New Year’s Day. How ironic that I find myself sitting here writing about a day which is usually focused on the future but which is full of the presence of the past for me at this moment.
It didn’t start out that way.
When I woke up, I didn’t have anything in particular in mind about this day -- even the fact that it was New Year’s Day. Mostly what I was aware of was the fact that I’m at the point in my recovery from bypass surgery where the confines of my little apartment seem to get smaller every day, so I wanted to get out and do something for a while.
As I cycled through my choices for doing something that would get me out and about for a little while, it occurred to me that it had been a while since I’d gone on a drivabout. That’s what I call it when I just get in my car without any purpose or destination in mind and drive around for the sake of driving around, going exploring, wondering what will happen. I’ve always loved doing that, and many times, it’s also the opportunity to take pictures of places I might come across that I find interesting, beautiful, or meaningful in some way.
Over the Mountain. I get in my car wondering where I will end up. I had thought about heading up to Chattanooga, and was a little surprised to find myself going south on Georgia highway 193 from Fort Oglethorpe away from Chattanooga. I thought I’d probably find a road with an interesting name to turn on to just to see where it would go (by the way, my GPS is prohibited on these little adventures, of course, because that would remove the intrigue and mystery), but I ended up at the 4-way stop where Highway 193 intersects with Highway 136.
Going straight or to the left will both take me to Lafayette and US 27. Going right will take me over Lookout Mountain toward Trenton, going by the phenomenal Cloudland Canyon State Park on the way.
For no particular reason, I turned to the right toward Cloudland Canyon and Trenton because it’s been several years since I’d been over that way.
Back in time. I thought I might visit the park if it was open, but after a split-second’s hesitation, I drove on past.
Inside the stillness of my car, the silence relieved only by the steady hum of tires on pavement, it’s not long past the entrance to Cloudland Canyon that little tendrils of memory reach out to softly touch my awareness.
And I am a little boy again in another car going down this same road . . .
On one of the roads spidering off this main one was an old dilapidated farm house. The Van Deamon family lived there. They were the family that connected first my mother and then me to our experience of personal faith in 1972, when I was 7 years old. The Van Deamon’s had 3 kids -- 2 boys and a girl -- and were from Texas. From the boys, whose names elude me but whose faces even now float before the clear eye of my memory, I was introduced to the glories of Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, and the Dallas Cowboys -- a spell I am still under almost 50 years later -- because they had one of those electric vibrating football games . . .
On another, different road winding off to one side or the other of this main road, I remember riding with my Daddy to a place where his old 1948 Plymouth, recently rescued from a field at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm, was raised to new life, and I can still feel the magic as the door to the small barn is thrown open, revealing the smell of new paint and a gloriously beautiful car that I knew couldn’t be the same old car except my Daddy told me it was so, and I knew it had to be because he said it . . .
I start the descent down the mountain towards Trenton, and right at the start of the downward slope, there is a 90-degree curve in the road to the right . . . and I am 5 years old, in the back seat of our black Chevy Chevelle -- the same one we had when I got my finger slammed in the door on another day. I am turned around looking out the back window at all the snow that has surprised my Daddy and Mama on top of this mountain we are trying to get over on our way to Rome, where my grandparents live. I am terrified as we try without success to make it up the hill and feeling the car sliding back down toward that sharp turn we just rounded, knowing that if we slide far enough, we will plummet over the side of this mountain in certain death to the valley below . . .
After a while, I am down the mountain, and up ahead, I see the little town of Trenton, where we lived for six years when I was very young. Just before the bridge that goes over the railroad tracks on the edge of town, I look to my left and see the street sign that says “Jeffery Town Road” . . . I am 4 years old, and we are living in a place called Jeffery Town, and our small house sits on a gravel road right next to the railroad tracks. We will live here until our brand new house is completed on the other side of town. There is an old woman who lives next door, and she is at her clothes line hanging laundry to dry when my Mama and me are in our yard. The woman offers me a drink from a bucket of water that she dips out with a tin ladle, and I am amazed because I’ve never seen anything like it before. I remember asking her an endless stream of questions, including about George Washington -- why was he dead, why is he in the ground, why is his picture on the dollar bill -- and my Mama apologizing to her and getting on to me about wearing the woman out with my bottomless curiosity . . .
