Tag Archives: lynchburg

21 Days of Love

2 Feb

At the center of the Universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service. –Fred Rogers

Habits, they say, can be either established or broken in a mere 21 days. In the light of my last post, and in trying to ease back into post holiday “normality”, a thought arrived during the early morning removal of my Christmas decorations.

“Uh oh.. Valentine’s Day”.

But before I could even let the swell form a wave, I suddenly had an epiphany:

Why don’t I celebrate Love?

Each day in some way during the 21 days before Valentine ’s Day there has to be another way of seeing this, ways to show myself and others love in its many intricate facets. No need to dread it…more over…I need to go out and meet it head on. There is something there I need to learn, so I might as well dive in. Call it a “Love Pilgrimage” if you will, but I have discovered now that if I re-frame the prevailing culture or environment in which I live into a more positive experience, then I can become part of the narrative more easily. And I can give and receive more mindfully. Simply…I want to be happier in a culture that tells me I need to be miserable or cynical on certain holidays because of what “is” in my life.

So this year, I am celebrating Valentine’s Day by loving myself deeply and by exploring ways in which I can love others outside the cultural paradigm. Each day since January 26, I have been posting to social media a poem, quote, or song and pictures focusing around one facet of the enormous complexity of Love, this great emotion at the heart of the Universe. By engaging in activities which may connect me more to the power of my own heart, I hope to cultivate a daily habit of positive conscious loving in all its nuances and to carry that energy forward into 2015.

My students and I are inevitably reading Romeo and Juliet, Cold Mountain, and examining the cultural assumptions implicit in romantic love in literature. Pacing guides just so happened to have placed them now. And ideas for personal experiences came easily and are already underway, the stories I’ll share in the days ahead.

It isn’t all about candy and flowers …but it is all about the heart.

I started by putting back half of my Christmas decor…light is light. 🙂

Reflections. . . Almost Home

1 Aug

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To write is to reconcile the outer world with the inner reality. Shaping intends a design which not only pleases but informs, both the past and future self. I haven’t written since Ocracoke nearly eight weeks ago and a vision of something in the distance neither bright nor dark signals that this particular writing path might close. This body of words, this part of my life’s journey. A feeling of both trepidation and relief is rising…I’m nearing home.

The significance of my experiences this summer did not come into clarity until 5:30 this morning August 1. But I saw the whole platter of them and their purpose at once in that waking moment. Beloved spoke to me for the first time in over a year. She said,

A mirror… It has all been a reflection of you, who you are and who you have been. Each event each person. Look at yourself.

The events of this summer were reflections of past and of present; their purpose was to sharply focus my recognition of how far I’ve come and perhaps the space of how far I really need to go to reach home.

The overwhelming feeling of not having done much, but yet being drug through one conflict or difficulty to the next is the perfect description of Summer 2014. My wings felt clipped in one struggle after the other, one difficult knot to untie at a time. Every morning and at every email and phone call, I winced.

What next? I would think.

I didn’t want to know.

Missed chances and wrong turns and all too brief moments of happiness scrambled into the pressing thought that on August 11, my life will change in a big way. Back in April at the end of my pilgrimage, I was told that my teaching assignment in the fall would be entirely different. Most of my classes will now be high school freshmen. After teaching seniors and college freshmen for 20 years, this type of change is difficult, and the struggle to understand why it happened, what it is supposed to show me, and how to muster strength to frame it in a positive light is ever present. But now, I think understanding has arrived. And it’s about having come full circle. Surely, I need time to mourn the passing of my first life of teaching, but then courage needs to come for the next.

Without cataloging the travel and experiences of Summer 2014, I will say that generally, the mirror has been held up in every connection. Because that is what this summer provided me. . . connections to a lot of people. And they set me on the rough road of learning more about who I really am in all my own imperfection.

And I’ve learned both wonderful and not so wonderful things about Cyndi.

I learned I am loved … greatly …by others, especially my previous students. People admire my strength, confidence, talents and honor my greatest gift: educating. Bringing forth knowing within others in relation to their inner selves is a gift I have but don’t own. As a storyteller, I help people grow in knowing themselves by example.

I learned that my dog, Clarence, who went through surgery to remove a scary cancerous tumor in his face three weeks ago, is the key to my highest self. He mirrors the real me. He mirrors the gift of evoking unconditional love… a gift I have put aside for far too long. The thought of losing him pushed me to the very edge. And my friends helped me to hold on. How many dogs  have over 100 people praying for them and hoping for their wellness?

Because in all the traveling I did this summer, to Ocracoke, to South Carolina, to Norfolk, to Grandfather Mountain, to Hollins University, where I took my first studio art class in Children’s Illustration, to workout, to plays and into a whole gamut of house repair situations . . .all of it showed me that summoning sufficient courage to face and navigate unexpected events is the only skill with which I really need more practice. And just saying that scares me, sends me into denial because I don’t want to be brave anymore. I don’t want to stick my head down and plow through another challenge. I need and want peace. And I’m not going to find it in the outer world… I will only find it within.

So this morning at Common Grounds Coffee House, a mission attached to Lynchburg Church of the Covenant, I sit with my pancakes and coffee. Ms. Swannie, whom I met in June, takes loving care of me. She fell in love with Clarence the first time we came for “pat and chat”. But honestly,  she saw something in me that needed her kindness and love. And I’m willing to admit it; I do.

Her calm presence and smile, balances the voice of Hamlet in my thoughts,

The readiness is all…

In clinging to life as is, to people, to the world as I prefer it in the hopes that it will remain the same, I exhibit qualities others have shown in their interactions with me this summer. I saw myself too clearly many times. Control, anger, neediness, emotional reaction, ego, anxiety, defensiveness, self abandonment, avoidance, narcissism, distancing, and lack of compassion. But also I saw patience, love, hope, deep spiritual understanding,  sense of humor, vision, emotional maturity, vulnerability, courage and strength. In a way,  in the turning toward home, I am learning the balance of both worlds. The teacher and the artist. The human woman and the spiritual mystic. After all, the hero must return to the ordinary world and share the treasures of the journey. Even if I don’t want to…I must come home.

The blessing of always finding something to learn, to explore has been my bliss.And then sharing it with others and encouraging them to undertake the same process in their own lives is the thing I just can’t “not” do. It makes me a Teacher. And the challenge is to grow in wisdom and in peacefulness, for the greatest teachers were teachers of being and loving. I don’t have aspirations to be the type of teacher who leads a movement, nor counsels the sick and downtrodden on a grand scale. I don’t want to be a saint or a statue someday in a garden or a cemetery. I want to inspire people, in the truest sense of the term. A memory upon which someone places loving energy, and that energy will remain positive in the Universe. And if enough people do that, then the memory of me will be expansive and affirming. It will love people beyond my short journey here.

