Every place we visit leaves behind its mark. The tourist draws, the foodies havens, the pillows we rest upon, the ornate churches and once thriving bridges. We snap our photos and we jot down notes, revisiting and recollecting the moments when we upload photos and review the words upon arriving home. Most of the time we get what we seek, but every now and then we find a shocker of a photo that tells more narrative than our quick expected activity demands.
She sits along the banks of the Savannah River by the playground where children climb and squeal in the background. Across the river sits multi-million dollar homes like dominoes, one practically sitting on top of another, all with a history that might be just as unbelievable as hers. However, neither grabs her attention as she stares at her feet, covered on this 100- degree summer day with tattered striped socks and no shoes in sight. She could be any person, in any city, on any day, sitting on any peaceful riverbank.
But she finds herself here. I assume she is homeless and this is a stop before the next stop before the next . . . She slumps in thought as she surrounds herself with natural and man-made beauty. She is attracted to the very opposite of her life. She isn't caught up in the buildings or the slides, but she takes comfort in knowing they are close. Helping her to belong. To cope. It helps her breathe.
And for a brief moment, everything flows, just as the river, to a more beautiful ending. She is me. More than likely, she is you. If we surround ourselves with beauty, we tend to forget the unlovely. Even for an afternoon . . . .
Peace is always beautiful.”
"You're a travel writer?" she said with an elevated voice. "What an amazing job."
Yes, Nessa, it is.
When we get really lucky, we get to lay our heads at B & Bs. We dine at the breakfast table with strangers from who knows where and talk about mostly unknown things and more than likely, we'll never ever see them again. We have one moment to uncover a lifetime.
Nessa Pettyjohn and Nihshanka Debroy from Gwinnett County celebrated their one year anniversary, and at breakfast, we celebrated, complete with candle-topped banana bread. After an amazing casserole, intense coffee and our own slice of banana bread later, we discovered they were IT people. I could tell. It was like looking in a three way reflective mirror - Nessa, Nihshanka and Len. Triplets. I, on the other hand, was the elephant in the room, but that's alright. We learned about Nihshanka's love for rare books and Nessa's skill at preparing Indian food; we wanted to go home with them.
Hosts, or innkeepers, are rare breeds we are told. There are ones that are nice and do their job well. Then, there are those who could be your Aunt Sally or Uncle Frankie. Family, in other words. You hear it in their voice, see it in their eyes, in the little touches - like complimentary this-and-that, fresh baked cakes always available tempting and calling your name, exquisite "I never want to get out of bed" sheets, binoculars for bird watching, or smiles no matter the time of day. And if they accidentally lock you out of the Lodge at bedtime, you know deep down they really didn't mean to. And when they say, "Come back," they expect you to.
Janet and Ric came to Blue Ridge by way of Key Largo and Colorado. "This [Aska] makes us happy," Janet says with a visible sense of contentment radiating from her face. Calling them adventurists would be an understatement - climbing Mount Rainier and Mt. Hood, caving, scuba diving - and this little piece of heaven, satisfies their longing to be close to nature. They have even changed roles; Janet who once handled all the cooking now serves as sous chef for Ric and his morning masterpieces.
Walt Whitman never resonated with my students. That stilted verse, oh but what about all that sex and Leaves of Grass nonsense. Of course, if they cared enough to read between the lines and discover his racy lifestyle or questionable choices, they might have given him a chance.
So when all the textbook poems had been read and the brief synopsis of an 19th Century icon had been offered, it was time for a break.
Then and every single time (3 times a year in as many classes for 20 years) I watched a video tape disappear into the void, and I would bite my lip to hold back the tears for I feared the inevitable: I would cry and my juniors would get to watch.
Collectively, we watched as an amazed class of timid boys ripped pages from a textbook. What joy! Rip. Rip. Rip. Void the analytical explanation of the assemblage of words - excrement! Yes, sir, Mr. Keating, excrement. "Words and ideas can change the world," he offers. The human race is full of passion. We must write. We must live. "You will contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"
He reached out to Mr. Anderson - to put him out of his misery. And then a student's worst fear realized as he "sounds his barbaric yawp" - and the barbarian slips out - loudly, to his amazement. "You have a barbarian in you after all." Don't you forget this, the teacher reminds.
The power, the self-less dedication of Mr. Keating to his students and to the poets of yesterday never got old. Never was a chore to watch. "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may." "Carpe Diem" - seize the day. That is their legacy. "Seize the day, boys. Make your life extraordinary."
Every time I watched, I was renewed. I vowed to do seize every single day, to grab hold and make it count, to become extraordinary. The irony of these words haunt me today, as I cry for Williams. It is unbelievable that "his verse" ended this way.
I will remember the laughter and the tears, and be so very thankful that you shared your genius with me. That you provided a way - though Dead Poets Society - to awaken my "yawp" as well as that of my students. You were a master of transcendent wonder. I thank you. I will remember that "words can change the world" and I will do my best to do just that.
My verse will be extraordinary. What will your verse be?
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.