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Of Beginnings, And Again

1 Jan

This morning, I awoke to Beloved’s voice in my ear. Now, the dreams come in both words and image when I am allowed to sleep naturally. She arrives in the early mornings as once she did on Ocracoke. . . .in the tiny loft bedroom of a yellow cottage on the corner of Fig Tree and Howard. Within my dreaming consciousness, I stood on the right side of an enormous moss and lichen laced live oak, a tree well known to me. M’lady, the enormous live oak on Howard Street.


It is to her I have gone to ask the questions I did not know how to form into speech. Her curved and expansive side is the one I have embraced, hoping wisdom from her deep memory would seep into my consciousness, somehow showing me the way…the path to take. Once upon a time, I curled under the mercy of her shelter, hoping that she would heal me and then open a new heart into seeing. In this shadow state, as I admired the winter sky glowing silvery grey through her leafless limbs, Beloved said to me, “Look beyond the tree”. There, I saw a tiny acorn burnished and  gleaming on the ground. “That is what you have made,” she said. “Now its time to plant and watch it grow.”   For the last three months,  I’ve been blinded by the enormous tree of my life, but it has now birthed a “me” who is complete. In a state of presence, I see the cycle. This small acorn has so much potential and promise…so much wisdom innate within it, the tracings of the tree which grew it lying inside.

But, I sighed. A part of me doesn’t want to start all over…to plant …to tend… to begin the next. “No,” I said to Beloved. “I’m too tired to grow more”.

But perhaps winter is about lying fallow. Resting in the dark in order to gather strength and energy for spring. It seems that way to me today. In many ways, the last three months were one long labor, the pushing and the pain. Moments of wanting to give up and not breathe through what seemed to never come forth.  The building excitement of returning to a sense of home and yet the fear of leaving the dark space of the familiar otherworld.

And some might say that my reticence for this new year and plaints of emotional and spiritual fatigue smack of victimhood. I started 2014 selfish, angry, and frustrated, fighting the way the Universe wanted to shape me at every breath. But I finished this year in surrender and acceptance.  No, not a victim. . . a tired warrior, returned to find tribe and home turned to dust. Like Oisin, love and fate swung a pendant soul out into the timelessness of the otherworld for so long a time that upon his return, they knew him not. The former world had passed away. He eventually fell from his faerie stallion, never able to return to the magical world he had found. The fear of losing the gifts of the journey are ever present in my mind. It worries me that I must stay in the saddle and not fall into decay and loss.

Beloved directs my attention back to M’lady. Now a seed of integrated soul lies awake and expectant. The energy to grow into something beautiful takes both energy within and energy without. Fully waking from this dream, I realize the spark is there within me but the way to light the fire is missing. It takes a communal fire to grow a soul beyond its birth. And as much as I can tend myself, I also need the tending. The hard part, I own… I made the acorn. Now others are needed to help me grow into a beautiful grand old oak that someone else might come to embrace for wisdom, for solace…for love.

At this moment though, I need the quiet rest of winter and to lie expectant for sun and earth and water and air… a call which will open me further.

This year, I have two intentions: To keep a positive open heart and to help shape and belong to loving tribe of friends. So I reached into my tiny bowl of shells from Ocracoke this morning and found one which seemed to speak of the promise of more peaceful waters. By remembering the most beautiful shells are found after the most torrential storms, the space beyond the moment doesn’t hold the apprehension it once did. And the time seems to stretch out beyond the desires of my heart as if I had lifetimes to do all that inspires these wings to flight. May the new year be one of seeking and giving, of peace and love.


 I finished my day in yoga practice with the yoga teacher Cyndi Lee.  As we finished our practice, words of intention flowed as the tides of the shore I love so well. Each inhale and exhale united me to my heart’s home.

May I be Happy. . .

May I be Healthy. . .

May I be Safe. . .

May I live with ease. . .


Happy New Year to the wayfaring souls who bless me by following my journey.

Much gratitude.

Be Loved…..

Message in a Bottle

6 Jun

A small blonde boy sits on the path in front of Ocracoke Coffee Company patting Clarence. Both are perfectly content just sitting on roughened planks covering pebbles and sand. The boy slowly strokes the dog’s back. Clarence then moves into his familiar spaniel position, the backward lean. It’s his comfort move.And whether my dog knows it or not it is the position which relays the most love to the person doing the patting.

It says, I trust you. You can bear a bit of my weight.

I don’t mind leaning on you for a bit.

As much comfort as my quiet presence gives to you, I am grateful for the affection and attention you are bestowing upon me.

Clarence is wise, for during this weekend back in my favorite place, I’m thinking about the delicate balance of friendship and connection. As I sit in familiar places here on the island again, people I have come to know recognize my face.

They ask,  “How’s the writing going?”

“Ok,” I say.  But at this point, two years into this blog, I’m not so sure.

Yesterday, standing in line at the coffee shop, an older gentleman and I struck up a conversation. As we slowly began to become acquainted, my travels, occupation, and story rolled out.  And of course the question always arrives,

“What do you write?”

But these days, I hesitate to answer.