I need luck and strength this fall. But I am positive it will come. Both tears and laughter will happen and ten months from now, I have no idea what my life will be. But Clarence will be there to remind me that bringing forth love in balance is the goal, no matter what I do.  Teaching is a path… Not a subject or a profession.

It’s time I stepped evenly into Being . . . the hero of two worlds.

Divinity of Hell

13 Dec


Divinity of hell!
When devils will the blackest sins put on
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows — Iago (Othello II.iii.259-61)

“Isn’t that right RED!!!…”he calls as I sit quietly with a journal at Isabella’s, an upscale restaurant in my neighborhood in Lynchburg. In quiet comfort at 6pm, I was enjoying a single glass of red wine, and some needed quiet.

“Hey RED! RED!!! Isn’t that right?..”

I turn.

I look.

My look says, “pardon me?” My brow knits into a “Who, me?” expression.

“Hey RED!!… Yeah RED!”

A gentleman in his late fifties to early sixties in a suit and tie continues to call over the bar; his voice fills the nearly empty space of the restaurant. Two female companions and another older gentleman laugh and continue to talk to his right. After another shout, I offer a call back.

“It’s Cyndi”.  I look back down to my journal, ignoring him.

He gets louder. “It’s a complement!” His face begins to change into a familiar look, one I’ve encountered too many times sitting solo at a restaurant. “When I said Red. . . it’s a complement.. I’m COMPLEMENTING you!!” He continues in loud half inebriation.

I look up. I reply, regulating out any irritation from my voice. I don’t want this to escalate. “Oh, really?” My matter of fact tone blends into “best practice” teacher voice as  I press a bit.”How is that a complement?”

He dons a slightly contemptuous smile, swaggers over and reaches up to pet my hair but moves some strands over instead to reveal a shoulder. Putting his hand on my upper back. . . he squeezes. “Oh, I’m sorry I offended you”, he says with mock concern.

Turning toward him and I directly look through his glasses into eyes that don’t reveal any sort of regret.

“You didn’t offend me …I have a name. And yours is?”

He launches in to an overly dramatic speech, still pressing my shoulder.

“You are so rare (alluding to my hair color) you know… You are so intelligent, passionate! Precious!! And whoever doesn’t know that or doesn’t treat you with all the attention and care you deserve you just shouldn’t waste your time on…Not one minute!”,  he emphatically states. His  expressions now gain momentum to the point where I’m starting to realize that I am in the presence of a man whose shadow side actually hates what a strong woman represents. A self possessed woman is one he cannot possess. And this inability to control…to possess…to own is tied to his own self worth. He masks a persona which I know all too well.

“Oh, really?” I say. “You can tell all that …hmmm…”

“Why yes”, he says as he slips his wedding ringed hand around my back to grasp my waist and draw me closer to him. This unbalances me.

I freeze.

For most women, it seems so benign, and to be polite, they allow a distinguished man in a suit and tie proffering all the praise in the world to place a hand on them…it’s flattering even. And they don’t even recognize that they have given silent permission to be claimed without even knowing they were game on the open plain.

I do not let him budge me. I subtly back out of his touch without one facial muscle moving.

He reacts…immediately. Enraged.

I’ve seen it many times before. Defensive  and demeaning, he escalates, his voice heightens and he actually begins to berate me.

“You know I was just trying to show you CARE!” he shouts. “I’m not trying to pick you up or come on to you! What has this country come to when you can’t even show a woman you care about her! This is a loving care gesture.” He again tries to lightly touch me and I stop him which elevates his distress. He goes on and on, furiously yelling at me…flashes of “family values” phrasing contrasted against his slurred speech.

Stopping him, I say in a firm voice,

“Are you done?” I wait till he takes a breath. “As a little girl, my grandfather taught me that strange men do not have a right to touch me nor invade my personal space. I do not know you. No one touches me without my permission. Period. What is your name?”

Instantly, he becomes dramatically emotional. He tears up… holding back what seems to be a choked sob. I really can’t tell whether its genuine but at this point, I’m assuming not.

After a few moments of gaining control of what seems to be great emotion he says,

“Well, I kiss your hand as a five year old boy who has been rejected on the playground by a five year old girl…” He takes my right hand, kissing the top of it.

He didn’t ask permission to touch me. I whip my hand away quickly and slide further away from him.

So noted.

However, this one sided conversation continues, and I half listen to a lament about the loss of tradition and values in our country, while his 70 year old drunken friend tells a woman in her late 30’s sitting opposite him to “shut-up” more than six times. I had been overhearing this man’s wisdoms, among a healthy peppering of profanity and phrases such as ‘just shoot the damn dog’, most of the twenty minutes prior. He had been regaling his group about how to be successfully married for the long term. He had revealed to them he’d been married almost 50 years.…

“Say ‘Yes, dear’ and hand her a fat check…and she’s good to go.”

I doubt the lady seated opposite him was said wife.

My attention comes back to the man in front of me, his card extends out onto my open journal.

“This is my website…I really believe in what we are trying to do and I’d like you to take a look at it and read about some of our efforts..”


“Sure”, I say, distracting him into a brief discussion about teaching in order to open a space to escape without incident.

“You are an intelligent lady. You know, I wanted to be an English major before I got into business and marketing, but I didn’t have a teacher who pushed me in that direction”, he says.

“You should explore it now”, I say.

“We need to have people like you to support us”, he continues, making sure to offer a complement or two about how he has always been attracted to redheads.

So noted.

“I’m sure you do.”

The irony of his behavior, his bravado…his need for control in the lack of any real inner sense of personal power made this small stop at Isabella’s for a glass of wine and some writing reflection time another gift from the Universe.

My phone lights up as he drifts back over to his group. A good friend texts …my friend who has endured a long time abusive narcissist partner and is now free. The irony of it all appears. I have traveled this journey long enough to know.

I am a woman and as such . . .goddess.

And this power within is the power of the Universe.

It is coveted.
Patriarchy’s desire is to win it.
Patriarchy’s desire is to own it.


It is absolutely MINE.

I text her back. . .

The holy places of the world are plundered by those who seek a precious treasure they might readily find within themselves…thus is man in his domination of the feminine.

The last time I checked, the first amendment comes before the second.