Driving through the small town of Trenton, complete with its town square, unchanged from many years ago, I look to the left where the jail sits now and remember that when we lived here, the Georgia Power Company office was in that spot, and that was where my Daddy worked.
On through town, past the United Methodist Church where I went to kindergarten, past Calvary Baptist Church where I was baptized when I was 7 years old, make a left turn, and then a right turn and there it is . . . it is made of red brick, it is the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen, and it’s where we are going to be living. I am 6 years old. For some reason, I remember hearing my Mama or Daddy talking to someone and saying that the house cost $16,000, and I wonder if that’s more than a million. Flashes of memory cascade through my awareness . . . falling out of the tree in the back yard and hitting my head (which possibly explains a lot which came after) . . . shooting the new BB gun my Daddy had given me at the telephone pole wondering if the BB would embed itself in the wood, and being surprised when instead it ricochets off the pole and comes right back at me, hitting me right in the middle of the forehead, never being alarmed at how closely it had come to hitting me in the eye . . . kissing Myra in the front yard when we are in the first grade . . .
The thought of Myra (the same Myra I wrote about years ago in my Valentine’s Day History blog entry) as I drive past that old house (the house is still there, but changed somewhat through the remodeling that has been done over the years) makes me wonder if I can find her old house, which I’ve never looked for in all my trips back to Trenton over the years . . . I don’t even know where to begin; I just remember it was close to where we lived because I used to walk there. I continue driving down the same street, barely two blocks further on, look to my left, and there it is exactly as it remains in my memory . . . I mostly remember the screen porch where Myra and I played, her mother bringing out cookies for us, and her older brother teasing us mercilessly . . .and then it’s past, and I turn down the next street and go back out to the main road.
And back again. By now, I can feel the fatigue that sometimes still comes since my surgery begin to hint that it’s coming, so I decide to head back the way I’ve come, back to the present and back home. I go back up the mountain, and turn left on Georgia Highway 189, which rides atop the spine of Lookout Mountain all the way to Chattanooga, and I go home that way, enjoying the beautiful scenery, and marveling at the beautiful gift an unplanned trip with no particular destination in view has brought to me to begin the new year. And I am grateful.
Thanks for coming along with me, and I hope 2020 is the best year ever for you in every way.
Until next time . . . love and peace to all . . . love and peace to you . . .
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. -- Proverbs 4: 23 (NIV)
I am writing this exactly 48 hours before I’m scheduled to have open heart bypass surgery.
The details don’t matter so much, and there are certainly a lot of factors which have contributed to my being in this place and time. However, the truth is this: I haven’t taken care of my heart the way I should have.
This bypass procedure is, if all goes well, a second chance to do things differently, to do better, to be better.
Facing a major event such as this typically prompts thoughts of what if, if only, and puts one’s perspective into laser focus on to what matters most. So it is for me.
As I look back over the span of my life so far -- 54 years of it, in fact -- I am astounded at how many times in my life I would like to be able to do things differently than I did. All of us have those moments, those regrets. No one is immune.
But if I go further back, open the curtain to the past beyond those harsh moments of what-might-have-been, even back before the time I was born, further back into the mists of time than I can imagine, I leap suddenly into the realm of the eternal NOW, where there is nothing but this: Love is there.
Love is all there is. Nothing else.
And in that moment when a little slice of eternity was molded and formed (and in many traditions, this molding and forming was enacted with words . . . spoken words), and the universe we know was brought into being with a huge bang, laced into the fabric of that forming, holding it all together, was a whisper that reached a point of expression in a specific time and place:
“I love you, you matter, you have a purpose.”