Because looking back over this enormous amount of processed experience, I have no idea what to call this type of writing. It’s not a blog…each piece is too long. It’s not memoir, the experiences too new and my perspective too close. It’s not what I had originally intended to do, review the road. For the writing became personal, and intimate. Sometimes too personal. It made me uneasy this veiled honesty. My feelings on love and loss, forgiveness and connection eventually erupted into the process.

I’ve been told — Just tell a story. Narrative keeps distance between you and the reader and people come to their own conclusions.

I’ve been told — Keep it personal; that makes it more true and real, cathartic even.

I’ve been told — Shorten it up; no one wants to read 1500 word essays online.

I’ve been told — Don’t omit the details…tell the story as long as it takes.

I’ve been told — Love the rich description. My language, lyrical and poetic, is the hallmark of my style.

I’ve been told — Make it plainer for everyday folks. No one wants to think that deeply over a blog post.

All I know is this…somehow I just needed to tell my story. Somehow, making my journey visible to others whether happy or sad made it more bearable. And bit by bit, there was healing. Becuase in some strange sense the whole thing felt seen. . .witnessed. And isn’t that the only thing people can do in a recovery? What is this power of acquiring witness?

However…the doubts feel creeping shame; have I opened myself too much?

The Internet is a strange filter, through which nothing is entirely anonymous. I’m a real woman living in a real town, living a real life that has its happiness and it’s challenge, more challenge it seems than not. But still, it wouldn’t take much for anyone to find me and know quite clearly what’s happened both in my inner life and outer life in the last two years.

And now I wonder… Is it too much?

When a person asks me,  “So… What’s the name of your blog?”

And I cringe a bit and say, “Ummm… It’s not really a blog”  or ” it’s kind of a record of my journey or it’s sort of like a journal”… and then I change the subject. That’s when it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe I’ve opened up my life too much. Someone once told me revealing too much at the beginning of a relationship is like getting naked on the first date… you just don’t do that. And maybe. . .I have, a little.

And maybe for someone who meets me in person, or someone who already knows me, or more importantly someone who wants to get to know me, reading personal introspection about this journey of mine may elicit a bit of discomfort… a hesitation. Maybe it creates a sense of voyeurism that feels like walking in on someone while in the bathroom… That “Oops” feeling. That, “I’m not so sure I know you well enough to know you that well” evasiveness.

I’ll never forget sitting at one of my favorite restaurants at home last year. A young lady approached my table and asked,

“Are you the Wayfarinlass?”

“Yeeeaahhh?” I  hesitantly replied.

“I read your blog”, she said slowly. “I’m a biiigggg fan.”

Uh Oh

“Uhhh…ok?”  I started to get a little frightened. Thoughts of stalkers and just how public my small missive actually was suddenly became apparent as she plunked down at my table and ordered exactly what I had.

As the conversation ensued, the young woman revealed her purpose in approaching me. Was I dating her ex boyfriend who had referred her to the blog? Horrified, I didn’t even know whom she meant until well into our hour and half long discussion. During this confession of sorts, she revealed to me everything about her prior relationship, even details one might save for a long trusted friend. I struggled between trying to extract myself and counseling her.

Now that I look back on the event, I see it all too plainly. When you do not have a sufficient network of caring friendships and connections that provide mutual love and support, you grab on to the first compassionate ear and hang on for dear life. Because in a world which isolates us in its enormity, a world which cannot focus on anything immediate and real, being heard affirms and assures us that indeed everything will be alright. How sad, but how necessary, it is that sometimes a stranger is the only one who brings us the wisdom and comfort of the Universe. Or at least a mirror in which we see what is already there to heal us within ourselves.

We are social creatures. We need each other whether it is comfortable or not. Just looking at Clarence and the way strangers interact with him shows me that. But there is a difference in live presence and mental construct. In this digital space, I haven’t named names, for the most part, nor been explicit. But I have written about my own vulnerability, revealed details that take off the mask of a human woman struggling to navigate a single life. It strikes me that someone could meet me and know much more about me than I him or her and now and that gives me pause.

There’s a mystery to live connection, a slow revealing that builds trust as the foundation upon which the house of relationship stands. That foundation cannot be ignored, because without it, connection is nothing more than an illusion. A safe, but lonesome one at that.

In watching this little boy, I can see it. He and Clarence begin the slow creating of a moment. They get comfortable after the initial greeting. Commitment to stay for a while happens and then they settle into a quiet paring. Each tentative touch increases the trust; each stroke assures the next will be gentle and giving. Clarence gets affirming touch, the boy gets emotional comfort and peacefulness. But the key is this…

It’s present.

It’s real.

It’s not words on a page.

It’s not an illusion created by photos and status posts.

It’s not an Internet dating profile or Facebook space spread out for voyeuristic view.

It’s not a bevy of texts and emails.

It’s real.

I tire of digital connection. Like smoke signals in the distance it lets you know you aren’t alone, but it doesn’t feed the real needs of the human soul. And perhaps if we spent more time listening to each other’s stories in person, giving each other the benefit of the doubt enough to believe, trust, and walk in compassion rather than hiding behind a digital wall built of our p.e.d.’s, we might just find the beauty of our own human natures. We might ultimately find what we are looking for. For if we are at all honest, all anyone wants is love and understanding. A moment of “You too? I thought I was the only one.”

