The Springtime of our Autumn

The Springtime of our Autumn

I said goodbye with my eyes as I slowly looked around the empty house.  It had welcomed me with the open arms of a friend when I first showed up on its doorstep two years ago, badly in need of a refuge and happy place.  I remember stepping into its entryway, thinking that I would be too picky and judge it as a place that could not hold my treasures and favorite things.  I was wrong.  It was perfect, an empty canvass waiting to be filled with our collections of a life time together.

Once we had a place to call home, we took a trip down to Alabama and took our belongings out of storage, bringing them to Sneads Ferry, on the coast of North Carolina.  We desperately needed a place of peace, a place to sort out our minds and rest.  We had been at the mercy of kind, family friends for over six months and it was time to have our own nest.  I set out to feather it with things that made me smile. It was a nest empty of children but full of the things they left behind and the new things I had sought after to fill the in void of familiar faces and things that go with them.

I adored the place.  Somehow, all of my possessions and pretties came together as if I had bought them specifically for that home.  Teapots and teacups, ceramic roosters and artwork with French words,  emerald green and aquamarine glass bottles, beachy quilts and shadow boxes, cross stitched needlework I had worked on through all of my pregnancies, sea glass collections,  garden print fabrics for bedding and curtains, white, creamy 1840’s bedroom dressers with mirrors,  a set of thrift store dining room furniture with peeling paint, fit for a king,  and Craig’s List “to die for” shabby-chic couches and graceful chairs with ruffles were all placed carefully in the Byrd Family Museum.203 a

There was a cherry red painted hutch with blue and pink Willow china patriotically displayed in the wide hallway and warm antique oak tables and washstands glowed in the corners.  Curtain rods wearing shirts from India and Africa hung on guest room walls with colored straw hats flirting from an angle above them;  chic scarecrows keeping an eye out for angels unaware. Oh, and our newest smile maker, a mermaid weather-vane friend, Ariel, was our dining room sentinel beauty.   I filled the dining room windows with a pair of matching antique leaded stained glass windows and lived quietly behind them as I let Fleet Foxes, John Prine and Emmylou Harris loosen the knots that were clotting up my soul, through music therapy.     203 c

At night, Bill and I would open the doors to the old, mahogany book case and gaze at the rows of shiny stemware and wonder why we had so many to choose from since there were only the two of us.  Often times we’d take a glass of wine or a cup of tea and sit on the screened in back porch.  This was a favorite spot.  We filled the corners with Boston and Adelaide ferns, red geraniums and multi-colored impatiens.  Just outside the screen was a row of pink knock-out roses and wind-chimes that sounded like a symphony tuning up when the wind blew hard. We sat on squishy patio chairs well into the night, until we saw the moon rise up over our eight foot fence.  Sitting under the patio fan, we spent time sipping and talking…talking and sipping…wondering what had gone wrong and what had gone right, how the kids were doing and most of all…how we could move near them for our next phase in life and what our “assignment”  would be.

The back porch therapy was the best, sometimes sorting through life with others; my brother Scot and his wife Kelly, fellow ministers who understood our questions and reasoning; my cousin Linda and her husband Bake, who had the ability to listen to our woes and distresses and help us comb out the tangles and knots of ministry life and sometimes… just us and God…God and us… Me and the muse…

Then, I would go and get into my other favorite spot in the house; my bed.  It was high and I bounced up on it with joy and relief that I was there and could sit in such a beautiful spot and be so blessed. I would sleep and think…think and sleep…dream and pray…pray and dream…until the day we were ready and rested up for our next adventure.

Then, it happened.  It had been two and a half years and we had waited for the “go-ahead.”  We were sitting on our happy, yellow, ruffled couches, full from a delicious dinner and the plan opened up to us, filling our heads and swelling our hearts and we knew it was almost time to go.  Time to enter the next phase…the springtime of our Autumn.  Our ground was itching and twitching underneath and roots were trembling and seeds were germinating and shoots were inching up out of the soil towards the sun.  It was time to pack up the house.  We had our assignment.