And in those words, I was created.
In spite of the flaws, in spite of the failures, the missed opportunities, in spite of the pain, nothing matters but that truth: “I love you, you matter, you have a purpose.”
So, as I look back across the small arc of years that is my life so far, I don’t look back with regret or guilt or pain. I look back with gratitude that in spite of all those things, I am loved.
And, in that awareness, I look forward with hope and faith that each new day, each moment, every moment, brings with it a gift: a chance to do better, make better choices, to focus on what matters most.
To love and be loved.
Love and peace to all . . . love and peace to you from Kodak, Tennessee.
Hello. This is truly an entry of fragments, which is what I envisioned when that name came to my mind as the title of the new blog I was thinking about writing as part of the redesign of my website.
What the hell is “Fuzzy Wuzzy”?
Last Saturday night, there were several people I used to work with who had informally planned to get together at Longhorn to hang out and catch up with each other. Well, one by one, people canceled, forgot, had other things going on, or whatever one might imagine, until I was the only one who actually showed up.
I will quote from the journal entry where I wrote about what happened next:
The reunion was a bust.
I didn’t feel like waiting to be seated at Longhorn (and I’d not brought my tablet, so I couldn’t really read easily except on my phone, which I wasn’t in the mood to do), so I came back home, grabbed my tablet, and went in search of a place to eat that wasn’t fast food but wasn’t going to be super crowded.
I settled on going to a little restaurant I hadn’t been to in a long time that’s close by here called Park Place Restaurant, which always has good food, isn’t usually crowded (and it wasn’t last night either), and usually caters to people even older than I am. What I call the nursing home crowd. It was like some places Charlotte and I liked to go in Florida when we were married.
I sat in the back where it was not crowded and it was quiet so I could read and watch the people, which I enjoy doing.
A little elderly couple who reminded me of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy from the movie Cocoon . . . were sitting at the table next to mine. At one point, when their food came, the man bowed his head and started praying, giving thanks for their meal, in a pretty loud voice. It was pretty standard as far as prayers go, and it was so sincere sounding, I couldn’t be annoyed at him as I am when it feels like someone’s doing it to show off their piety in front of others. Anyway, at one point in his simple prayer of thanks, he took an unexpected detour that made the entire trip there worth it: he said, “. . . and Lord, thank you for helping Fuzzy Wuzzy, thank you for this food . . .” and it continued down a more expected path from there.
They were both so earnest and sincere, I couldn’t laugh, even though that was my first inclination; I did smile, though. I wondered who in the hell “Fuzzy Wuzzy” could be, and decided it had to be a pet -- most likely a dog or a cat.
That little prayer, and its unexpected detour, took me from being an observer into some kind of sacred space, and I silently offered up thanks for my own food that was coming soon -- and I thanked God for helping Fuzzy Wuzzy.
It’s something that I might write about in a blog entry later, but I’m not sure. Anyway, it was worth having the Holland reunion cancelled to be there for that moment.
Okay, I’m back. It doesn’t really matter who or what “Fuzzy Wuzzy” is -- it was a moment that opened a portal for me in my own awareness of what really matters (gratitude, relationships), and it ushered me into a moment of eternity that I might have missed had my original plans transpired.
Also behind that little phrase about “Fuzzy Wuzzy” (that still makes me smile when I write that) is the assurance that man and woman had that they were so loved, accepted, that they mattered so much to their God that he cared about the most mundane detail of their lives -- including whoever or whatever “Fuzzy Wuzzy” is.
So, I hope that the point of “Fuzzy Wuzzy” is a reminder for both you and me: that we are loved, we matter, we have a purpose.
Sharing a moment from Myrtle Hill.
