It was morning, and from my kitchen radio, the announcer stoically told the news of the deaths of two classmates from my high school. I was 16, and although I do not remember their names, I remember the jar to my heart. They lived on my end of the county and the night before, drove crazy along a mountain road, lost control and died. I didn't know teenagers could die. Old people, sure, but not someone my age. I didn't sleep for days, and when I did, I had nightmares; mama would shake to wake me from the movie in my mind. The next year, I would be in a wedding of a close friend, only to bury her groom three days later.
And my roller coaster called life began at that moment.
I cry for Allison Parker and Adam Ward, the two journalists killed on Wednesday. My heart feels the same jar. Maybe because I am a journalist; maybe because it's just senseless. I watched my morning news this morning as Jaye Watson reminded me that the killer was "not was one of us." On Wednesday, I watched the video of the shooting; once. Then, I watched the video made from the other perspective; once. I felt my body go numb and wondered how I would breathe; then, as any good journalist (for that matter, a human being) would do, I questioned. I saw how close he came to the two innocents and wondered why they didn't react. Then, I knew.
I remembered my moments being the extension of a recorder, a camera: interviewing Cleveland Indian Clint Frazier in his home, Bob Chandler along the road in Maine selling his maple syrup to strangers, the chamber of commerce president in a neighboring county, a woman who was going through endless chemo treatments for breast cancer, an old moonshiner who was slowly losing his reality.
First, you are a reporter, a journalist, a storyteller; secondly, a multi-tasker. In the same moment, you must think, think back and then, think ahead. To concentrate so intensely on what has been said, what is being said, and what might be said - all the while remembering those questions you jotted down on a McDonald's napkin at the very weird moment when inspiration hit. Your audience is depending on your focus. That's what professional journalists do. That's what Allison and Adam did. They kept their focus.
As the roller coaster continues, we must all keep our focus. There will always be those who attempt to distract, disengage, condemn, belittle, undermine, stifle, and sometimes, extinguish our focus. I still battle back tears for the unexplained as I keep moving in the direction of my passion. Even as I pause, and say, "Why bother at this point in my life," I slap my hand (or my knee as mama would do) and remember the smiles of those who are (were) in focus.
"There's no other option for my roller coaster life."
It's that time of year again. If you squeeze your brain hard enough, you'll be able to smell a wood fire, taste fresh apples, feel the steam of a mug of hot chocolate. Oh, but unfortunately, there's more living (and southern sweating) to be done before we get to indulge in these beauties that fall offers.
Len and I are gearing up for another season at Blue Ridge Country Magazine. You didn't know? Well, you should and you have to come along. Not only does Blue Ridge Country provide amazing photography and stories about this mountain stretch, but our bi-monthly column has become a travel go-to for many who are traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway (hence our many trips north to, ourselves, discover gems in the woods). Just click this BUTTON and you'll see where we've been. More importantly, you'll know where we going and how to find us come September.
This photo was taken when an adventure took us to Gatlinburg - not for the snow, not for the mountains but for the history. Gatlinburg Inn is now in the hands of family, and they plan on keeping it that way. You'll hear all about the grandparents and their legacy within this mountain city. We'll also carry you to the Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee; meet Nik Wallenda in Clayon, Georgia; and even uncover all that feuding of the Hatfields and McCoys in the Tug River Valley in West Virginia. Plus, we're planning a very personal love letter to Carlos Lovell as a "thank you" for allowing me to tell his story in North Georgia Moonshine.
So, needless to say, I'm a word factory, pumping out words and phrases of detail and description - working at full speed, brewing numerous daily pots of coffee, researching on travel sites, editing photographs and weaving stories. I'm exhausted! Exhausted, but so enriched and blessed to have met such wonderful people along the way and have the opportunity to be their storyteller.
We all need a storyteller. Someone who looks into our life with an unfiltered lens and shares authentically, the life we have lived. No judgement; just a clear picture (much like that of my camera) of who we are, where we came from and what we will leave behind.
Gotta go. . . .the factory (and another story) calls.
How do you fix a GRAY Japanese Kubota tractor that has been abused, destroyed, ignored, hammered, wrecked, knocked around, bruised, shattered to the point that IF the right parts were found, would it actually work? Would that key turn and that starter roll IF all the pieces were in place? Would papa's tractor - now a sad pile of metal - be reborn to dig and haul and move?
Would the memories of riding in the driver's seat, feet dangling, while papa made sure the brake was mashed and the gears were changed, do the trick? Sitting on the laps of Titans have been known to change lives before. Will those memories propel us to finish what we've started?
And even though this rescued tractor has sat on that trailer for the more than a year, three of its four tires are flat, and for the life of us, that key still won't turn and that motor won't sing, can we do it? Will we do it? It won't be for lack of trying.
So this tractor fixin' project has been in the works for well into two years now. As time allows, Len and Ty piddle and poke and search for the right parts, the right key, affordable replacement tires. I watch Ty and I know that bringing this tractor back to life is a way of keeping his papa close at hand. Len knows that getting this tractor in working order has nothing to do with it's ability to work, but everything to do with keeping his step-son's memory of his grandfather alive. That's enough reason for him.
I watch Ty wipe the years of time-stamped dirt from the tractor's once vibrant shell, knowing that it will never be as beautiful as it once was. For one reason, time has added layers that scrubbing just won't erase, and for the most important reason, his papa isn't around to make it shine.
So, if they get it running, great. If not, then great, too. It's home, and it's loved. Just like papa.
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.