Fuck you buddy and your second amendment smarmy bullshit. You don’t deserve women like me. A woman who is . . .WOMAN.

And the journey goes on.

Tomorrow’s Just Another Day

3 Jun

Thursday, May 27, I spent time with the Confederate “lads” at Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, VA in honor of Memorial Day. That evening, I began this contemplation of Time with Marcus D. Wheeler, I Company, 35th Georgia Infantry. Upon being lead to his resting place, I lay fully down on the grass beside him and we spent some quality time enjoying the breeze, the trees, and the smell of old roses just beginning to wane.

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You left me standin’ there.
Like a tree growin’ all alone.
The wind just stripped me bare,
stripped me bare.
the past has come and gone.

The future’s far away.
Well now only lasts for one second,
one second.
Can you teach me ’bout tomorrow and all the pain and sorrow,
runnin’ free?
‘Cause tomorrow’s just another day,

and I don’t believe in Time.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Some point in this journey, I would need to stop for a minute and rest. Truth be told, the Roosterwalk experience exhausted me and the ensuing week of academic wrap up toward commencement exercises deposited me in half haze consciousness into a ceremony where I was counting each graduate down to the last. I prayed the video cameras would not find my enormous jaw popping yawns before I could make it down front for last hugs and congratulations. Afterward, a “point and shoot” car ride home toward the bed was all that could be managed after dinner, a bed I spent ten hours in Saturday and Sunday nights. Aside from a graduation party for my friend’s children, the only manageable activity for the weekend and today was sleep and tackling an enormous amount of yard work before I head to a week long writer’s workshop at Hollins University and then, California. It hasn’t even really occurred to me that in two weeks I will have to board a plane, something that required heavy medication on my last flying adventure to Ireland. But I’m not thinking about it, because I am…tired.

All events planned for the weekend, I cancelled. I needed rest and honestly, time to allow myself to feel sad. One of my best friends has decided to move out of state. That announcement, along with several other resignations at work had me reflective and riding the wave of change. I will be moving myself, to a new classroom with windows. While happy about having natural light again, my new space is the classroom I occupied a decade ago and that has me quite reflective. So for days, I have done nothing but sleep and think about time. People have passed in and out of my life in sizable waves. When I really stop to think about all of them, those with whom I have shared a good portion of my time and self in the last decade, the tears come easily, both in happiness and in sorrow. In looking back at the body of writing I have posted over the last year, specifically the last six months, I feel both accomplished and discouraged. Wow, I have done an amazing lot of things. Wow, now I need to think about what difference it has made to anyone, even to me. Change…growing…rapid and unceasing waves of time. I am…tired.

Today, I tackled a garden that has been neglected since October of last year, one I worked in diligently until beginning to travel last summer. During several moments of the five hours of pulling waist high weeds, tears welled up and I cursed and sighed. Why can’t I find a balance? There is this need to go, to see, to be somewhere else experiencing a life that presents ideas and inspiration and insight so easily. And then all the while, there is this concurrent need to be home, to have friends come and be in this amazing house I renovated and spent so much time and creativity on. Time…. there doesn’t seem to ever be enough of it because moments in retrospect sometimes seem so wasted. And in the sunburned sweating and weed pulling, I began to think about why home is so bittersweet.

I miss things.

When I am this incredibly tired, I miss someone cooking me dinner. The pots would clang in the kitchen while I would strip off dirty sweat laden bug sprayed clothing in the laundry room and then round the corner to the bathroom, the air cooling my weary frame. My name. I miss someone calling my first name from downstairs to ask what wine I’d like. I miss sitting in the deep hot water of my clawfoot tub, just washed hair wrapped in a towel, talking to my beloved with a cold glass of Viognier in hand. As he’d sit next to the tub, we’d idly discuss what I did , what plan for the backyard comes next, what movie to watch in the evening, how much my muscles hurt. I miss big hands and a fluffy towel on my body, on my shoulders, thumbs at my back, fingers in my hair. Wearing his T-shirt that trails my knee, I’d stroll to the kitchen clean, damp and pink from a slight sunburn and there would be grilled chicken and spinach salad with bits of egg, peppered bacon and tiny cherry tomatoes cut in two. I miss watching movies on the couch in the blue light, the flickering images bouncing off legs a tangle, my head upon a broad chest. I miss kissing. I miss what comes after. There’s no shame in me saying that when I am tired or ill, there is a soft silent need that creeps upon me like a smooth silver cat with cool padded feet. When I have no more energy to push my will to “do” forward, I finally lie down and allow this melancholy to express.

But tonight, in the longing for these comforts, I realized there is something I don’t miss.


And that indeed is the gift of Time. In the yearning, there is only a space needing to be filled by the emotion having a beloved gives. I am learning how to be thankful in the sadness of absent connection, letting both feelings co-exist like light and dark, earth and water.  The arc of the pendulum may slow, swings evening out into a balanced measure that’s somehow bearable. A state that let’s me rest and yet, do for myself. Time that isn’t wasted.

Time without courage and time without fear, is just wasted, wasted, wasted time…….

Pieces of Gold

12 May

Learning the delicate balance of solo experience versus a shared one has been part of my path for a while now as my gal pals are starting to wander some with me. After hitting the road every weekend, there’s always something new to tell them when I come back and they’ve been incredibly supportive. Their worlds  seem much different from mine. While I am wandering in museums and attending film festivals, restaurants, and concerts, they engage in family building and loving mated connections alongside their own personal journeys. One can’t deny that there’s a bit of envy on both sides, I for their warm nests and they for my unencumbered gypsy-ish rambling. I’ve been graced by being able to slide into their family life, enjoying their children, homes and nurturing strength. However, during May’s first weekend, it was my turn to take them into a tiny taste of Wayfarinlassland.

First Friday belonged to one of my best friends, Karen, as we attended the Victorian Fusion Bellydance Beledi at Riverviews Art Space during Lynchburg’s monthly art and culture celebration. Karen was my friend long before teaching me in bellydance last year, her spirit and gypsy leanings endearing her to me in fae sister fashion. Also a Joe aficionado, she is always ready to listen, advise and encourage. The balance and camaraderie of her family clan has been a safe haven in some rougher spots along the journey’s path, so to speak. Karen is a quite accomplished dancer and the event’s Steampunk theme derived from the sponsorship of WarmStreets Gallery made the adventure extra enticing. Friday afternoon, we were like teenagers in my bedroom, sifting through clothes after a Goodwill trip, putting together the best sci-fi high Victorian looks we could muster. Doing the girly getting-ready-for-the-show injected a high energy anticipation in us both, but walking around downtown Lynchburg in bare midriffs, jingling coins off our fannies was enough to unnerve anyone. The solo wayfaring has taught me a lot about confidence and personal freedom, though. At one point before Karen’s solo performance, I could tell she felt a tiny bit apprehensive about the structure of the show and perhaps the attitudes of some of the other dancers. We stopped outside the gallery, shared some breaths and some positive energy.