Are we well enough and of a sound mind?  Are we able to do this?  Are you sure we’re not too old to leave this behind to start all over again?  Can God give us a vision at this point in our lives to help others?  To make us feel significant in this crazy world?

We thought He could.  We were confident in the plan.  It was the “Byrd” Arab Spring.  We had mountains to climb and places to go.  People to help and grandchildren to watch grow before our very eyes.  We packed it all in, moved it into storage and began our move to Nashville, Tennessee.

I walked through the empty house, my footsteps sounding loud on the hardwood floors.  I saw birds out in the back yard looking for bird seed and I willed them to go two houses down to another bird feeder.  I checked the dryer to make sure there was no laundry accidentally left behind and I checked the toilets to make sure they’d all been flushed.  All of the words that had been spoken, all of the dreams imagined and prayers requested had been hidden in our hearts. Within the house, there was no trace of us left.

I closed the front door and made sure it was locked. I stepped back and looked at the house where we nursed our wounds and bided our time.  Thank you, God…Thank you house.  We were whole.  We were healed.  We had left the building.

Here’s your song…



Buzzards, Spirit Carcasses and Christmas! Oh My!

My muse sat down and talked with me yesterday.  I think he was trying to comfort me.  I spent an extra long Thanksgiving weekend with my children in Nashville, Tennessee and came home from a grueling twelve hour trip only to be welcomed by an empty, silent house. Immediately I went into kid withdrawal and felt the cold hand of grief squeeze my heart until it hurt and made me feel sorry for myself.

 I tried to fight it off.  I really did.  I threw myself into decorating the house for Christmas.  I even bought red and green reindeer antler head bands with bells on them for Bill and me to wear while we decorated. Andy Williams was singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” and our fireplace had warmth radiating out of it for the first time this season.  I put up two trees, one all frocked, frosty and white in the dining room and another out on our back porch with enough lights shining on it to be mistaken for a light house even though we’re three miles inland.  Two small three foot trees stood in a white light glow, flanking each side of my fireplace.  Four trees altogether.  Not two…I miscounted.

My white distressed weathervane mermaid girl, Ariel, was even decked out in gold ribbons swimming in red berries and green garland.   I think I went a bit overboard.  But…I didn’t care.  I was chasing the blues away with as much sparkle and light as Comfort and Joy could allow.  Oh, yeah, and in some crazy way of reminding myself that the kids would not be home for Christmas, I hung up each of their stockings with their names cheerfully written in glitter down the sides.  They were always so “Christmas…y” and fun in the past.

I stood and looked at our work.  I didn’t care that it was over the top.  I even went out the next day and bought poinsettias to put on my dinner table and a ledge that separated the breakfast nook from the dining room.  I wondered about the two white poinsettias.  Did they look like funeral flowers?  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I always thought white flowers meant death and sympathy. Had I subconsciously bought them as a way of showing that our family’s traditions had transitioned over into new territory and the white flowers represented the death of our old ways?   I was losing it.  I. Was. Losing. It.

I couldn’t write a blog post.  I couldn’t be creative.  Everything that kept my creative juices flowing was in Nashville.  Nashville was the place I could find inspiration; look into my children’s faces and feel life bubble up out of my spirit.  I felt as lost as a blind puppy that had strayed away from the familiar warmth of its siblings and the comfort of its mother’s soft underbelly.  Heck, I was the mother here.  What was wrong with me?

Bill and I were driving to Wilmington one morning and as I was looking up at the sky it seemed as if I saw dozens of buzzards.  Every few miles I saw groups of them circling and hovering over a wooded area, as if they were waiting for something to die.  We were listening to a Fleet Foxes CD (my current favorite group right now.)  A song was playing on it called  “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.”  The last time I had listened to it I was riding down the Natchez Trace on the beautiful autumn morning of my daughter’s wedding day.  The road was narrow and followed the Harpeth River.  Gold and red leaves still clung loosely to the trees and made a covered pathway for our little Jetta to ride under.  The feeling of “old money” was everywhere and just being on the road made us think we were rich.  The feeling of history was a thick and luxurious as a warm honey pouring down all around us.  It was sweet and it was a feeling songs were written to describe. 