So perhaps this space has been my message in a bottle. My casting out a line into dark water, so that eventually I might find my way back to civilization, to my real home.




26 Nov


Many months ago I decided to return to the island at Thanksgiving. Eight days, I imagined, of writing magic and inspiration of the sort  found here last year. But instead, a very different feeling arrived. Yesterday, the high temperature was 36 degrees. Bundling against the chill, I walked Clarence around town and refused to acknowledge a growing suspicion that coming here was to test the foundation of something I’m not so sure I should have built within me. Because in trying to prove my strength, that I can be alone and can fulfill all my own needs, I realize that I’ve been lying. Absolutely lying. . . to my deepest core self. I do need others. But this needing creates vulnerability. And I am afraid of vulnerability. My fear of possibly being hurt by others, especially men, is keeping me safe, but in a tiny nest of observation rather than participation.

Boarding the ferry, I began to think about the relationships in my life and how I felt like something in me was actually broken, as if nothing could be loved so truly or deeply ever again. I was wrong. For when in stepping into the little house at the corner of Fig Tree and Howard, I felt my heart crack. In feeling love and attachment again for people, terror arrived. It hurts to miss them. What if they go away? What if they lie about their affections? I can’t execute the “take it or leave it” detachment I once managed so well. Nothing works…not writing, not painting, nothing. I have to sit in this miserably alone place like a duck in open water.

Yesterday, while shopping some favorite places here, I fell in love with a bracelet of Kathleen O’Neal’s made of tiny silver cast bird bones. That’s how I feel walking this town now. . . like a fragile tiny breakable bird. I hate it. I’ve worked so hard to be flesh, to be muscular physically and emotionally and all of it seems to have disappeared in the one place where  so much strength was found. My heart is now a bird, of hollow bone, the size of a sparrow. And this heart says,

I am still alive. …and now beating.

This heart  is not broken. It has sprouted tiny hollow boned wings that want to soar in gasping fear into an immense open sky. So breakable…so small. Precious. There is a message in those braceleted bones, linked together into a loop too big for my wrist so that one must dangle down disconnected from the rest.

Kathleen said, “I can take out a bone to make it fit”.

And I thought  No. This bone is necessary to the rest. Don’t take out the bone that makes it too big for my wrist. The odd bone is necessary. It’s still attached, barely, but don’t sever it from the rest. And there I was …looking at myself and knowing some way to become part of the circle of normal loving life again has to be found. The odd bone hangs down to show where one doesn’t fit into the form and file of the rest. And I’ve been dangling on the outside too long.

Coming over on the ferry, we passed by the small inlet where the sea birds and ducks roost. In passing, they took off in flight and began to circle the ship. Great wide circles around and around and then I knew… I am in Air. When I started this journey, it began in Fire. The bird of self emerged from ashes and grew. Last fall, I fell into Water…trying to learn to allow, to know that all things come in time and I went way too far out into the deep end. Having no other option, I sank into the unconscious to learn the corners of my psyche. I drowned in the darkest ocean swell without light, without oxygen… on purpose. Last year at this moment, I was fighting an emotional current that would bring me here.


In this place. On this island.

I was reborn.

In January, the walking began on Earth, connecting to the landscape of my Self. This writing space became home to all I tasted, saw, smelled, heard, and felt. It grew my voice.

And now I must take to the Air. Birds fly inside my dreams. They populate my thoughts, my art. I have become obsessed with feathers and with flight. Near the beginning of this current couch sleeping period, I had a vivid dream that I was getting ready to come to the island. About to board the ferry, I had a paper bag with two empty brown bottles and a chocolate bar. The bottom of the bag was wet. I was slightly afraid that the bottom would give way. A man in front of me in line said

You can’t take that over to the island! They don’t allow you to take that over there. . .

I was embarrassed, angry, and ashamed.

As I thought about where to put the bag out of the way so as not to litter or lose it, the sky cracked. A thunderous roll split the darkening clouds and a swarm of migratory birds on fire began their sinuous flexing flight across the sky directly toward us. Fear spread across people’s faces like a Second Coming.. a judgment… an End. As the swarm reached us, suddenly I was one of them. I saw from the bird’s perspective. We burned them. In a wave of blistering heat and fire like a rolling searing cloud, we flew flame against masses of people, their fronts like seared slices of bacon, their faces, and bodies arrested in a blistered mass of instant incineration. And I soared, horrified yet helpless within an avian swarm of flame and wing. We flew on beyond them into wakefulness. I gasped when fully awake. My nest of couch was gone.

So the Phoenix has arisen has she. . .to what? If I stay in this nest, I can only watch, the eternal observer of life. I will not know love if I do not chance loss. How will I see the sky if I do not dive? When does first flight happen? How can I be an earthly being and yet made of bird bones? Hollow limbed, light and made of flame. How do birds connect? In a negotiation of air?

They soar, solitary watchers in blue cold cloud and yet in flocks of flame.