“You got this.” I said. “Shoulders back…breathe. If there’s any judgment that energy needs to stay with the judgers. Right?”

Needless to say, her performance was spot on. Afterwards, still dolled in our costumes, Rivermont Pizza became the destination for a celebratory dinner. As we stood in the bar area of this trendy hipster-ish Lynchburg restaurant, I shared with her something I’ve learned about wayfarin alone as a woman.

“When you walk into a place, know that you have a full right to be there, occupy the space, and enjoy yourself no matter what because if you believe it, it shows. Everyone else will believe it too.”

And I began to think about how fearing judgment, which ultimately comes from others’ ignorance or misunderstanding, shapes women’s actions to the point that we begin to assume what others think before we act. We limit our desires in response to imagined scenarios rather than do what we want and let others take the responsibility for their own emotions. That’s something both of us are working on recognizing more in our lives, just in different areas. Friday gave me the opportunity to show her an arena that I have somewhat mastered. Karen has walked a unique path spiritually for quite awhile and she teaches me daily what it is to be calm and connected without really even trying. We are each able to mirror opposite sides of a piece of gold, that’s the beauty of our connection. Together we can see the whole.

Sporadic arcs of sun chased a chilly Sunday afternoon as my gal pal Laura and I motored up Rte. 151 to Cardinal Point and Afton Mountain wineries for tasting and talk. It’s been a winter full of changes for us both; her children, once students of mine, graduated from college this month. As I caught her up on funny or more personal moments from my ramblings, she shared with me tales and video of her daughter’s graduation celebration the day before. Many of my more personal wayfarin moments obviously don’t make it into this space, but my friends are gracious enough to put up with the catalog of tales when we are finally able to chat at length. And in listening to their stories, I reconnect to the daily details of a “normal” home life. Sometimes I see my way of living through a narrow lens. While I try to use the space of solitude to pause in the moment, attempting to wring out some wisdom in any particular experience, I often envy simple coupledom…grocery shopping, coordinating a dinner out, the random kid text. “Mom, will you pick up…Mom, where is my…?” Even the absent energy of a physical body sharing home space is noticeable.

During our first tasting at Cardinal Point, the weight of my accumulated experience over the last few months really hit home. Laura’s presence prompted a mindfulness of how many places I really have explored solo. A co-partner in the experience refocuses the introspection; contrasts often give a greater gift of insight. In wines, she tends to prefer those with more residual sugars and without oak. I’m directly opposite. But her opinion helped me see the value of the whole line. Cardinal Point whites are quite good, especially their Quattro, an off dry blend, and The Green which is reminiscent of a Portuguese Vinho Verde. Laura preferred the Quattro and I, the crisper Green. We traveled on to discover Afton Mountain’s incredible wine offerings; literally, I liked every one I tasted. Their tasting room and grounds are almost resort like as well. We were both quite impressed. However, while both of us thought the place was beautiful, she naturally saw an amazing spot for a future wedding celebration. I saw an American winery wedding Pinterest style: white designer dress, trendy hand-tied flowers, giggling bridesmaids having manis and pedis all around. A great deep thoughtfulness seemed to well up in me that needed un-bottling.

So, we reclined on a couch out in the sun with glasses in hand viewing the growing vines and spoke of our own growth as women. Laura is so incredibly strong. It permeates her energy. She has backbone. Its flexibility and resiliency has held her family together for over 25 years. The flowering of full womanhood is so powerful and beautiful. In my experience though, men tend not to value it, preferring instead the feminine flowering of the physical rather than the soul. Marriage in modern social terms seems about stages of life rather than evolving life. The relationship focuses around the task of family building and income securing so much that a mutual supporting connection which encourages individual growth, in which child rearing becomes a part rather than the point of the endeavor, seems to be a fantasy. The construct is …a white dress and giggling bridesmaids. Then, the first apartment. Then, jobs. Then, pets and children and then…. Are social benchmarks taking precedence over the evolution of self? And then, when the steps stop, especially for women, they look around and wonder…now where did I put that self of mine? I let my eyes graze the lush green lawn, the vines trailing the training wires over to the twinkling white lights hanging in the marquee and honestly, I felt slightly bitter.

I will never wear a white dress again, I thought…and moreover, was it even real to begin with?

This thought and our conversation lead me back to thinking about mated relationships over all. I’ve gone back to question whether a person’s important needs truly can be met by just one other after a certain point in life. That reshapes the meaning of what intimacy really is from my perspective. End of the romantic ideal? Maybe. As I talk with more and more women and I observe their relationships and attitudes toward their partners…yes, perhaps. The idea that at this stage in life one’s needs may not be met in only one person is pushing me into a new way of thinking about love and connection. To be honest, I’m beginning to tacklea profound disappointment in the social fabric, for that is where I think a great unfairness in romantic relationships lies. But I live in culture, more free than in the past yet not free enough. And as Laura and I talked about needs and desires, responsibilities and freedoms, I began to see more clearly the two sides of the same piece of gold. But its so valuable, this feminine life…and in reflection, the vision of our worth becomes more whole .


30 Apr

Apocalypse Ale Works

When the wandering ceases, when the traveler stops upon the path and unloads the heart and mind, in the slow breath there is allowing. The soul’s compass can realign, measured out against the horizon as dusk is wrapped into night’s blanket. Darkness comes, shards of stars in an indigo sky reflect low fire over the mountains. Stretching out the curled tendrils of perception, Beloved dwells in the stillness. This skill of being, of fully expanding the soul comes from an awareness of the field of time that is hard to explain to most. A spiritualist once told me that I had a tremendously large higher consciousness, but that trying to bring it all down here was the main conflict I experience on this journey. Feeling the world as I do can make it difficult to connect with others, to find those who also understand this way of perceiving existence. I’ve encountered many souls across the years, but there are only a few in whom I can intuit an understanding, an unstated sense of “being”ness. Like leaves burst forth from the branch upon which I also grow, the wind moves us both in tandem.

