thomas wolfe said, "you can't go home again." for the most part, i think he's right. right in your twenties, your thirties and even your forties. but in the high noon of your life, when you find yourself alone in a big house and it's the memories that must offer contentment, you remember. however, yesterday, i got out of the big house and took the green jeep home.
my current project took me to mt. airy, a small town near clarkesville where i grew up. mt. airy and its sidekick cornelia were always where the rich kids lived, so needless to say, most of my friends were not from here. but, habersham was a small county with one high school, and clarkesville, cornelia and mt. airy kids were heaved together in the new habersham central which today has been replaced by a newer habersham central - conveniently located across the street. at one point, cornelia turned into mt. airy before you could shift from third to fourth gear. it's the home of lake russell, where my daddy (kimsey) and his brother (lamar) spent their last afternoon together, fishing. on the way home, lamar's heart gave out and daddy recovered the truck just in time before the huge oak took his own life.
this is the time to visit the north georgia mountains. they are especially beautiful in the fall with the leaves on the verge of turning. some have let go and whip through the air. i'm not sure what melds with the leaves in the wind, but i know it's enchantment and my memory explodes.
i hopped in the car with susan, headed to a girls halloween party at the lewallan's house way back in the woods. i tagged along with daddy to the trout stream after he watched the county truck go by to stock the river. i played baseball with ricky in the front yard, often opting to be the cheerleader so i could run (my first dramatic role) to him when he was hurt. i watched mama skillfully sew my newest dress on her mama's pedal singer and then turn the reigns over to me so i could learn, too. i walked behind daddy in the fields, dropping corn as he guided besse the mule in the straight-and-narrow. i ran up and down the front sidewalk after daddy added it so mama wouldn't have to get her feet wet walking to the mailbox. i helped daddy plant the magnolia by the garage apartment and wondered how in the world that little thing could possibly be a tree.
that sidewalk went on forever years ago; it seemed like that magnolia tree never grew. perception is everything, i suppose. today, i look with grown up eyes and mountains of experience, longing to return to running up and down that walkway, or to become that child whose daddy was superman and the master of my happiness. i miss them so much it hurts. i miss the simplicity that comes along with mountain living. i miss the learning experience i had each and every day of growing up - i wish i realized then how rich i was.
yes, thomas, you can go home again for god has provided mankind with a beautiful memory-machine for moments when yesterday is out of reach. i can go home again, and i will, every chance i get.
it's what a son does. his gets his mama a bike for her birthday so that she'll be around for grandchildren. plus, she gets to be cool riding down the road with a mesh basket and silver bell. i use the bell much more than i should except i forgot to use it on the second day as i was being chased by two flesh eating dogs (they appeared to be rich dogs with nice collars and manners but i wasn't going to stop and ask). i did prove to myself that the rest stops made the prior day were just whimpy on my part. i could make it the entire distance without a breather if motivated by fear. so thanks, ty, for thinking of my future. i'll do my best to hang around.
my birthday week of men
i've always thought it kind of cool to be the lone girly fish in a sea of men. surrounded by testosterone, manly men sporting guns (the arm-candy kind), smiling and being shifty. if you're a woman and reading this, tell me i'm wrong. you can't. i know you too well.
it's my birthday week - yes, when you're this old, you get a week - and i started thinking about all the men that i have been around these past seven days. so, here's a list, in order of appearance :)
1. lloyd carter: he's my touchstone to my past. a father of a friend who reminds me just how good life was and is. his smile is contagious and his attitude, inspirational. len and i spend last sunday afternoon with his family, at the family reunion. since our parents are gone, we've adopted new parents plus an entire family. i can't think of any better than this man. thank you lloyd for loving me and showing me the way. you're a 91-year old-pistol!
2. his holiness the dalai lama: i know what you're thinking. you really weren't with him, but i like to think sharing the same air space counts for something. after all, a year ago, if you had told me i would be 'shooting' this man, i would have laughed in your face. so there's two moments here; one of opportunity and one of inspiration. being in gwinnett arena on wednesday proved that you're never too old to dream. if you want something badly enough, well, then, go get it. today, i'm 54, and i - along with my husband - want to be tops in the travel/writing/photography industry. i'm on my way because this week - i photographed THE dalai lama. wow. secondly, it never hurts to hear some common sense preached. simple concepts of love, compassion, respect - that's all it takes to solve the worlds greatest ills. sounds like the thoughts of another who changed the world. i'm overflowing with gratitude.
3. ty johnson: yes, he's my son, and i'm partial. as a mom, i have that right. over the past few months, he has been my inspiration. len and i have been watching him map out his life, attempting to figure out the path that will lead him to where he wants to go (and, yes, it has nothing to do with spelling). it's not where he wants to go that's impressive, it's the steps he's taking to get there. the old adage of "it's not the destination but the journey" rings true. he has taught me the importance of commitment to a goal and the risk of being steadfast and to jump when all those risks line up. i'm proud of him, and i'm proud to be his mom. i'm tickled-pink to find a hand-written note on the counter before sunrise. again, so much gratitude.