One can only stand on the edge for so long before the lesson of flight emerges …on tiny boned wings.

In the Company of Souls

30 Jul

Have I ever told you about my dead friend Annie? I say cheerfully, as if I’m just dropping commentary on someone I ran into yesterday at the local Kroger.

Nnnnoooo… the person says in a slow conversational tone, until comprehension breaks across the slightly shocked, yet curious face.

And then I launch into the tale of Annie F. McWilliams Williams, the dead lady I befriended quite by accident on Ocracoke Island. Our meeting was simple. While vacationing there one hot July, I came across a broken headstone in the Fulcher – O’Neal Cemetery and became fascinated with her. Her death spoke to me, an ending after 41 years, 3 months, 1 day. From that photo on, I became permanent addition to one ordinary woman’s legacy.

My First picture of Annie, July 2000

My first picture of Annie, July 2000

This photograph of her broken cross headstone became a writing prompt in my classroom, part of a lesson on Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. For many years students created stories about how she died, who she was, what her life must have been like. Only after a repeat visit to Ocracoke in 2010 did I consider actually researching her and in three years, I know as much as I suppose I’m ever going to. Her family ties, her marriage to an older man with injuries from the Civil War, her dead infant daughters, and her own death, most likely from consumption, have all been revealed through documentation or deduction. I have a picture of her youngest brother Charlie, but none of her. Her face remains a mystery, but her spirit I can feel quite strongly. I have written many times about the peacefulness that comes attending to her grave. She represents home to me, an infinite home. One day, I hope to be laid to rest beside her.

However, meeting Annie began a slight fixation with graveyards. I have found great comfort of late in the company of souls. In following the sign of the letter and the Civil War, visiting Confederate graveyards and other war related sites has guided my recent wanderings. While visiting a friend in Lewisburg, W.V., a most unusual graveyard experience impacted the way I understand myself and the physical/ spiritual world around me. Let me preface this by saying that most of what I am about to describe can be rationalized with psychological explanation. And most importantly, I’m skeptical of the experience. But I also know that the right brain intuitive world is as real as the left brain rational one. That as beings of energy, the brain perceives both logically and intuitively, and at the base of it all, reality and truth are subjective, so bear with me while I tell the story of meeting a dead Confederate lad who just wants to go home.

On a humid overcast Sunday morning, my friend and I trekked up to the Confederate Cemetery, the resting place of 95 unknown soldiers from the Battle of Lewisburg on May 23, 1862. Walking through the iron gate, a cross shaped mass grave stretched before me like the corpse of some great bird, soft swollen belly and lifeless head exposed to the bright blue sky. After emptying my arms of possessions, the experiment began. As a highly intuitive and empathic person, I can “feel” energy. Without a long justification of this “sixth sense” about people and places, I’ll just say relying on it for over twenty years in working with others has served me well. Students have remarked about this many times. Our communications aren’t totally dependent upon verbal means. Many times, they are simply felt.

Standing at the head of the mulched mound, the quietness in me comes, and I probe what is there. Building into a gust, it washed over me like first breaths of a mountain summer storm.


Intense shock. . .confusion. And the word, pressed into the front of my mind like a stone in one’s shoe, small, sharp and painfully palpable.


In my mind, point of view now extended from the supine position, the last bit of air offering a plea to the sky.

“I can’t tell you why”, I thought. “But it’s okay lads”.

And then a pressure, a pulling to the left of dead center, not completely under the tree drew my attention, and I walked closer. Both palms descended onto this small mulched area of mound, and an incredible feeling of confusion overwhelmed me.

why why why why….

A knowing that help was needed somehow arose in me. I marked the spot with some flowers from a nearby tree and then I turned to my friend, who placed dowsing rods in my unpracticed hands, showing how to hold them, coaching me on the meaning of certain motions. Nothing was left but to leap in with no real idea of what to do or say.

As I stood there, the copper arms swung around almost immediately, thumping both my shoulders at the same time. The feeling was as if “he” literally threw himself onto me for a much needed embrace. Tears came instantly.

“Ohhh, it’s okay, lad…it’s okay…I’m here”, were the only words I could manage to choke out as the tears rolled down in empathy. My friend became a witness, shooting photos and observing while I became lost in conversation with a young man who just wanted someone to listen and to feel him.

“You need to let me go love, so I can sit”, I said in a reassuring half laugh. “I promise I’ll come sit with you if you let me go. I’m not going away. I promise”.

Very slowly, the copper rods swung open, and up onto the mound I stepped, bending to sit in the area with the most pressure. Comfortable, with my knees tucked half way, I raised the rods and centered. They swung right back around my shoulders once again, the left one hovering back slightly off. He’s on my right, I thought. I’ll lean into him. And so we sat close.

“Oh sweetheart”, I said “its okay…..but I can’t tell you why”.

In the ensuing “conversation”, all I could really gather was that whoever or whatever this feeling was missed home desperately and just needed human contact. I also discovered that I am looking for a soldier who died in the Civil War. That’s something I didn’t know until this experience. But this lad could not help me find him. He didn’t want to answer questions, he just needed my company. He wants to go home, somewhere out of the confusion of own passing.