Fleet Foxes was playing on our CD player and it sounded like the perfect music sound track for our trip to the barn.  I remembered thinking that and how lucky we were to be on that road on that particular perfect day.

But now, we were riding to Wilmington and buzzards were circling overhead and the same music was playing.  I couldn’t believe the difference in my feelings.  I had gone from one moment of bliss to a moment when I thought the vultures were circling over me, waiting for me to die, for my creative spirit to be picked to the bones like a wild animal’s carcass. I could see my bones lying out in the flat piney wood, glinting white in the bright coastal sun.  I know.  I can be melodramatic.

Buzzards, spirit carcasses and Christmas, O my!  That sounded like a creative meltdown getting ready to happen.  “Oh, God,” I prayed.   “ I have to live here but I have to feel too.  I have to have a portal, a window from heaven that is opened directly over me and gives me the inspiration to do what it is I’m supposed to do!  My prayers went up, daily, whiney, pleading, begging prayers of desperation because I have to have purpose in creativity. It fulfils me.  It completes me.

Yesterday, I sat down at the computer and went to youtube.  For some reason, I had heard Adele’s song, “Someone Like You” enough to get my attention.  When I need to have something brought to my attention, I usually hear a song several times until it is freaky weird.  I had heard it enough to sit down and look it up and listen to the several versions offered on you tube.  I put on the version of her singing at the Britt awards.  Just Adele, a piano, a stage and emotion.  I startled myself when I felt tears fill my eyes.  I decided to listen to other versions.  I saw her sing and take out her sound devices in her ears so that she could hear the audience sing back to her.  The audience was as loud as she was.  What a humbling feeling that must be to a singer to have the people listening to her know every word and sing her song to her.  Was that success?  I had tears running down my face.  I read that she had written the song from her own experience of a romance that had turned into heartbreak.  Although I was not going through the same experience, it touched a feeling in me that I had had years ago and had long since forgotten.  But when she sang it with raw emotion and jagged beauty, I could feel old wounds respond to the hurt in her voice.  I could feel…

Tears were running down my face and even though no one was in the room with me, I felt ashamed and wiped my tears away quickly. I didn’t want anyone to see me expressing emotion over a pop song.  All of a sudden, I sensed the presence of the Muse.  He came in unannounced and I don’t know how long he had been sitting there; knowing him, probably the whole time. 

“Why are you crying?”

“I don’t know.  It’s so beautiful.  So haunting.  It was written from experience.  That’s why it’s so sad.”

“Do you feel sad?  Is that why you’re crying?”

“No.  I don’t know.  I felt her passion spill out of her and it touched everyone in the room.  It touched me and I was just looking at You Tube.  I wasn’t even in the room with her.  The passion from it jumped out at me and left me in awe of her pain, her passion.”

“You were in awe of her passion?”

“Yeah, the passion.  That’s what I want.”

“It came from pain.  Passion comes from raw emotions.”

“I feel pain right now.  My kids have grown up and moved far away, or maybe I moved far away from them.  I don’t know.  I’m in a new place that doesn’t feel like home and I’m getting older.  I don’t mean to be whining to you and we’ve been through this before, but what if I never feel ‘it.’”

“Feel what?”

“A portal.  I want a portal.  Right here.  Over me.  Over my house.  Just like it is in Nashville.  Like it was in Alabama, where I used to live.   If it’s over me, I’ll feel alive again.”

“You have to make your own portal.”

“My own portal?  I’ve done it before.  Just not by myself.  It was easier when I had the kids around me and friends who understood it.  If we got together and spoke about it, it would almost magically appear. Hmmm…by myself….I can do it.  Yeah.  I can.”

“I’ll help you.  I’ll show you how and it really won’t be hard.  I’ll be there.”

I looked over at him.  He was crying.

My pain and my passion had jumped over to him through the atmosphere in the room and had hit him like Adele’s had hit me.  He felt my creative power and it ricocheted back to me. I felt awe; a surge of confidence.  We were going to create a portal right here in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina.  Right here in this room, over my head.

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