Tag Archives: annie

A Full Plate

16 Sep

Have you ever been to a family reunion? Gingham vinyl covered tables are long and piled with homemade delectables so enticing that even though you scoop tiny bites of everything, there is still too much to fit on one plate. That has been my life since Maryland. My plate is overly full. . .so much so that I have been severely ill and struggling to sleep more than four hours a night. I am recouperating from walking pneumonia, an infection that began on the first day of school and lingered until last week.

I traveled anyway in obstinacy. I defied it. I refused to miss school more than a half a day. It laughed at me in its reaper-ish way and then, squeezed my lungs asking,

Howdja like that Wayfarin Lass? You’re taking antibiotics that cure plague for a reason Lil Miss Red.

I am learning quickly that my body has limitations and my drive, while admirable to some will end up hurting me if I do not learn to simply be.

“Give something up” is the message in this first month back to school. I’m faced with tough choices.

I gave up chastising myself about workout routines after going to TRX one evening mid-pneumonia. This was after I had walked a five mile trail in the same week.

My body said No. Stop. Enough. . .Rest.

It scared me.

But I feel soft now, lazy. Having never quite gained momentum back from the summer of traveling and exercise on the fly, I long for my hard leanness to the point of anger. I learned physical discipline, but what I must learn now is spiritual discipline. . .to let go. To balance.

I’ve been confused, musing. My students want more this year. Their skills are weak and I am angry their passiveness. They display a learned helplessness that sends my blood pressure over the edge. I have to learn to let them go and not save them. To let them reap what shallow digging sows, not much. I’ve been behind in grading perpetually because I take their assignments more seriously than they do. That has to end. Their excuses are a dish I can no longer endure.

Maryland was incredible, launching me down a path of retrieving my spirit. During bagpipe tunes and familiar Celtic songs, I had a moments of saying goodbye, watching my former love and my former self part and walk separate ways down a grassy road. I was able to say goodbye to a lot at the Renaissance Faire, and yet hello to much more. In reclaiming that space, I flowered again.

But upon my return, still ill and worried about where next to turn in this spiritual search, I found myself looking back into a program of studies I had started in 2010 at Hollins University. And there, on the list of courses was a Gender and Woman’s Studies class focused on spirituality, myth and the feminine. In less than 24 hours, I was re-enrolled and a student again with my first class only a day away. When the Universe answers, it does so like a lightening bolt. The world is becoming more complicated, yet more simple all at once.

So I face this blog now, after a weekend of confusion over VW bus financing and an aimless trek to see a Civil War Reenactment. Will I even write that novel now? It scares me that that path may have disappeared. I don’t know how, but this space needs to survive, but somehow shift. Changes are coming so quickly that perhaps I’ll only have time to share my observations on the many books I’ll be reading for my class. I still have stories to tell from the road. Like this weekend, when I practically lived out of my vehicle in the Outer Banks due to an AirBnB host who drove me insane with his intrusiveness and one-sided chatter. I had come to the Outer Banks for peace, to be alone with Clarence and to think, to write…to be silent. I paid only for a room, not to spend the weekend with a host who wanted to hostage me into being his “bff”. So I did something I never have before. I packed my car Saturday morning with no idea where to go, no place to stay. But I knew somehow I must find peace and figure it out on the fly. It should be no surprise where I ran, Ocracoke. And surely, it was meant to be. I ran into folks I haven’t seen since December and confirmed that someday the journey will end there, I’m sure.

The uncanny alignment of spiritual path, this class and returning to so many places of old is telling me something. Stay in the moment…do not look forward… do not look back.

Look within.

Remember, it is not September 2010.

It is not October 2011.

It is not December 2012.

This weekend proved that to me. I stopped to get Thai takeout at Thai Moon Restaurant before going back to the ferry and I sat outside at the café tables with Clarence, waiting. He was luring many to soften and chat with me all weekend. That’s his magic. After the AirBnB fiasco, I am now convinced I MUST find a VW bus and someway to pay for it, so that I will have a safe space to stay when I travel. Clarence must come with me. I want to write the stories of the road and of this journey of mine. I have to follow my bliss.

I’m going to put this out there right now to the Universe.