“Its okay, love. You’re okay. You miss home, I know”.

Finally, I told him that I had to go, but wouldn’t move until he let go. After several minutes, the rods creaked slowly apart and he retreated.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what really happened, that the entire experience could be a figment of my imagination or some deep psychological/ emotional issue needing to play out for my own inner drama, but I will say that the experience felt no less real than any other. My friend corroborated through an outside source my first impression of shock and confusion. The lad gave me facts that I have yet to prove or disprove which aren’t mentioned here until they can be substantiated. But more than anything, it makes sense to me now why Annie is so important, why I am beginning research for a novel based upon the Civil War hospitals here in Lynchburg, Virginia. A story lies upon this path, I just have to listen hard enough to hear it. My feeling is the tale desperately needs the telling.

Summer Break

9 Jun

Today I head off to Hollins University to the Tinker Mountain Writer’s Workshop. I’m not really sure how the week will go, but my hope is that I will find a way to take all that I’ve written here and transform it. The writing has come to a point where a shift is needed. I’ve changed so much over the last seven months and while I love traveling and experiencing new things, I am feeling the need to go back to where I started, to the island and to Annie. One of my friends from Ocracoke texted me last night. He sent a sunset picture from the ferry. It was my confirmation that I need to revisit what I wrote on the island. Not just what’s here, but what is also in the originals. I hesitate to show those to strangers, but maybe parts of them might transform into something altogether different.

Ferry To Home

This last week has seemed to last forever. And a lot has shifted. I’m needing to find my feet again it seems and the best place to do that is next to Annie. I can’t go to Ocracoke right now, but in my mind, I’ll walk Back Road to the sandy corner where my friend waits for me. Paul and Newt went to see her about a month ago on their vacation. They left me a “time capsule” of sorts on her grave. I often wonder what I’ll find there and who I’ll be when I come to it. Zillie’s is on my mind these days…and the ducks and the fig trees budding. M’Lady is decked in green again, I’m sure, and the familiar smells of suntan lotion, sea breeze, and marsh grass hang heavily in the humid air.

It’s time again for me to strip my prose bare and then build it back into something else. I’m ready to see that time from a new point in the journey. Its a good place, right now. This week I can just be a writer again…nothing more. I’ll need to find the coffee shop on campus and return to the iPad.

When I return, I’m off to California. I haven’t even contemplated what I’m going to experience or how I’ll write about it. Posts might be pretty sporadic for the next few weeks, but my Instagram and Twitter will be busy, I’m sure.

So back to the island I go. . . in my memory.

The Way Home

19 Dec

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This morning, my last morning here, the sun was shining through the windows and Clarence was snuggled into my side. I reflected on my discussion with Kenny last night. From my time here, not only have I come to understand my own story more but I have really come to love and be interested in hearing other people’s stories, their experiences in living. Coming to know others through connecting just as Mr. Rogers did, has me more a listener than a lecturer. I have wanted to relinquish leader role for a long while. Its time for someone else to direct. But I suppose I’ve always loved stories; after all that’s the primary addiction of a writer and lover of words. The way in which I have experienced connection this week through my own story and the story of others is somehow different though, more real, more intimate, more important than fiction. I’d like to be a collector of memories. Memories teach me.

On my way to the coffee shop, I stopped by M’Lady, the great live oak on Howard, to say goodbye. As I touched her side I wondered for probably the hundreth time, how many people has she seen and heard? How many stories of this place does she know? How many hellos and goodbyes?

So, I sit now in the coffee shop for the last time. Ryan isn’t working this morning, so I only have a red eye.  I’ll miss his country music jams and I don’t really know if I’ll ever be able to find a cafe au lait like his, but I am going to try. Last night I went to Zillie’s for the last time, too. That’s a place I need to love in small doses. I’d end up frequenting daily for the company and I’d never want it to grow old, besides I need to really start watching my wallet. I’m still trying to process all that I have come to know this week, with more experience to come in D.C. this weekend.

This time away has given me so much. I can’t really explain but I am different now, as if my eyes have been opened and cannot be shut. And for gifts, one needs a tremendous amount of thankfulness. It will be hard to leave today, to leave home. That’s what it feels like I am doing. Staying at my little cottage was almost like staying in the little house on Church Street again. Waking up this morning felt like it used to way back then; its smallness comforts me and sitting at the kitchen table writing is like being in Granny’s kitchen on Vermont Ave. Marcus told me that he grew up in that house with his “Granny Ma”, when I told him where I was staying. “Aw, that’s Granny Ma Thomas’ house. I grew up on that porch.” So it doesn’t surprise me that I feel so comforted there. After these days, it truly feels like “my home”.