Saturday, I had the good fortune to share an evening with another wandering soul. Pausing in his own journey, a friend whom I had not seen in over a decade stopped in to re-connect. A wayfarer, like me, he has wandered the globe on his own path to becoming and it was a joy to share his company. We spent the early evening at a local brewery, Apocalypse Ale Works, sampling their Belgian dubbel and chocolate stout. The Ale Works is new to the Lynchburg area, and is as simple an establishment as they come. No menu other than their beer and perhaps some pretzels allows for me to bring my own favorite beer food, peppered almonds and walnuts or Dubliner cheese. What endears this taproom to me most is the genuine and committed company of folks who run it and the quality which permeates its character. I often write here on their large deck facing the tracks. A train will usually pass by, its roar and clacking cadence and high humming whine rushing by. The sky is open to wide winged hawks peering down as they fly over a grassy plain of a backyard.

I rarely take friends to one of my writing spots, but it has the feel of the tavern or the campfire; it is a place to box the compass. We caught up on life as much as one can, condensing the life events of thirteen years. The factual high points become moot after a while, but the stories that rise to the telling are the most importnant. Moments of significance tell of the journey. In the hours we spent together, I began to reflect on what it means to live fully, to follow one’s bliss for my friend does so effortlessly. He is tied only to himself. His eagerness to find the Truth in life and his resiliency to events as his path unfolds is testament to a way of living few can claim and many envy, including me. I am only beginning to see the unfolding and to feed the courage I use daily to seek my bliss despite societal pressures.

We are both multi-abilitied people with insatiable curiosities. Align that with a disdain for in-the-box living and you have individuals who seek authenticity and yet feel the pain of isolation and disconnection at times. But the way in which we both live places us in the same mind, the same understanding of being-ness. Simply put, we “get it” and in each other’s company, we find simpatico.

So the night spread out before us like the blue black expanse of a Southwestern sky peppered with stars. Beers were had upon a  lattice table with food, then stories and pictures from the road. We hopped over to a local pizza place and during dinner, he noticed my journal that I always carry with me. I generally don’t ready it when I am with others, but I think unconsciously I knew that there would be a moment where a thought or phrase would inspire me. From the first movement of conversation I knew I’d be learning from the connection and I tend to pay quite close attention when the Universe nudges.

“Is that your book?”, he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I carry it with me when I go places by myself. The experiences go here in bits and thoughts …I hear lines or phrases…I have thoughts… then later, I write.”

I opened it to show him, flipping half folded and dog-eared pages, pen and multi-colored ink and pencil lines, colors wildly mixing in straight and diagonal shapes from page to page. I’m a third of the way through this one, bought in Staunton in March.

“I’ve started sketching again.” I said, showing him a pen and ink of one of the trees outside of the Ale Works I had drawn one Sunday a few weeks ago. I haven’t drawn or painted in a long while. A long while.


Flipping open to a blank page spread, I wrote his name and our position on the compass and then, Old Souls Unite

For that is the way of it. The awareness to wander comes after many years…many lifetimes.

My left hand was testament to the moment. And without a hesitation, after I sketched around its outline, he placed his right upon the page.

Left hand…right hand.

Two leaves, one limb….one tree.


As as we parted ways, the lesson in connection became clear to me. Each moment of living is significant to our own becoming whether we are aware of it at the time or not. Times of rest create a space for Truth and Beauty, for being lost in ourselves. In this pausing, the infinite lies. The now is so necessary, yet its significance is so hard to see. What a kindness from the Universe to share that space with a kindred soul and to rest on this journey, to re- align sights to the horizon, compass in hand.

Sacred Space

26 Apr

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Tuesday found me at the home and garden of Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, the first Virginian and first African American to be included in the Norton Anthology of American Literature. The experience in real-time:

I sit this afternoon in a writer’s space. . .writing within the living green and peaceful solitude of spring flowers tucked into the heart of my city.

This tiny town yard turned oasis is a sacred space. This place of pausing is a world unlike the one of home and dishes and laundry and care to the needs of others where there is an implied attentiveness to things in the space of daily living. For the words to come, for the Beloved to appear, space is needed, a space within and a space without.

The late afternoon sends forth its exhalation in couched comfort. Two dark birds land, dip themselves into the garden bowl, fluffing marbled chestnut and blueblack coats within the puddled basin filled with rain. We all bathe. . .a world apart from the visible world in a nested space of present being.

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Inside the house walks an echo of gentle strength, this poet woman, a settled wisdom that holds my hand and rubs my tired shoulders. An imagined half love links our mutual world of words. A love slow and content.

She says …All in good time, baby. In time….

I imagine waking here in the mornings, the sun is streaming in the back windows across white muslin sheets and knobby cotton chenille spreads. A gospel humming down the hall and the shuffle of slippered feet on creaking stairs signals my own slow rise. The edges of a pink picoteed cotton nightgown slips up above my boney knee. Morning breeze, not warmer than the skin will bear, nor filled with a humid heaviness trails me to the bathroom where silver spouts empty into the footed porcelain tub. A radio in the kitchen calls up the back stairwell, coffee curled into its chicory drawl…

Hear the past, the song is old
The summer days are through
With silver threads among the gold
They still say, “I love you“. . .

My skin, damp gooseflesh in the slightly chilled air, bundles into a chintz robe. First, some puffs of lilac Tre-Jur, then a crisp ironed cotton dress. No shoes on these dark bare waxed floors, warmed by the morning sun. Walking through the foyer, the parlor, the dining room,  my soles now slide onto cool kitchen parquet. Coffee fumes  from the pot in woodsy waves. Cup, hot milk, and froth in tiny bubbles is pure sweetness in a Jadeite cup. Tasks today must wait until I unpack these musings, this conscious tangle, a setting to rights the order of things within the mind and soul. Then, to the work of hands, an endless list of daily doings that occupy a woman.

Shall I coddle an egg? Toast a slice of yesterday’s bread to dip in the rich yellow yolk, half thickened in the shell? Or shall I coat the buttered brown corners in sunshine marmalade? Late spring moves down the open hall from front lawn to back, the doors of this red earth Shaker house open like the sky to the sounds of the neighborhood dogs and birds, a purring motor, a fading song.

Day is shining over the fence. Tree limbs lift to catch the joy of delphinium daylight in their long stretching.  Draping wisteria and tulips with cupped white and lavender laced edges enjoy the afternoon sun. Nasturtium petal tongues taste the green blue breeze.

A Lover Muses
Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa,
I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar,
into your flaming heart;
Then did I hear crisp crinkled laughter
as the furies after tore him apart?
A bird, next, small and humming,
looked into your startled depths and fled…
Surely, some dread sight, and dafter
than human eyes as mine can see,
set the stricken air waves drumming
in his flight.

