Little Bits of Green

This afternoon between piano recital and our time at Evening Prayer, I took Miss Sophie for her afternoon constitutional.  We went a little further than we normally do, as there were a lot of children playing near our house, and Miss Sophie is, well, easily distracted from the task at hand.

In the quiet as she sniffed all the things, I took the time to look around and appreciate the fact that I wasn’t freezing standing there.  The blue of the sky was classically beautiful, and the sun shone brightly.  But it was when I looked down that I saw something that surprised me.

Georgia or not, it’s still winter here.  We’ve had a few days that have me crocheting warmer colors on my temperature blanket, but lately we’ve been back into the “my toes are cold and want to go home” kind of weather.  There are hardly any trees other than evergreens with leaves on them, my bulbs aren’t growing yet, and the grass is brown–and dead.

But as I stood there looking and thinking while Miss Sophie did her dog thing, I noticed that the grass wasn’t all brown.

I saw bits–if ever so few and tiny–of green.

img_1609

Wow.

It really surprised me.  I stood there, chiding myself, Well, what did you think, Tara?  That the brown grass just one day, blade by blade, would turn green and spring would officially be here?

I suppose not, but I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much attention to the process.  It’s just been brown and dead and then one day, the grass is green, it’s warm, and my flip flops are back where they belong.

On my feet.

But today I realized something.  In the midst of that brown and dying grass, well below what the eye can detect, there is life.  The green is there.  Waiting.  Even when we don’t see it.  Waiting for the right situation, and the right season.

And then I heard my Mama: Ecclesiastes 3.  (her favorite)  To everything there is a season.

The new life is there.  And one day, when the time and season is right, it will choke out all of that death, and all around us there will be rebirth and life and growth.

One day…..

what has been in the works all along will be apparent and shine through the brown grass and darkness.

Wishing you all a glimpse of green grass today and everyday.

Love to all.

Be the Light

When I was in grad school and had a class called “Spirituality and Family Therapy,” my mind was blown.  So many good books, so many great thinkers and powerful conversations.  One of the ideas I was introduced to was “soul of place.”

I think I had always known about it and felt it, but this was the first time having words put to the idea.

The Soul.  Of place.

I knew this when I said goodbye to my Granny’s farm.  It was even more real the first time I returned years later, to walk around and see the shadows of the stories of the past.  The day I locked the door to my Great Aunt’s house, the one she lived in my entire life, where so much laughter and games of Go Fish echoed in the air, just before signing the papers to sell it to a new family…..I felt the soul of place in every fiber of my being.  Each and every time I set foot at Blackberry Flats, I breathe a little easier. The air is richer and it fills my soul.  The pasture where I learned to ride and the little building where I curled up on top of the hay with my cats and a book are all still there.  The tree that I sat under while still in college has spread its branches just as our family tree has.

Memories.  Light.  Love.  All the stories.

This has happened one other time for me.  It actually happened the first time I walked through the doors.

About five and a half years ago, I walked into a coffee shop that I had heard about long before it had become a reality.  It was a non-profit venture by a group of churches in the Presbytery—churches and church people who realized that not everyone feels safe or comfortable in a church building.  They were looking for a different way to “do church,” to be a community.

And they found it.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the lightbulb etched into the cement floor.

Light.

And that was the second thing I noticed.  How the room glowed.  How it was lit up with more than just the energy from the bulbs overhead.  It was bright with a beautiful spirit.  A calming spirit of peace.

And my soul sighed.  Home.

My family and I have spent countless hours in that little coffee shop in Kathleen situated alongside the GW Boutique, Stevi B’s, and the movie theater.  For coffee, for conversations, for book groups, for art classes.  It’s where I learned to knit and to pray out loud.  It’s where people see the best in others and listen with their whole hearts.  It’s the place I last sat with my dear sisterfriend before she left this world, where we shared our hearts and stories over soup and salad.  It’s where I learned to love pimento cheese and was actually captured on film sharing how good it was, “It’s toasted!” This little coffee shop saw me transition from lattes to black coffee, and my friends the baristas made the very best of both.  This coffee shop is where I sat for hours, set up to sell Beads for Life just a week after my Daddy passed.  It was a sanctuary, and it held my heart gently.  In those hours, in that light, I made my first tiny steps toward healing.  Something I’m still working on.