Yesterday, I took my last really long walk around the island and wandered in the community graveyard. I had never been there before to visit these “younger” folk. I stood in the center for a moment, amid the cedars, oak, and moss in the drizzle and listened to the rain and quiet and as I turned, a message on the back of one of the gravestones brought me to tears:

Sometime when the rain keeps falling
And the road is mighty rough
And you just can’t help a thinking
That this life is mighty tough
Just you smile and keep a looking
And what I’m telling you is true
Somewhere peeping through the rain clouds
There’s a little patch of blue
Sure you’ve had a heap of trouble
And I’ve had some trouble too
But we’ll find if we keep smiling
That little patch of blue
–Mrs. F.D. Hendricks

Even in death, these simple folk teach me because they help me to live. Later as I walked more, I actually got lost. It was so funny. I was lost on an island that one can walk from side to side in a matter of minutes, but winding way lead to way and then I didn’t know where I was. When I finally emerged, I was near Eduardo’s Taco Stand and after having met Eduardo at Zillie’s Sunday night and hearing his story, I knew getting lost happened for a reason. I needed to go have lunch there.  Eduardo was a cook at a local place for many years, but he had a dream: to own his own Mexican restaurant here on the island. And so, he bought a food truck and created one. He made me his specialties because I just told him to pick for me. Those were the best tacos I have ever had, and even more special because they were made with care for me by a new friend whose story I now carry. And in the sharing whatever I thought I lost, I found a little of again.

Connection is the gift of the Universe. Principle Two.

Begging a Pearl

18 Dec

Seawater begs the pearl to break its shell — Rumi

After I arrived in Ocracoke, one of the things I began a quest for was oysters. It’s December and near Christmas and I just had a craving that would not go away. However, the Ocracoke Fish and Seafood Company was closed, and the grocery store was curiously devoid of any seafood, except for frozen fish sticks. I understood there wouldn’t be much available. With the town being as deserted as it is, I was lucky to find anything available in the one open store. Monday, when I was checking out with a few items, I asked the cashier, Debbie, about oysters and she gave me Ikey’s number. After a call, days of rain and finally a break and a catch,  he rolled into my drive yesterday afternoon with an enormous bag of fresh oysters. I smiled and paid him and then promptly panicked.

Oh……god. That’s a butt load of oysters. Well, let’s do this, I thought. I attempted to dive into shucking the whole half bushel.

I had never attempted this sort of task and had nothing but Internet instructions and a newly purchased shucking knife. After cutting and prying seven or so, I was so done.

I had literally 50 to 60 to go.

The process was not as simple as led me to believe, but I did learn quite a few lessons in the attempt. And it might just help me understand something personally important, about boundaries. I have been an open book most of my life and it has caused me quite a bit of pain. In being consistently open and overly trusting, others have banged and bruised my interior needlessly to the point that in part, this time away was a bit about me needing to form some new understanding of how to emotionally connect with others and still be able to keep myself whole. The battle with these oysters taught me about the preciousness of my own emotional well being.

The shells were covered in algae and mud, barnacled and sharp. Hinge…where’s the hinge? “Hold it with the towel and insert the knife into the hinge and cut around the edge”. Mostly that just yielded a muddy mess with broken top shell, cut thumbs, and severed oyster. Sandy, muddy mess. So the only thing to do was to scrub the oyster, clean it as well as I could and then put it in a pot and steam it.

After two whole pots worth, I still had a half cooler full and I gave up and took the rest to one of the neighbors. But I learned something really useful: the tighter the shell, the better the oyster. The little ones gave up so easily, opening to heat and pressure. But they shriveled into tiny stiff nuggets of rubber that Clarence wouldn’t even eat. However, the big ones, the ones that barely opened in the high heat of a pot, gave just enough of an edge for me to put in the tips of my sore scratched fingers and with gentle pressure they would pop open and inside would be a barely cooked beauty. Still trembling, curled slightly on the edges, these taught me the tighter the shell, the more precious the interior.

But it also taught me that in a way, sometimes shells can be too tight. The ones that never opened at all, they were dead inside and had to be discarded. This lesson has me thinking on how to balance the shell surrounding my emotional self, how to still open and connect, but yet, not so easily as to sacrifice my inner preciousness. I am a bit nervous about going home. I need to keep a balanced shell. But I have to remind myself of the lessons I have learned this week.

#1 Love is simple

#2 Connection is the gift of the Universe

My most authentic self is that precious oyster inside and if I choose to yield, it must be cautiously and carefully, but worth the fingers to which I am yielding. I need to listen to my inner voice. It tells me where I need to go. Today, I am busied with trying to figure out finances and lightly packing. I go to Trivia Night with Kenny tonight and maybe in connecting with my new friend I will find more of what I have been looking inside this shell.

It Takes a Village

17 Dec

Yesterday afternoon, I went down to Zillie’s to write about my shopping demise and after finishing my thoughts, I ran into Dolores and John, ex FBI agents. They are a lovely couple, and after quite a few glasses of wine, they began to tell story after story. Their experiences are so intense, so heart wrenching, so inspiring. I’m coming to know everyone by name, and this transition of being accepted by the community as if I actually live here is pretty amazing. Scott, the long term substitute teacher was there along with quite a few other O’cockers, as they are called. There is a delicate balance between transplants to this community and those born and bred here, the native accent is unmistakable.