I wish for a VW camper bus so that I can continue writing and learning. I’m a single public school teacher with limited means. It’s my bliss. I have to find a way.

Moon, the owner of the restaurant, came out with my food and squatted to pet Clarence and he did his Clarence thing, lean. She stroked the white crown chakra spot on his head and began to talk in broken English.

“You know”, she said, “I Buddha and Christian, too. . .and I have dream where Buddha say to me that I live on an island and it make me happy…”

She told me an incredible story about how a divine dream revealed to her that she would live and be happy on an island. Her husband, then an alcoholic, found work on Ocracoke, made connections and recovered. Her cooking for everyone there flowered into a successful takeout business. It’s been fifteen years. Her smile shows me that the Universe indeed delivers what is meant “to be”. As I listened to her story and Clarence leaned against her knee, her hand stroked his head so softly as the light began to fade from a sunset over her shoulder in the distance. The knowledge that I was meant to be here at this moment tonight, to be learning these lessons didn’t escape me. I have found bliss: to travel, to learn, to listen to stories. So I will invest my time and money into this education, and a second interdisciplinary Masters degree where I will be able to blend creative and academic courses from a wide variety of interests and also in the road. A place where I have learned more about who I am and the world around me for the last nine months than I have in a lifetime.

I can’t promise that I will post regularly at all anymore, only when I have time or the need to share some tale of the road or my class. Perhaps I’ll need to share a milestone in this journey if I come to one. My little book is continually filling with musings, poem and now sketches. I hope to be able to paint soon; that is something the spirit needs to release in me again. You can follow me on Instagram if you want to know where I’ve been or what the road has delivered visually.Or Facebook via RSS where I regularly send out snippets of life or photos that don’t make it here. My Twitter feed (on the right) will still be active and my schedule of wayfarin will be up to date. I’m not signing off, nor saying goodbye. Only that I need some space on my plate. And I wanted you to know that silence sometimes means more than twice weekly posts. Stories might pile in half notation in my little book for the future, or I might tell you something via Youtube. I’ve been playing with the idea of a vLog. The Universe hasn’t decided yet what will come next…but as soon as I know, so will you.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for giving me a reason to journey on.

Be Well.

Be Loved.

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.

wwwhhHHHYYYYY!!!

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.

WHY?

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.

The Dimming of the Day

11 Dec

I remember back to those nights in the townhouse on Church Street when I would clean house all day to take up the time. In the evenings, I would have some wine and sit in front of the stereo and play Bonnie Raitt before dinner. Tonight, it is windy and rainy and I have been cooking in my little kitchen and remembering those nights. I was in love with Brian Hall’s music then and always wanting something more. Funny how time doesn’t change much.

This afternoon, I went to go see Annie. It was difficult.The moment I saw her grave, I burst into tears; everything I had left in July 2011 was disintegrated. Through hurricanes and winter, I shouldn’t be surprised but I was.

I have missed her so, and of course I had not brought tissues. Garden gloves and nippers, but tissues, no. At that moment though, I didn’t care about my snotty nose or the fact that I was talking out loud to a dead woman. My friend needed to know that I was there with her and I would not leave her. As long as I live, I will be responsible for Annie and I aim to keep my vow. Clearing the weeds and branches, I pulled thorny vines that pierced my hands through gloves and snapped dead pine branches which scratched my face and arms. But once all was clear, I decided to line her feet with cedar, berries, and lichen laden branches. I wanted her to feel beautiful.

Once I was done, it was almost as if I didn’t know what to say, but then my heart opened and we spoke. One day, we will meet. How awkward that will be, I told her. She knows everything about me and I don’t know more than what a census report and some good assumptions can say.  I told her how lucky I was to have had choices. In life, in my career, in the men I have loved, even if some of those choices hadn’t turned out so well. As a 19th century island woman, she married a court-martialed disfigured man,  someone fourteen years older. I didn’t know if she loved him, but I do know that she lost her girls. Two babies gone.  “Budded on earth to flower in heaven”. I can’t imagine her life…makes me a bit ashamed to even be here.

