Soulful sounds, hallowed grounds and Guardian Angels…
My last couple of posts here have documented some of the high points of my post-work-road-trip-adventure, which I named #OperationTakeAMinute. Having never embarked upon a trip like this before, and likely never having the chance to do it again, I set out to keep thorough records of the people and places I visited, the music I chose to listen to on the road (as well as the times when I chose to listen to the sounds of the road itself), the memorable meals I enjoyed and all the other little—and not so little—details of my time on the road. I was very intentional in the planning, knowing that I needed restoration of heart, mind and spirit.
I am firmly entrenched in middle age, and as a middle-aged woman, some of the music I chose on the road was in my phone…and some was on CDs, in the actual old-school CD binder that I STILL carry with me in the car. Old habits die hard, what can I say? Don’t judge me.
In addition to listening to soulful sounds to empower me, I knew that I needed time with my Guardian Angels, namely my Aunt Helen and my cousin Debbie. These women have, for as long as I can remember, been in my corner with unconditional love, support and encouragement, believing in me when I have not believed in myself. These are both ladies from Mama’s side of my family, and the Williams is strong in them both. They are both eternally young, beautiful, with sparkling personalities and enormous hearts. In my entire life I can honestly say that I have never felt judged in their presence. This is beyond priceless.
After visits with Aunt Helen and Debbie, I took the opportunity to see something new to me, in a town I had never visited. The side trip to visit Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama, was a revelation. I hope to return in different seasons and times of day, to see and photograph the marvels there in varying degrees of light, shadow and color. The stillness there, punctuated only by birdsong and breeze, quieted my soul and set the tone for the next step of my pilgrimage.
I knew that I also wanted to visit the church that Jeff and I attended when we lived in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, when we lived down there between 1987 and 1990. First United Methodist, DeFuniak Springs, provided us with a safe, loving and accepting church family, welcoming us into their choir and asking (and TRUSTING!) us to teach senior high youth in Sunday School. As many times as we both sang in that beautiful sanctuary, I never thought to photograph the space. I intended to rectify that on this trip, and I did. My friend Vicki’s mom Marsha, still lives there and faithfully attends the church, so Vicki told her I was going to be there and to look for me. She rolled out the welcome wagon, re-introducing me to a number of the folks I remembered from there who are still among the faithful members of the church, including Nancy, who now directs the choir. And it was a delight to learn that our friends, “Miz Mary” and “Mr. Buddy” Pinckard, are still there. Miz Mary is to this day one of the best piano accompanists I ever had the pleasure to work with, a consummate musician and a genteel Southern lady in the finest tradition. We exchanged letters for years after Jeff and I moved back to Tennessee, but a few years ago I lost touch. I hugged her close and sat next to her in worship, tears trickling down my cheeks in gratitude and joy. During the service, she jotted down a note on her bulletin and handed it to me—her email address! This lady must be near 90 years of age, and now, we pen-pal online. Everyone asked about Jeff, and made me promise that, next time we are in the area, we will BOTH attend services. It will be a happy promise to keep.
Next stop (after a brief detour to The Donut Hole Bakery and Cafe, home of The Best Key Lime Pie On The Planet and another piece of hallowed ground!) was a nice long visit with #FirstEverWorkHusband, Martin, and his little dog, Boris. Martin is, like me, an artist (he’s an actor/director to my musician/writer) and he possesses a unique understanding of the crazy places in my soul that I tend not to share with most people. We cooked and ate, laughed and cried, and rested. Despite Martin’s health issues, dialysis and diabetes and all that comes with those conditions, it still feels like he’s the one who props me up more often than not.
From Martin’s in Orlando, I traveled north to St. Simons Island, Georgia, to visit some other hallowed spots. I arrived on Friday afternoon in heavy rain, ordered supper, did laundry and relaxed for the night. Saturday morning began with a visit to GJ Ford Bookshop, an independent local bookseller (and bookworm destination) when we are there on vacation. From there I trekked the short distance to Christ Church, an historic landmark that I’ve always wanted to see inside but never made it during open hours, until this trip! A wedding was scheduled there for later in the day so I was able to catch a couple of sneak photos of the happy couple as well. The sanctuary is small but glorious, with exquisite stained-glass windows and a gorgeous organ. The docent gave a brief but detailed presentation about the church’s history, adding to my awe of standing in that holy space. I hope to attend services there at some point when we make our way back to the island. Before heading to the pier/village/shops/beach, I grabbed a snack at Palm Coast Coffee, a place we discovered on our first trip to the island. It is now a “must-stop” part of any trip there as well. My day on St. Simons Island was packed with “doing the things”, and left me feeling grateful and grounded.
From two nights by myself on St. Simons Island, my next leg of travel was to Candler, NC, and a little cabin there that backs up to a creek, for a couple more nights of pure solitude. I planned this time purposefully, the quiet serving as a buffer between the trip and my arrival back in Knoxville, to my sweet husband and dog, the job hunt and the realities of everyday living. While in the cabin, I listened to the rushing water, enjoyed soaking in the hot tub, rested, wrote in my trip journal and prepared to go Home…perhaps the most hallowed spot of all.