A Good Day

     Everyone has a place in their head…a little golden room, an oasis-like cathedral where they scurry off to when times get rough, or the winter gets too cold.  Life offers us fewer chances to create these “happy place” memories than we’d like, but when they happen we hang on to the sweetness until we’re many years and many miles away from them.  They often happen far from the place we lay our heads at night, which is part of the reason they help us escape reality so well…the sought after, excruciatingly rare…perfect day.

     I recently returned home from a wonderful Caribbean vacation that graced me with one of these days.  I was a little leery of the place when we first docked in Cozumel, Mexico.  I’d heard so many stories of drug wars, and a general hatred of Americans in this area that I was certain I wouldn’t have a good time.  Nevertheless, we booked an excursion with an attempt to make the best of what we thought would be a nerve-wracking port.  However, to my surprise, I made a memory that will make me smile for years to come.

     We began our adventure in a shabby old jeep, which my husband nearly made love to after driving. He and my friend’s husband took turns dashing down dirt roads, hydro-planing over huge mud puddles, and skidding in sideways to our destinations.  We girls screamed and laughed in the back seat as the dirt and water flew into the vehicle threatening to wreck our perfect bathing suits.  The sun knew no cloud that day and the wind rushing into the jeep tempered the delightful sting of the sun.  The salt from the ocean danced in the air, and palm trees rustled in every turn.  The atmosphere was flawless.

     Our first stop was a cave that twisted and turned into mysterious caverns that the Mayans once explored.  Fossils of sea creatures, and ancient markings were all about the walls.  Deep within, there was a large natural mineral pool with the bluest water I’d ever laid eyes on.  We squealed as we plunged into the freezing, purifying waters before scrubbing our bodies with a mineral rich blend from the depths of the hidden pool.  The stalactites and stalagmites framed the close quarters and worked together to create a wonder world unlike anything I’d ever been a part of…it was pure magic.

     After the cave, we hopped back into the rugged road vessel and sped to Playa de Carmen, where the water rivaled the hue of a blue topaz ring in my jewelry box.  We laid in the white sand, sunning our bodies on the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula, before cooling off in the mesmerizing sea.  We ate authentic Mexican cuisine and enjoyed fruity drinks the guys would be embarrassed to admit they partook of…any cares I had were sitting on a shelf somewhere in Asheville, NC…they certainly weren’t here.

    It was a good day.  Even the sight of Mexican Police standing out of the sun roof of a tank-like vehicle with automatic weapons didn’t shake me after all I’d done that day.  The day was a gift, and I’d feel sorry for whatever the reasons were for the ominous law enforcement parade another day.  I was given one of those days I can fly away to with the flutter of an eyelid whenever I choose.  I hope everyone, and I suppose most do, have days like this that make the other days feel a little softer.  I hope people have days like this to remember the existence of grace, the presence of an oasis, and the excitement of days to come.  I hope everyone reading this has a smile on his or her face right now, feeling a nostalgic tug towards a time far behind them.  I hope you are in that memory now, smiling and saying to yourself, “that was a good day.”

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What is it about The South?

     Lately The South has been on my mind a lot.  I’m elbow deep in my latest writing project, which takes place around the birth of rock n’ roll in various parts of the southern United States. My first novel focused on the pre and post civil war eras, so over the past few years I’ve found myself researching music, history, and people native to the region from the very roots on up.  I’ve always been rather enamored by southern culture, and I can’t stop yearning to learn more about the part of the country I come from.  It isn’t just a quest for my heritage; it’s something more.  There’s something magical about this place, and having grown up here, I see little glimpses of it everywhere.  The South has a reputation for its charm…the stereotypical things like the mimosas, the magnolia trees, the live oaks, and the musicians with talents attributed to Sunday services, and homemade guitars on front porches.  But why?  Why is The South a Mecca for all things quaint?  Is it the weather?  Is it the sticky steam after a summertime rain?  The history maybe?  The beautiful landscape from the mountains to the sea?  No…it’s none of those things…it’s all of them.  It’s charisma…it’s the “x” factor…that thing that makes kisses better in the rain, and makes us lose our minds to the point of skinny dipping in broad daylight.  The South has it, and shoots people out left and right dripping with the same thing.  Southerners just have a way about them…something that can almost be smelled like honeysuckle in May…something that hangs from them like the Spanish Moss in the low country.  It’s just a part of them, a connection to the land itself… and everyone else can see it dancing all over them.  It’s as mysterious as creole magic, and as mesmerizing as the sun peeking over a valley in the Great Smokies.  It can’t be recreated anywhere else.

     Some of the greatest artists in American history from the colonial period, to the jazz age, to the birth of rock n’roll, to today were and are products of The South.  If I were to list them all, I’d be writing for a century because the states on the lower right side of the map grow them in their gardens to become superstars.  It’s because people write what they know, draw what they know, or sing what they know…and the southerners know soul, grit, and pride…they spill art out of the marrow connected to their bones because they simply cannot help but do so…the “x” factor.  Southerners walk barefoot on the land native to the earliest Americans, first discovered by Europeans, once soaked in Yankee and Rebel blood, with secrets of slavery, poverty, and pride buried deeper than the ancestors that lie in the ground.  There’s too much in the soil to feel…too much in the stories our grandparents tell us to ignore.  There are no shallow waters in the south.  The South isn’t charming because it wants to be; it’s charming because it has no choice…bless its heart.