Before I left, I hugged her stone and I lost it all. I cried so hard I almost got sick. Pressing my heart to her name, all I had came rushing forth. I don’t know how, but I felt her comforting arms. What a friend I have in this woman, this woman that died at her best. I vowed to her, I will live for you girl,  a life so full and rich. I will live it for you. One day we will talk about it all. But, I need you now, I need your strength, your love…your guidance. Please be with me, lady.

So tonight as I cooked, I tried to remain with myself. I listened to old songs that put me back into the townhouse and a rocking chair. I would be tired from cleaning and trifles and my heart would long for something I am not so sure exists anymore.

Love.

And I know Annie knows this pain of loss. So I need her as the light dims and tonight, she’ll crawl into the bed with me and we’ll sleep back to back as sisters do.

Tomorrow, I’ll see what this world has to bring me.

This old house is falling down around my ears
I’m drowning in a river of my tears
When all my will is gone you hold me sway
I need you at the dimming of the day

It’s Time

30 Nov

In a few days, I will be at the beginning of another portion of this journey. I find myself in confusion, in a dark forest. Time. I need time to think, time to be. I have nightmares. Last week, I dreamt of a mountain on fire, of a disembodied faceless set of arms with a name that holds my fear. I sleep in fits and starts and I have this need to unpack my heart.

This morning I talked with my friend Lorinda and I told her that there is something within me I need to let go of. My life will be changing soon as my grandmother and my mother and aunt move toward old age and death. My granny can’t remember certain basic things now and when I look at her, I know she knows me but then there is this cloud.

It says I might be anyone. I might be no one. My granny is the last link to my grandfather’s love. When she dies, all of that will pass away. All the Christmasses, the nights watching Carol Burnett, the biscuits, the soft worn hands, the piano and the singing.

Missed the Saturday dance
Could have went but what for
Awfully lonely without you
Don’t get around much anymore

My mother is strong, but she needs people. She isn’t like me. I will end up being responsible for them all.

And I have no one to be responsible for me.

I am the end.

At that moment, I realized I needed time, time to think, time to be alone. Time to grieve what is to come, time to grieve what I have already lost. I need time to write and to process where I am at this point in my journey.  I know that many will not understand. They will judge me and think, “Must be nice to run away when the world gets too tough”. I can’t blame them. I look at others’ challenges and I know mine seem petty compared to theirs. But I’m tired of legitimizing my own struggle. A boulder and precipice in my path might only be a pebble and puddle to them and vice versa. I never had children, nor the luxury of time away from students to adjust to this new way of living. I saved days to care for babies that just never came, but I’m not as sad about that. I’ve always tried to be a bootstrap mentality gal. When life shits on you, you clean it off as best you can and keep walking. Who cares if you smell like shit?

But when I can’t move through the day without too much raw emotion to be in front of the kids, nor sleep long enough at night to not be a walking zombie I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’ve got to go, and the way has revealed itself.

I need to go be with the Universe…God…Buddha…Krishna…Allah … Jevovah…Jesus whatever the hell you want to call something bigger than yourself that you pray is in charge. I need peace. I need to go get my Cyndi back. When I gave up fighting it, fighting the persistently painful thought that others would see me as weak and imperfect if I let go and felt sorrow, the path laid itself out.

Dear World:  I am not perfect.

I am human.

So, I am going away for a while. I need to go find some peace and the safest place I know of is Ocracoke. I am meant to be doing this. This is something I need and whatever comes from it,  the thought that my grandfather once taught me, “I am enough” will be restored. The only place I can open my heart that is safe is next to Annie.

I have often told folks of my friendship with Annie. How I found her twelve years ago taking pictures in the O’Neal Fulcher Cemetery on the island. It always struck me that she died so young and I wondered after her for years. I used that picture in class many times before I actually thought, maybe I ought to find out who she is. And so I did.

What I found out about her is a long an involved story and might be better suited to a historical drama, but what I do know is this. Caring for her grave brings me a peace I cannot describe. When I sit next to her, I am home, she listens to me. When I am there, walking down Back Road, I know the way. I know the way even in the sandy dark. I’m not afraid. I can be raw and bare there and know that no one will be looking.  The shell of my persona needs to be left behind and I need to flesh out raw and new like a snake shedding her skin.

Personal crisis…yes, I’ll admit it.

We all come to them….all of us. I am the only one who can fix mine.

There’s only me.

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