4. len garrison, sexy man: that's his listing in my phone. when i call upon my voice commands to dial him up, she always asks if i want to dial "len garrison, sexy man". i always giggle, and say yes. and then i giggle more when i realize that he's mine. and as he reminds me on my birthday card, he's "my own personal sheldon". and then i remind myself of just how lucky i am. rock-bottom was my only option until i found him - or rather, he found me. then he raised me up, allowed me to dream, and promised he'd be there every second. that - my friends - is the gift that keeps on giving. overflowing with gratitude.
so these are my men of this birthday week. a distinguished assortment of testosterone.
the 11alive forecast told of a perfect day in georgia. an "11" on the wizometer. i tend to agree. it's only a few hours old, and perfection is rising.
october 8, 2013
the visit 2013
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
presidential distinguished professor
the arena at gwinnett center
the pillars of responsible citizenship in the 21st century global village and secular ethics in education
over 10,000 in attendance
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, one of the world's most renowned and revered voices for peace and universal ethics, is the 14th spiritual leader of Tibet and the 1989 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk.
on my way to the media area, i accompanied two travelers who had come from some distance for the lecture. she told of the last time she saw his holiness and explained how the garbled audio made it nearly impossible to understand his message. "the audio was jumbled," she said, "but it didn't matter. we were in his presence." it was at that moment that i knew that this would be a life-changing gathering for many.
his first few moments on stage were brief. upon seeing his longtime friend, richard moore, founder of children in crossfire, in the audience, he left the stage and reemerged among the shocked audience, embracing his friend and sharing in moments of laughter. at age 10, moore was blinded by a rubber bullet fired at point blank range into his face. "i consider him my hero. the conflict in northern ireland, some soldiers, british soldiers, bullet. and instantly lost his two eyes. and when he recover his memory, he's already in hospital. but then he never felt anger. only he felt now i cannot see my mother's face no longer. so my work is easier just to talk. love, love, love. he practice that as a young boy. so i call him my hero."
he returns to the stage, still chuckling along the way. "sorry. sorry. actually, i always act like that, completely informal, informal way." applause and laughter sweep through the arena.
he speaks of the evils of the 20th century: europe, wwii, japan and hiroshima, victims of nuclear bombs, the korean war, vietnam. "some historians say over 200 million people killed in that century through violence. and then i think thousand year concept of the human being, in order to win yourself, force is the key element . . . the immense sort of violence really brought new world, new shape of world, that way of thinking; force is the key element to win over so-called enemy."
"i feel the beginning of the 21st century, some violence even today, like syria."
"innocent people, children, great suffering. these I believe are the symptoms of the past mistakes and negligence."
". . . very much based on extreme self-centered attitude, individual level, national level. So that's the key element to violence. if you keep others also part of humanity, also brothers, human brothers and sisters. . . "
"there is a possibility to create a peaceful century."
"so I feel not only myself but many of my friends now feel the only way to solve this problem, through dialogue, dialogue, can solve. so there the dialogue means respect others, respect their interests. . . the proper way is whenever we face problems, the potential conflict, and with respect to their right, their view . . . "
"now in order to develop, in order to create a century of dialogue, we need I think we should reduce the extreme self-centered attitude. so the only thing is more respect for others. how to develop respect. if you develop a sense of concern of genuine love not a sense of pity, looking down, no. respect them."
"our survival entirely depends on someone else caring."
he continues to explain the necessity of compassion in all areas of one's life and that the course of lives are often dictated by the influence of the home. he speaks lovingly of his mother, crediting her as the designer of his character.
"i always telling people, i have some kind of - certain amount of compassion, that firstly i learned from my mother."
"maximum affection from our mother, from our parent, and our friends. i think these people deep inside are much happier. those individuals who received less affection or parent abandon, sometimes abused, those of distrust, always remain a little bit distance from others. we are social animals. the very basis of our future."
"outside a very good car and inside a very good television, all these things are there. but if that family even a member of the family, some kind of jealousy, some kind of distrust. husband a little bit of distrust wife. wife, a lot of ornaments, but a little bit distrust husband. then I think that home never by very happy human home."
"build this century as the century of compassion."
"it is not sufficient just to complain about our problems."
"we need enthusiasm, not money."
" . . . peaceful mind, then no need for drugs. If they're mentally unhappy, then this lack of knowledge how to reduce mental problems, then just relying on alcohol or drugs, like that. America I think seems a lot of customers of drugs. So then blame on some other country. if no customers, then they will not bring them."
"common interest is more important than individual nation's interest."
"some emotions are bad for our health."
