode and since I couldn’t seem to settle, I decided to head to the country to explore the country roads where I grew up. The roads were always there, of course, but I never felt a need to see where they led, or it could have been because I was always on the way to somewhere else: to school, church, or to the fields to work. But in addition to the roads around home, I’ve branched out to see places in the area that didn’t seem to exist back in the day.

I’ve been down on the farm for over a week now and my brother GB and I have twice enjoyed the beauty of the lake at Little Ocmulgee State Park in Helena. We’ve been surprised by the history and the display of life on the farm at General Coffee State Park in Nicholls. We’ve been amazed at the history of Scotland as revealed in the Scotland Museum; we never knew that it was once called McVille, or that there was a big flood in 1925 that forever changed the cities of Scotland, Towns and Lumber City.

We’ve also roamed the paved and unpaved roads of Wheeler, Telfair, Jeff Davis, Montgomery, Toombs, Coffee and Tattnall counties. We’ve retraced the school bus route, except for Argo road, and wondered where everyone ended up these many years later. Our visit to the Scotland Museum led to a visit with a schoolmate I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. Later that same day, I ran into three other schoolmates who I hadn’t seen since high school graduation in 1979 and despite time and changes, they recognized me instantly. While at the local–and only–library for wifi, the woman across from me told me about the street dance and fireworks that Alamo sponsors for Independence Day every year.

Surprisingly, I’m really liking it here and since my stroll down memory lane while looking through my high school yearbook, I’m looking forward to more of those encounters….encounters I avoided in the past, by the way. Wow, what a difference a day, or several months on the road, makes!

I’ve lived in Georgia all my life but since returning from my trip, I’m seeing it as if for the first time. I compared it to other states while on the road and while it came up lacking, Georgia really is a beautiful state. There’s nothing like a change of scenery to change your perspective, is there? This weekend, I’ll be in Savannah for a birthday party and am curious to see how it will look through my new eyes as my journey continues.