Day-torch, Flame-flower, cool-hot Beauty,
I cannot see, I cannot hear your fluty
voice lure your loving swain,
But I know one other to whom you are in beauty
born in vain;
Hair like the setting sun,
her eyes a rising star,
motions gracious as reeds by Babylon, bar
all your competing;
Hands like, how like, brown lilies sweet,
cloth of gold were fair enough to touch her feet…
Ah, how the senses flood at my repeating,
as once in her fire-lit heart I felt the furies
beating, beating.

Seated in turquoise reed, feeling this sacred space, I write next to a tiny house of poetry. Small enough to keep well, a space to call one’s own. One chair sits back from a mahogany desk, the plain of cool, smooth leather with gold flocked edges glows under a lamp. A bell glass shade holds flame against the shaded window light, just right. . .page. . . pen. . .word. . .soul.

Why does time move so slowly in the house of Oneself? Perhaps solitude is the closest earthly echo of the Infinite, the closest we come to the heavens down here upon the crowded shore. A poet persistently elbows for a space within to find a garden, eternally apart from life.

Emerging from the house wherein She dwells,  Beloved arrives.

A Joy Forever

12 Apr

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness — Keats

When I was a little girl, spring days were filled with warm waves of lilac breeze and white muslin sheets drying on the clothesline at Granny’s. The windows would be open, the air cool against the plaster walls. Post breakfast was often spent with her rolling my hair on permanent rods to keep me quiet. Then in the late afternoon, after dancing in the yard or playing on the back porch, the curlers would come out, brushing would ensue, sometimes ending in bow, sometimes just the curls. Thus began my introduction to the world of beauty.

My mother was the first feminine beauty icon for me. Simply put, she is a gorgeous woman. She’s been beautiful all her life with a genuine sweetness under the smooth skin, thick dark brunette hair, and olive complexion. Mom’s not an academic, by any means, but she’s kind, compassionate and she has an eye for beautiful things. Shopping for clothes is an art for her and she’s good at it. Once I reached my teen years, nearly every Saturday was spent in the mall shuffling from store to store with coupons and sales flyers. In high school, I poured through Vogue and Seventeen magazine, Brooke Shields as my teen idol. As an only child of moderately affluent parents, my wardrobe was pretty extensive even though I was much larger bodied than my peers. Through mom’s taste, I did learn discernment in clothing, classic pieces and lasting fine fabrics. But, the external value of adornments eventually became too heavy. In youth, I developed a skewed view of the personal aesthetic. A “flawed” body could be covered in man- made beauty, rather than uncovering the self and letting that become the truest form.

My fashion sense paused when clothing became primarily of my own purchase, but now that I am quite fit and of limited means, my fashion savvy gained way back when has come in handy. Eclectic style with mix matched layers, texture and quirk inspire me. Historical costuming is a love of mine for many years. And although I don’t sew as much as I used to, my style does have a vintage multi-era edge. As a non-trendy person, when I saw the flyers for the Vita 2013 fashion show, the blended layered Victorian inspired melange intrigued me. I’d never been to a fashion show and a peek at what was currently in others’ closets might be enlightening.

Vita 2013 was held at Phase 2 dance club in Lynchburg, and as I entered, I knew almost right away that the experiment into modern culture was not going to serve me well. Upon sweeping observation, the sense was of swimming in a sea of unconsciousness, the superficial exterior postures of others covering selves not yet recognized. The ridiculousness of trendy shoes didn’t escape me, gaggles of gals in taupe patent leather platforms, identically clad in Elle/ JCrew regalia. The same blonde streaked stacked hair, the same shuffled teetering like a five year old in mom’s big girl shoes, was like watching an assembly line of dolls roll toward the packaging department. Their shoulders revealed the lack of confidence in themselves, upon which they could not balance confidence in the clothing, as if the package would somehow make the present. It made me laugh, sadly.

Socially though, what gave me the most pause were the little girls, seven, eight years old imitating the walk, the flip. . . the focus on validation as object. Halfway through the pre-show, I almost left but something told me to wait, to see. What is the fascination for so many here? Such a variety of people were present, people I haven’t seen celebrated in this culturally narrowed town of mine. Gay men were in attendance in droves. Divas and hair/cosmetic stylists and fashion mavens and older male designers reminiscent of Yves St Laurent and Valentino, but then the experience began to change. And when the announcer talked about the desire of the show’s organizers, to encourage cultural creativity and the arts here, I felt caught in a dichotomy.

As girl after girl walked the runway, flirting and flipping her hip and her hair, I started to think about what was truly being shown: the woman, the fashion, or the mood which the fashion creates in the woman. Which is the truest form of beauty? The object or the emotion it elicits from us? Does that then qualify it as …gasp..art? Social superficiality as art, perhaps art of the masses, seemed then dependent upon perception and concept. Do I see the model as a canvas upon which an expression of life has been created or do I see a gendered subject decorated and rendered into an object of aesthetic pleasure? Is art’s value determined through medium? Through the results of its effect on individuals and the cultural constructs of society?

The experience really all narrowed down to this. All of life is artistic expression if one sees it as such. Beauty is both subjective and objective, all at the same time. It is the value we ascribe to the artistic effort and the way in which we approach judgment or comparison between one art work and another which determines its relative value. Do we judge on intrinsic merit and growth? On innovation? Or on the most widely embraced concept en masse? Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, but then again, what shades the beholder’s eye?

Many of the creations I saw were unique, not to be copied and sold. However, local retail lines were shown as well, the contrast remarkable. And perhaps that is another line of demarcation. In art, the unique combination of creative idea and expression presents itself to public scrutiny, from which an element may then be copied, developed and distributed. So in everyday form, we surround ourselves with fragments of other’s creative expression. Perhaps within that we need to place our own. To create beauty is to express that which is most honest, most genuine in our response to life. And we need not only array ourselves in the creativity of others to call ourselves beautiful, as we are also creative unique expression as selves alone. Beauty is the self and its expression in the outer world. Maybe we need this understanding to see a healthier separation between canvas and art in the fashion world. This might ultimately free us socially and encourage the type of diversity designers and artists embrace and desire to cultivate among us.

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A Reelin’ and A Rockin’

25 Feb

Now all of the sudden, she started to knockin’
And down in a dips, she started to rockin’
I looked in the mirror, a red light was blinkin’
The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln. . .