Last Saturday, I was in my hometown of Rome, Georgia, as I am many Saturdays, and had a little time to visit one of my favorite quiet places in the world (along with the Old Mill at Berry College), Myrtle Hill Cemetery. There had been patchy fog all morning, and it was just starting to clear off.
I got to Myrtle Hill just in time to see the remnants slowly swirling around the top of the hill, so I took some pictures. I edited one picture so that it was black-and-white, and I enjoyed it enough to share it on Facebook, and am including it here in case you didn’t see it but might enjoy it.
That’s it for now from here.
Love and peace to all . . . love and peace to you.
An Occasional Series About Books I'm Reading
Bookends is going to be an occasional series on Fragments Blog about whatever I happen to be reading at that moment that I want to write about. It’s closely related to “The Bookends Library”, which is down The Rabbit Hole part of this website. Check it to learn more.
One of my favorite things about being a truck driver is the time it affords for listening to audiobooks, music, and (these days) podcasts.
Earlier this week, I was able to listen to several episodes of some of my favorite podcasts, and it struck me that almost every one of them was centered on a book in some way. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.
And then the idea for The Bookends Library as one of the things down The Rabbit Hole part of this website came to me. And here we are. (Or, maybe, here I am.)
So, in no particular order, here is some of what I’m reading:
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I first read The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings in 7th grade, and I have read it several times since then. It’s probably one reason most of my favorite books to read again and again are fantasy series or fantasy novels.
The reason I’m reading it right now is because one of my favorite podcasts, The Prancing Pony Podcast, is devoted to reading through and discussing the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and at the moment, they are on a six-year journey through The Lord of the Rings. It amounts to about a chapter every two or three weeks, so it’s easy to keep up with.
If you’ve never read The Lord of the Rings (and seeing the movies does not count), but have thought about it, reading along with the guys on Prancing Pony is a great way to do it.
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. From the time I read the first book of this 14-book series, it was 20 years before it was finished, and I’ve read parts of it dozens of times over the years. It is probably my favorite book series of all -- ever. Currently, I’m slowly reading through it again, and am in the beginning chapters of book 9.
This series is also the subject of one the podcasts I enjoy listening to: Wheel of Time Spoilers, in which the hosts basically cover a chapter of the series every episode and talk about it. It’s a great way to re-read the series with more depth of insight and enjoyment.
If you like fantasy at all, and haven’t yet read Wheel of Time, what are you waiting for?
Exhalation by Ted Chiang. I just started this collection of short stories this week after it was discussed for two episodes on another podcast I listen to, Very Bad Wizards. So far, I’m enjoying it as much as anything I’ve read in a long time. I might have more to say after I’m done with it.
Other Random Things I’m Reading Not in Conjunction With A Podcast -- and I should say that I don’t read in all of these every day, but they are some of the different streams I’m enjoying swimming or fishing in just now.
Until next time, be well. And remember to gather the fragments -- there’s sometimes good stuff in them.
Love and peace to all . . . love and peace to you . . .
Hey, Nanny . . . and Happy Birthday!
You would be 92 today. It’s hard to believe you’ve been gone almost 7 years.
I’m doing alright, I reckon, and I know you’re doing okay.
I’ve been thinking about you this morning, and just wanted to thank you for the love and laughter and memories that I cherish more and more the older I get.
Sometimes, I drive by that old house on General Avenue, and for a moment, I just want to walk through that front door, hear laughter coming from the kitchen, and walk in on you, Boe, Aunt Mary, Aunt Phoebe, and whoever happened to be there that day sitting around the table playing Aggravation.
At those moments, for a few seconds, my heart aches for you.
But later, I realize that each memory I have, the part of me that realizes I’m loved without condition or measure, that I matter, that I have a purpose, are gifts that I have in large measure because of you.
And I hear you whisper in my heart, “I love you, boy!”
And, no matter what else is going on in the world, or in me, I realize everything’s gonna be okay.
Because you’re here.
I love you, Nanny! Tell everybody hello for me.