I listen here much more than I do at home. Their stories fascinate me; I feel included in a way that I haven’t since childhood family dinners. The narratives roll out and I think, where have I been all these years? Dolores told me about arresting a man in a crack house in DC; small frightened children in rooms were screaming while they tried to clear them to find a suspect. And then of finding a pit bull puppy locked in one of the rooms, collar grown into its neck. She cuddled it only to find that when the animal warden arrived, the pup would have to be euthanized. No pit bulls allowed in D.C. As she told the story, the pain of having to let this puppy go, knowing that it would be killed, began to bloom in her spirit. I sat and simply listened in acknowledgment of her experience. The brutal removal of the one bit of innocence in a corrupt dysfunctional world of drugs and crime had to be re-negotiated in her understanding. But she told me and in my listening, we connected.

I met an older man, Kenny, who was so funny and friendly. Later, I ran into him at the Topless Oyster where the community gathers for its annual Christmas party. And I’m pretty sure I was the only tourist in attendance, taking photos, listening to stories. Mr Rogers was right. Everyone has a story and they are all so important to acknowledge. I don’t know really how to explain the party except that everyone comes, brings a dish, and then the owner puts out a keg. After that’s gone, people start buying drinks and that’s when the real party starts. As the only outsider, everyone is quite curious about what I’m doing here, who I am. I have become the English teacher, who is writing a travel blog, and working on some historical fiction and taking care of Annie in the Fulcher cemetery. I’m Cyndi, the writer, the gal in the coffee shop in the mornings. I am not Miss Kelley. You have no idea how beautiful it is to hear your first name, over and over. As if it were so obvious that’s who you always were. Most people don’t realize what its like to be called by a formal name for 18 years. Miss Kelley is not . . .me.

And so I have met all these amazing people this week. I had already met Marcus, Kenny’s godson at Trivia Night on Tuesday; he’s so sweet. He rode past me Tuesday night on his bicycle while I was taking Clarence to potty and he yelled, ” H’lo! Cyndi! There’s the dog!” Peter, who works for the local realty company is so delightful; he talked with me liked he’d always known me. As I photographed him sharing a shot with Brooke and Finkle,  I could see the strands that hold this place together. I haven’t seen ties like these since college. It’s as if the whole town is one large senior class. One older fisherman, who had attempted to chat me up despite the fact that, combined with his inebriation and his O’cocker accent, I had no idea what he was saying, floated around me all evening.

At one point, he asked one of my new friends, “Is she yer wu-man?”

I had to tell him, “No, dear, I belong to me…”. That was a brilliant moment.

“I luv an in-dee-pendunt..wuman” His response was just priceless.

If there was any doubt that the Universe was leading me here, there is NO doubt in my mind now. Sometimes, a friend arrives at just the right time. And that friend was another Kenny. Friday night at the Jazz show at Gaffer’s , I was grafted into a conversation with several ladies and we chatted in group for a bit. He seemed so nice and genuinely fun. After our conversation at the Christmas party for over an hour, I discovered that he left a corporate job to move to the Hatteras area to seek authenticity in his life. To “be”. He quit a successful career to seek a more fulfilling life of simplicity. Every sentiment I have been contemplating this week  about learning that the value of life comes from connection to others, about giving to oneself first and then to the world, about authenticity and deep inner peace, he repeated, sometimes with the very same phrasings. We even discussed a love of Rumi and at that moment I knew without a doubt that we were destined to meet and to be friends. He said to me, “You know, when I saw you sitting there at the bar by yourself, enjoying the jazz, I thought…that’s a woman who owns herself, who is complete. I thought, I have to talk to her.” I know we will keep in touch, even though he lives far away. He is ahead of me on this journey, and his encouraging words meant so much. At the end of the conversation he looked at me and said, “So, when are you moving here?” I can’t tell you how much I want to do that. How confused, in a good way, I am about the way my life is changing. When Kenny had to go catch the ferry, we hugged and he said, “Namaste, my friend” How I found him, I’ll never know.

Then, as I enjoyed watching and then dancing to the Rockers a local band, I met another man. This connection was definitely one that reaffirmed that indeed I may not be solo for the rest of my life. It was grand to chat, to dance and even to be affectionate. Our meeting was quite sweet, respectful, and unencumbered by expectations, but brief like the old image of two ships. I loved the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled, and there was a real tenderness there. This morning, when I went to the coffee shop, he was already there. He engaged me in conversation and asked me for my contact info. And then, even though I didn’t assume anything from the previous night’s dancing and chatting, he came over to where I was writing, smiled, opened his arms, and gave me a genuine hug. I’ll probably not ever see him again, but it matters not. The moment was what was most important. That night, in conversation with everyone, and in holding hands and quiet connection with a kind man, I felt a part of this community. I felt as if I belonged somehow. The possibility of place. I began to fall in love with a new me.

So in coming to love this community, I have learned how to listen and to love myself all over again. I will strive to be my most authentic self everyday. It is what keeps me grounded, alive. For love is simple. Principle One.

Then Again Maybe I Won’t

16 Dec

Beloved was chatty this morning…and my god, my heart hurts.

You only come to see yourself when you part with the grief you know. You have to write to get to the truth.