In my quest for some high octane fun this weekend, snowy weather created an on the fly change of venue. However, a quick search led me to Fridays at The Ellington right down the block and a chance at danceable fun: the Bopcats, a rockabilly group from Richmond. Rockabilly is one of those musical forms that I began to love in college with the Stray Cats and then revisited this past summer in listening to Imelda May and JD McPherson. It’s revived itself as a genre among the vintage~tattoo~pinup crowd, and sparked my re-interest as well. So I was all kinds of excited to get dolled up starlet style and go boogie daddy-o.

About 5:50pm, I strolled into the Ellington, beaded, neck scarved, and carmine lipsticked ready to go. Almost immediately, I realized the atmosphere was not going to be the 40’s/50’s greaser~pin up gal crowd I had anticipated. First, upon a quick survey of the audience seated at their tables, clearly the youngest hepcat in the room was me. But I revved up my “let ‘er rip tater chip” determination and swore to have fun no matter what.




The atmosphere of the Ellington is actually quite open and laid back. The bar in the foyer is small, but offers beer, wine and mixed drinks at a fair price.The black and white parquet dance floor is huge and the stage, centrally located. This place is made for music and dance. Lights are lowered, but not so much people fall over each other and sound levels are kept at a tolerable decibel so that one’s ears don’t ring for days after a concert. Wait…that doesn’t make me old, does it?

The Bopcats began to play about 6:05 and the boogie- woogie beat was instantaneous. Dancing was desperately needed and not being shy, I have no problem wiggling with the band all by myself. Dying to get out there, I waited through the first song; however, the smattering of half claps from the audience induced a sudden dread. Uh oh, this is not going to be pretty.The music was fan-freakin’-tastic, but the audience was dead…stone dead…maybe even sleeping upright needing a large dose of Geritol dead. I felt so sorry for the band. Suddenly, they had been plunked down into Cocoon with no watery recourse. After song three, I couldn’t take it any longer and launched onto the dance floor, thinking to myself, “Dammit, someone has to get this party started . . . may as well be me”. So, I danced by myself on the totally empty dance floor for several songs and became quite possibly the ridiculous entertainment for nearly the whole first set. I’d had a little liquid courage and I figured “go big or go home”.

The Bopcats repertorie is standard rockabilly: Elvis, Johnny Cash, Stray Cats, Ricky Nelson, Chuck Berry. . . anything with swingin’, rockin’, and rollin’. It’s hard NOT to dance to Rock Around the Clock, You Never Can Tell, and a hot rendition of Little Sister (Don’t You Do What Your Big Sister Done). Praying all the while for Blue Suede Shoes, wiggling away having a grand time, I suddenly see everyone stand up and start to move toward the dance floor. “Hallelujah! I’ve started a general trend to merriment! The night is saved!”, I rejoice.

Wrong Mary Lou…good-bye heart.

Ever had a sixty something year old almost knock you down for chicken parmesan appetizers while you were dancing to rockabilly? It was like coupon day at the K&W cafeteria. I had known there were appetizers included with admission and thought it was a nice touch until the herd almost ran this little hot rod Lincoln off the road on the way to the drive-in.

During the first set break, I sat for a bit and tried to gather my thoughts. For a moment, I almost lost heart. “My god, these folks have already died. What happens to people?”, I thought. And I do realize that I’m making judgments here, but all apologies aside, it just seemed at that moment that the room had given up. Despite one older couple that I always see at festivals and such who are quite active, fun, and love to dance together, most of the couples I met seemed complacent to sit and watch, settled into their coupledom, content to listen…not even move a foot or tap a toe. Just sit. Why come only to sit and stare? For the first time I saw what I never ever want to be….old.

Do not misunderstand me here, I am not one of those gals who will have surgery after surgery to escape the effects of aging. I want to grow older…to mature, to become wise. I think though there is a huge difference in being old and being aged. Aged means seasoned, shaped by oak or salt or sugar, left to develop, to grow from the inside outward, to become better over time. Aging is the waiting, the keeping till the peak of ripeness and of fruitfulness and then the long enjoyment. Even after harvest, the fruit keeps and ripens further, becomes useful and creative before disintegration, before returning to the dust. This oldness I saw was a belief…not a reality. In the past was the best, now gone over, maybe ever a little soured, embittered.

The band members were all older than I and loving every second of the music, winding it up and lettin‘er loose. They reminded me of the great rock and rollers still alive and kicking it: Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant. Yoko Ono even turned 80 last week…80. There is no reason to accept the complacency of a boring existence, to not try and learn or grab life with both hands and squeeze it for all its worth. I understand about health, about being tired. Rest is necessary and the body does slow down even in the most prime athletes. But, I think it’s the mind that determines the attitude of doing EXACTLY what makes one happy no matter what anyone thinks. It’s as if there is this role that one has to play at a certain age…a way to be in one’s 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond. Not in my world.

So during the second set, I boogied my little vintagey butt off, wiggling around in a half twist-pony-New Wave dive fusion and my new friend Mary, with whom I had talked in the lobby came out on the floor to dance too. Mary volunteers for the Ellington and she’s right about the change that will need to happen. The Ellington is maintained through community support and right now, all the supporters are older. A younger crowd will need to come to keep it going, ones that are willing to take a few more chances on music that’s a little different. That’s the only way it will survive.

As I danced more, people did make their way to the floor. The gift of the evening came when I felt a light touch on my shoulder. A gentleman, probably in his late 60’s in a vintage car shirt, asked me to dance. “Oh no”, I thought. “I can’t follow and he wants to dance old school. Sigh…do I really have to dance with someone, especially someone my mom’s age?” Something interesting happened, though. As we began to dance, he just let me do my thing at first, and watched me. Then, ever so slowly, he started to direct my movements. He only said one thing, very casually, “Watch me”. That’s it and somehow, I don’t know how, but somehow, I learned to follow. Within two songs, we were turning and twisting and I began to laugh. He was a crafty ole devil, a gleam in his eye as he laughed at me. I had denied his request at first, especially to a slow blues tune. But he taught me a lot about allowing and about what age can give a person. He wasn’t old…aged…not old. And still had those moves…like Jagger. That gleam said, “I haven’t lost it baby…don’t ever underestimate a coolcat”. He was the coolest cat and schooled me in more ways than one about dancing. As the night wore on, I twisted till I was aching and out of breath, but felt amazingly alive, and I have needed that for a long while now. The floor was never packed, but there were a few who had decided that the night and especially we were still young.