"action is more important than faith, than prayer."
it was a melting pot of the world's people gathered to hear a very simple message - one of hope which included a charge for compassion, communication and action. i listened with the strength of my fifty years and found myself nodding, hearing reflections not only from a pulitzer prize winning man but also a wise man of an older generation who long ago figured out answers to the world's questions even before the world asked. i watched as others watched and saw the reverence, the admiration, the tranquility in their faces. it would be the beginning of change to those who would listen.
the attic is a scary place where boxes turn in to headless monsters devouring unoccupied spaces. inside those monsters, well, that can be equally daunting. once you move past the gray smell of something that has been sealed for far too long and the massive amount of black (and white I have discovered) mouse droppings, it's all downhill.
there's endless quantities of outdated clothes, unused kitchen utensils, unopened (regrettable) gifts, worn-out shoes, discarded computer equipment, lifeless TVs, packaged christmas decorations, busted lamps, unnecessary nick-knacks, and more and more of the same. most you fly right by, but there are some objects that require a closer look.
i can't begin to explain how many hallmark cards can fit into a box about waist high. i believe veta (len's mom) kept them in business. whether it was the sending or the receiving, she did her part in establishing hallmark as a billion dollar enterprise. it may appear to be just paper, but you must attach humans to these mailings. consider those who sent the cards - how they perused the aisle in the grocery store, reading card after card until the right one made them smile. jackpot! and then, days later, veta, sitting in her green lazy boy, going through the mail, finding a colored envelope and realizing it wasn't a bill. with her shinny letter opener, she slit open the envelope and then magic, a smile from ear to ear. thoughts from far away! no matter if the occasion was a birthday, a holiday or even a death, a smile was there because someone cared enough to send a card. not an email, a hand-written card.
and in my mama's old steam truck, one single greeting card that stood out from all the others: the first valentine from what would turn out to be one of many during a very long, love affair. he only signed his name, kimsey, and added no thoughts or phrases. his name was enough. i wonder how many times she read the card while tracing the imprint of his name with the tips of her fingers.
when you least expect it, you will find treasures wrapped securely in 1980s newspaper pages. there's the drag-ula car made by my husband for his pine-wood derby years ago. wrapped securely in browned paper, hours and hours of work lay in my palm. before I even knew he existed, he carved it with his hands and crafted it with his heart. then, there's the sosewsoldier sewing kit that belonged to neil, len's father. he carried this government-issued necessity to france, through belgium and then home again during wwii. both will have a new home, free from stale air.
finally, as i ramble through heaping box of towels, dishcloths and crocheted throws, i stumble upon a beautiful blush linen tablecloth, complete with eight matching napkins - still in its original box, unused with creases still crisp. as with all things cotton packed away, a wash is required. as i toss the tablecloth in the washer, i read the tag: made right in america. not simply made in america like we occasionally see today, but made right in america. pride jumped off the tag and smacked me in the face. i don't recall seeing that wording ever. i'm sure that in 2013, those words aren't added to tags on linens or toys or computers or anything else for that matter.
there are lessons to be learned from the attic. mice can get into any box, i don't care how secure you think it is. most of us have way too much stuff. those clothes you wouldn't wear in the 70s will NOT come back in style and even if they did, you wouldn't or couldn't wear them then so you won't wear them now, so get rid of them. dead tvs and computers are just that, dead. and, when you dig through the clutter, there are gems of lasting worth that must be saved. there are stories of accomplishments and failure, of loneliness and hope, of holidays and dreams - magical seconds of a lifetime made concrete by materials stored in an attic.
i have this - better. me. much better. - on a post-it above my desk - followed by a list of choices that, if handled correctly, will, in fact, make me a much better person. of course, following those is the key.
the list is short but its voice is demonstrative. one connecting idea: don't stop dreaming.
i was once criticized by someone that that was my downfall; i dreamed too much. i dreamed of moments, events, things that would never possible come true, and i spent so much time dwelling on what might possibly happen that i forgot to live in the present. i guess you could say that was true. maybe i didn't want to live in the that present.
time has elapsed and that present is no longer present, and I'm in a much better place, but i still dream. i dream every single day. even though, economically, things are strapped, i still linger over travel sites, search through airline flights, and pray for availability at my favorite little bungalow. i get excited when i get sale emails and i hurriedly go to the website, pick out a few favorites and then, click the 'x' in the top right hand corner. i am satisfied. although I don't go through the official 'check out', i'm happy to have lingered awhile.
i've always said, if i didn't have the capacity to dream, i would have called it quits long ago. i believe it's an innate power given to us mortals [and i believe, especially to women] to reach for those desires that are a tad beyond our reach. henry david thoreau said it best: go confidently in the direction of your dreams. live the life you have imagined. the simplicity of his experiences at walden pond instilled a power within him that he never knew existed. i believe in that key - simplicity.
i like this much better version of myself. it includes peace, happiness, contentment, satisfaction, hard work, busy days, and a dash of pride in the me that i have become. making the right choices, sticking steadfast to a goal, searching and researching a better way, and putting all the knowledge i have to work for the good. i have a focal point, and it's very clear.
i am a better person because i've been to the valley. i now assemble dreams that take me to a higher place.
finishing my novel, organizing and scheduling my life, following my doctor's orders, being beside my children when they need me, offering to help others in any way i can, and remembering how blessed I am to have found my first love in the middle of my life - these dreams, these desires, these goals will help me live the life I have imagined.
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.