I ache, physically. What is this? Delayed train wreck? Yesterday was pretty good and then “BAM”. I think the big thing is that I know I will be going home in three days, and then I will have to deal with life face on. To be sure, I am tiring of being alone for the most part. I went to hear jazz at Gaffers Sports Pub last night, the only event in town. And while I had a terrific time, I was reminded that I am middle aged. When men try to chat me up but resemble what I might think of as somebody’s grandfather and then I realize they are at the top end of my peer group, I feel like a slow cold death would be preferable to what my life is going to look like. How many red hats can I own? I am not that old…I’m just NOT.

NO cats. I will not be little old cat lady in 20 years.

But the music was good. I enjoyed it and the new people I have met. More than anything I wish I could learn how to be happy alone. I don’t know that I can do it. Honestly, I really don’t. I mean I like myself and most aspects of my life as most people do, but I am not happy alone. I loathe it.

OK, shut up. Yes, I wanted this time to be alone. I needed it and to be sure there are moments where it’s preferable to company. But I wish I could be one of those type of single forty-somethings that has a faaaaabulous life…doing faaaaabulous things…and being awfully happy about it. No husband. No children. Lots of friends.

Gee, I have such a fulfilling life without intimate relationships! (cheesy grin)….NOT.

Today, I am not particularly verbose. I feel kicked in the chest again and I’m tired of it. There is shopping to do at galleries and maybe a walk or two. I am not happy this morning, not inspired. I’m wanting a good workout and some hope. Maybe I’ll find some on my walk. I’m sure I’ll cry before the day is out and be puffy once again. Nothing’s going to fix this is seems some days.

Somebody, tell me it’s going to all work out okay, because right now. I can’t see it. Right now, I want to go crawling back to something I know isn’t good for me, and I suppose that is giving my power away. I need more clarity and a path back home. That’s the worry now. What will I do when I get home?

A Gift: Howard Street

15 Dec

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Christmas is coming…the goose is getting fat
Pleased to put a penny in an old man’s hat
If you have no penny, a ha- penny will do
If you have no ha-penny then god bless you.

It’s Saturday, and I am shopping.

But for some reason it is just not working for me. All the shops here have been closed this week, so I know that if I wanted to shop for Christmas it would have to have been yesterday or today.

After spending yesterday in research at the museum, it is today or never.

I usually enjoy shopping. But as I trudge into shop after shop filled with beautiful handmade gifts, jewelry, pottery, paintings, scarves, hats, soaps, wall hangings. . .all on sale, literally I cannot bring myself to buy anything.  Nothing appeals to me and yet again, everything appeals to me. I try to force myself, knowing that I need to show those I love how much they mean to me, how much their continued presence in my life is appreciated. After all, in ten days: it’s Christmas. Ten days.

Want in on a secret? I don’t feel it and I think this year, I may choose not to at all.

This year’s holiday isn’t even registering to me. The closest I have come was my arrival on the ferry Sunday and seeing the village lights in quiet comfort, and then again on my dark walk home from the library last night and the tiny lights of Back Road.

I wander the island, shop after shop, knowing that tomorrow, nothing will be open. I will be leaving on Tuesday. I keep telling myself to look harder, to lose myself in the experience, but I can’t. Nothing seems of appropriate value. Nothing seems to fit. After three hours of meandering, I decide to go home via Howard Street and then it hits me. This year, I will have to show my love in ways that do not involve me making a transaction. I want to show  my appreciation meaningfully. That is so important to me now. It’s as if time is of the essence, as if something important will be lost if I don’t. This ever present urgency has fueled my impatience for months. I struggle with allowing the time to just be.

So as I walked Howard Street, suddenly I see what I most want to give to those whom I love.

The curving path through Howard Street, I want to give to you.

an old sandy path which weaves itself through the veil of two worlds, the living and the dead,

weathered stones of grey and white under a branching aged oak lady, who speaks long and low to my heart.

Lichen laden wooden fences around small yards of sea grass.

Two chairs side by side, my friend, my dear one, where I can place myself in happy times and laugh at life with you at how the world is an azure and green glass globe encircled with light.

Blooms of pink, on bushy branches still yielding a memory of summer gone by, but we can remember.

A feathered bird, colors of the russet rainbow, pulsing with the life of home and basic humanity,

in the chain of our transcendent connectedness, his red crest a signal to the universe saying “I am”.

Small soft dog, so sweet, so vulnerable, so fierce, so in love with a small simple world of yard, and family, and the long day of sleep and eat and play and happiness.

No future, no past, just now.

A clapboard colored bottle blue, that is what I’d share with you,

the joy of blue, thickly coating the wood of cottage in the sun, boards stretching toward a winter sky,

white windowed eyes reflecting back the clouds passing in ocean water breezes.

Pinpoint red berry clusters on branches of green, that say, Joyous night…merry and bright…my friend.

And a fire on the deck, and drink in glass, and a longing for your smile, for your love, for your presence in my life

and a deeply felt need to give within me, offering you these images in thankfulness for your birth, for your connection to my soul.

My friend, you are not here, but you are forever with me and for that I can only give one gift in your honor

my words

the perceiving of my senses

and a view of what is best and bright from this tiny place of solitude and hard won comfort.

Blessings, respect, compassion…and love.

It is my simple gift.

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