     Thomas Wolfe said “Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs”.  I love this because it’s true.  The actual culture that became The South was the land, the religion, the literature, the war, the weather, and the music rolled  into an art form that nobody could deny.  It became the mindset.  That charm oozing purely out of Dixie became a phenomenon, a way of life, and a belief system.  It’s a charm everyone wants a brush with, just to tingle for a fleeting moment after touching it…What is it about The South?

A Look at the Low Times

     A lot of people are of the mind that the universe is a balance of good and evil…for every light there is dark.  A lot of religions champion this idea as well.  Zoroastrianism, which came about slightly before the birth of Jesus bases its entire doctrine on this idea alone; we are simply the matter caught between two opposing strengths that we have no control over.  Sometimes it feels, and appears very much that way.

     I agree with this to a small, yet differing degree. I’ve pondered this many times in life, and some things said in Church this morning made me re-visit it again today. As a Christian, I believe in the existence of good and evil, but not necessarily in the balance of these things.  I certainly don’t believe that for every single light there is dark, because I’ve read the end of the story and know that light wins.   With this being said, I sometimes ponder why we have the darkness at all. I realize that God wants us to understand the purity of love, and love him by our own freewill, and that in order to do that we must have the choice to disobey…and that in itself is sin, which is evil.  I understand the reasoning…but once we’ve chosen God, why all the trials?

   I’ve come to the realization that sometimes its the trials that make us move.  It is in the winter that we yearn most for summer.  Sometimes we can get caught up basking in the warmth and forget the ones left somewhere the light never touches, a place we’ve been so log ago.  When we have those dips in life when we cannot fathom why such terrible times have come our way even though we feel we’ve done everything right,  its hard to understand why.  When I go through these times, I comfort myself with the typical thought process…”this is in God’s will,” “everything happens for a reason,” and so on.  Even though I know there is truth in those things, just believing it alone gets stale. It becomes common to us.  It starts becoming a broken record, but when I stop, every once in a brilliant blue moon and actually evaluate the situation, good has ultimately come out of every low point of my life.  It’s never been easy, rarely been an immediate turn around, but has always made sense somewhere along the way.  Almost every time I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming out of my comfort zone its felt like being plucked off a warm beach and sat half naked on an iceberg. However, it always makes me appreciate that warm beach and beg to get back.  It makes me have to do something to get there, something I thought I could not do until I look back and I’ve done it.

    I don’t believe in the “balance” of light and dark.  I simply believe the dark can show us what we’re made of when we prevail over it.  It’s there to teach us about our own strength, to prove to us we can triumph over opposition, and remind us how sweet the sun is…and how sweet the son is.  We aren’t a conglomerate of atoms tight-rope walking between negative and positive energy.  We are something made out of divinity, tried by our very flesh, but with a destiny to become warriors.  A warrior doesn’t know his strength if he’s never seen battle.

     I hope the next time I have a trial in my life I can remember this, and I move.  I pray I don’t wallow and wail, but I fight with the sword I was handed, knowing the seasons that lie ahead of me.  I hope I take others with me, and somehow know that the evil in the world doesn’t have to be something I balance myself with…not something I have to fight, but something I’ve proven I can slay.  I have to remember that every year Spring follows winter, and even the coldest January has purpose.  We fight that winter for the sake of Spring, and the sakes of those who’ve never known a true Spring in life.

  I just have to remember I am part of that story, unchanging like the seasons…the one with a happy ending, and it cannot be re-written. 

“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my father on his throne.” Revelation 3:21

Ode to the Pink Flask

     I have found something wonderful in life.  At first glance it’s a bit silly, and something a little bit sad to identify with.  I have a new flask I got for Christmas, and if I believed (which I do not) that people could somehow exist in inanimate objects, this alcohol-delivering vessel is the thing I’d be.  I either was it, or would be it in another life (again, if I believed such hog wash).  I forced everyone I saw on New Years to drink from it, expecting everyone to delight in it equally as much as I was.  I thought when their lips touched it fireworks would come out their ears.  I could see tem looking at me like I was nuts while I waited on the edge of my seat for them to take a little swig.  It’s a little indulgent of myself to actually require everyone around me to be amused at whatever I’m selling them on at that time, but I do it anyway.

     I have to give my husband the credit for this delightful flask.  It is a shorter flask than normal, embellished liberally with pink rhinestones.  It fits perfectly in my purse, and I swear whistles a Marilyn Monroe tune of some sort every time I pull it out (though I’m the only one that hears it). It makes me feel more feminine even than wearing lipstick or swinging a shopping bag.  When I have it in my purse, I feel like I’m carrying a delicious secret that I halfway want everyone to know about. I think it dances about in there like a Jumanji board begging to be unleashed. How did my husband know what a mesmerizing gift he’d chosen for me?  But then, that’s why I married him.  He knows me, and knows exactly the weird brand of things that make me tick.  He even gets the unexplainable, and insane “megalomaniactic” reasons why…ahh…my heart flutters.

     I very much want to carry this flask about everywhere like a child would a new toy.  It has so much personality that I’m flirting with the idea of making it a facebook page, providing it with a place at my dinner table, and just maybe painting a face on like Tom Hanks did for Wilson in Castaway if I get lonely enough.  What a pleasing flask…

   Please nobody worry about me, or petition for me to be involuntarily committed.  I’m aware I have a screw loose…but it’s worth it to get to admire such a wonderful thing in my life.  Oh what a yummy thing to own…:)