A Plateful of Memory

18 Feb

In the front seat of my grandpa’s Impala
I guess it was late summer in ’63
he said, I’m gonna get you a big old burger with a small town’s worth of flavor
you know it’s the finest place in our little town to eat. . .

. . .So give us this day our daily bread
and remember the truth is gonna set us free
and she said what are you doing here alone on another Saturday night
and I said ah I’m just a being me
besides it’s the finest place in our little town to eat

Neon lights, all night diner
Anita’s right on time with my coffee and extra cream

— Brian Hall, Anita Pours Coffee

Last week was a bit rough. A new earlier morning regimen had me a tad sleep deprived and with a mid week jaunt to DC to Ash Wednesday service at the National Shrine, a slight pestilence was trying to gain a foothold in my throat. So when Cupid’s Day rolled around, I was achy and a bit homesick. But I decided to take myself out to dinner for the day of love anyway in memory of one of my favorite dinner companions…my grandaddy. If there was anyone I’d love to spend a nice Valentine’s dinner with, it would be him. Granny always tells the story that when I was little, he took my high chair down to the basement and sawed the bottoms of the legs off so it would sit up to the table evenly right beside him. My feet never hit the ground for the first three years of my life, according to her. I was a permanent fixture in his arms. Naturally a diner, something with a bit of the south and of nostalgia seemed the place to go to remember him and to feel well…more like dinner felt back then.

Market at Main was my destination, and for a single diner, it’s perfect with a long marble counter, friendly waitstaff, and a full view of the kitchen. I had eaten there before a few times, but always for brunch, never for dinner. So with a photo of Grandaddy on my phone, I went downtown for homestyle southern diner fare.

The atmosphere of Market at Main has all the right features of a nostalgic forties diner, but with a lot more space. The ceilings are high which opens up the atmosphere without making a counter diner seem exposed or cold. That aspect I like quite a bit, and there is something to be said about barstools at just the right height. Many bars have seats too low to rest one’s arms properly on the counter, or too high to cross one’s legs properly underneath. I felt quite comfortable in my swivel seat almost immediately. The only aspect of the restaurant I don’t enjoy is that the open kitchen, while fascinating to watch, emits a normal cooking smoke and the smell permeates my hair and clothes. When I leave, I know I have been there. They have large ceiling fans, but it’s the down home cooking, real cooking that resonates in the air. Whenever I cook bacon at home the same thing happens. I suppose it’s like finding a tiny bit of manure in the mushroom carton, it lets a person know that the food is real. That’s more important, to me anyway.

Two of the waitstaff greeted me quickly and I was tended to with great care. For the holiday evening, a special menu was available and it was really hard for me to choose. One aspect I did not anticipate was the availability of beer and wine, something not typically diner-esque, but a nice touch. I ordered a Raywood Merlot that was soft and slightly tannic. My first course of fried green tomatoes balanced with it nicely. They were tart and savory, paired with a spicy mustard remoulade sauce that had good peppery heat. Even though they were a tiny bit soft for my tastes, everyone has his or her own recipe. These were more tender, thicker cut, so the coating was less crispy than I had enjoyed at breakfast previously. Again, real food has variation…probably from cook to cook as well. It might even be the season, too. Green tomatoes in winter aren’t typical seasonal fare.

Among a few delicious sounding choices, I chose the Tango Pork: pork loin medallions with a citrus balsamic glaze and fried plantains, collards on the side along with grilled zucchini. I almost bent to the macaroni and cheese, but held off. I didn’t think it would quite mesh with a citrusy glaze. The only aspect of the special menu selection that I didn’t like was that the entrees didn’t seemed to be paired well to available sides. They were most definitely southern classics, but I began to think that perhaps the specials should stick to classic southern rather than “fancy fare”, one of the reasons I didn’t choose the Pink Chicken, with its raspberry, white wine cream sauce. My dinner was delicious, nonetheless, the glaze on the pork not overly fruity nor sweet. Both the collards and zucchini were ultra fresh and not over cooked, which is usually the case in most restaurants that serve greens. I could have ordered just collards and the macaroni and cheese, that would have definitely reminded me of being at Granny’s, maybe next time.

The plantains, however, weren’t cut to fry well and I honestly thought they were bananas, really not to my liking. Overall though, the food was solid and real, but I think trying to be something it wasn’t. No matter what, the menu should stick close to cafe southern, even on a holiday. That’s the whole appeal of the place, and pretty much the only place I know of to get home cooking that isn’t like a cafeteria or haute Lowcountry. Is there a category for Gourmet Virginian? There are plenty of fancy Valentine’s Day dinners out there in beautifully decorated candlelit spaces. Southern diner though is quaint, loving and warm and it should just be that, even with the food. Simple food made by nurturing hands. That is the soul of southern cooking to me.

Market at Main does have that quality and that that extends to the people there as well. I don’t think I’ve been some place where so many people smiled at me or wanted to tend to me. It was like Granny’s, the “what can I get you”, “how you doing baby” sort of feeling. I like that, especially on a Valentine’s Day when I was tired and a tiny bit homesick for family loving. That was soon remedied, though. One of the cooks, who had previously come by to ask me how my dinner was, came out of the kitchen again to talk to one of the patrons. As he did, he pulled a tiny frame out of his pocket and began to talk about his grandfather. My ear perked up immediately. Then, he went to show another coworker and then another waitress. I asked if he’d show me. What a genuinely nice young man. He came over, proud as punch and showed me the tiny black and white framed photograph of his grandfather, Irvin Lloyd Hoyt.

“He was in the Coast Guard”,  he said smiling. “Doctors gave him five years to live back in ‘72 cause he had black lung from being a coal miner.”

He told me he had passed away only a few weeks ago at 89. But that picture told me how this young man saw his grandad, as a hero and he was so proud. And I thought, he was carrying his loved one with him on Valentine’s Day, just like I’m carrying my granddady with me. That picture means the world to him, one small way he can express his love for a great man in his life.

We shook hands and formally met.

“Hi, I’m Jeremy.”

It was a genuinely good moment, one that reminded me of seeing a cousin again after a long time, family connecting two virtual strangers. I didn’t show him the photo of Grandaddy on my phone, but I did tell him how much of a grandaddy’s girl I am. I could tell in the smile we shared that he understood.

I’ve been thinking of family this Valentine’s Day, and how important it is to remember and be remembered. I like to think we take our family with us everywhere we go, in our smiles, in our handshakes and hugs, sometimes literally in our pockets. Simple love extends to all sorts of endeavors and at times, the best food is made and enjoyed with family in our hearts and minds.

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