Grief is an odd duck, isn’t it?  It’s not like this information is new to me.  I know that, and each and every time I’m thrown back on the wheel, I realize it anew.  This whole experience, since we got the word at the end of November that our precious coffee shop was hurting and might have to close, I’ve felt the sting of a terminal diagnosis all over again.  The hope that maybe, just maybe, something or someone can change all of this, the ups and downs and ups and downs and finally, the overwhelming realization, that no, there really is nothing more that can be done…..

yeah, I’ve done this a few times already.

And while it’s a place—yes, just a few square feet that we are losing, not a person—I still grieve.  I grieve for the soul of Bare Bulb Coffee.  I grieve because my littles have begged to sell lemonade or cupcakes or pictures they make to save the coffee shop they love.  I grieve because my oldest has found peace and comfort within the shop walls on more than one occasion when her world was falling apart.  Her love of playing music has been reignited sitting there on Sunday afternoons, or out on the patio in nice weather, just strumming and talking and doing life.  I grieve for all of the experiences my children will not have because the doors are closing.  It was our safe place, a place where we all felt “home,” and that’s not something that is easily found just anywhere.

Next Monday night the door will be locked for the last time, the last cup of coffee poured, the last smile shared as change is given, the last story told over the tables, the last hand held sitting on the couch in the corner.  The last backpack to fight hunger will have been packed, and the last book purchased for the literacy program that is a part of the mission of Bare Bulb Coffee.  These things might continue elsewhere, but it will not be the same.

I’m not sure if I will be there when the door is locked for the last time.  I’ve thought about it.  I have a week to decide.  I’m not sure if I can handle being present for one more passing.  It is precious and hard and beautiful and brutal and all of these things, and I treasure those moments in my heart.  But I know that the hardest moment will be when the Open sign is unplugged, and the lights are turned out.

That is when our work will truly begin.  For those of us who have loved her, who have found solace in her soul and light, we will have to become the light.  To welcome all as she did.  To offer a cup of water to the thirsty, just as she did.  To sit with those who cry, to celebrate with those who are joyful.  It will be up to us to light up the darkness and to show others the hope in the brokenness.  It is important for us to continue to do all of these things…..together…..or she will have been here in vain.

Tonight I’m thankful for the dreamers, for the ones who took a spark and created a bright light for our community, for the world.  It was so much more than a coffeeshop, so much more than its tagline—“hot coffee, cool mission.”  It’s where I grew up, where I asked hard questions and wrestled with them with folks who thought differently and who challenged me to do so as well.  It’s where I said so many hellos and a few heartbreaking goodbyes, this place where strangers became friends, and friends became family.  I am thankful for all of them, and my life is richer for this place, for her soul, and for the community she leaves behind.

Thank you, Bare Bulb Coffee, and all of your beautiful people.  Thank you for the ones we knew and loved and for the ones who taught us what being different was like.  Thank you for the books and the stories and the hugs and the tangled knots and the hands that helped each other with knitting and painting and life.  Thank you for being open to all of us, no matter what we looked like or what stories we carried in our hearts.

Thank you, Bare Bulb Coffee, for the Light.

img_1526

My last painting at Bare Bulb Coffee, and her task for all of us she leaves behind. (The class was taught by Terri Siegel, a talented artist friend–one of many gifts the Bulb has given me.)

the fire within

that glint you see in her eye
is only a spark
compared to the fire that burns within

she is our future,
the place where our paths all converge
and her story
is the one that we’ve all been waiting for
to right the wrongs
we’ve protested and fought against
for far too long

her flame can take out
the strongest of them,
the ones whose hearts are soiled
with a taste for power,
and it can burn those who
aren’t ready
to join her on the journey,
the ones who try to veer her off her path

she is intent and focused
and what she dreams of one day
will be
because that flame from within
is blazing the way
for her to speak and be heard
write and be read
lead and be followed
listen and understand
dream and create
act and inspire

such fiery heat can scorch
but for the one willing
to walk alongside
and encourage
and feed her soul
and make her laugh

that one will never feel the cold

img_1274

don’t let them

don’t let them
tell you the stars aren’t really
diamonds
twinkling just for you
waiting to adorn your dreams
while you slumber
where you live out all your heart’s desires

don’t let them
tell you it’s silly to
guard your heart so carefully
or to love him so completely

don’t let them
convince you life isn’t hard
and that the world
isn’t broken

it is

but you in your diamonds
bringing life to your big dreams
holding the hand of the one
your heart calls home
giving from the beauty and kindness
that flows through your soul

you
will
change
it
all

 

Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography

“Big Dipper Ursa Major over Old Faithful geyser Yellowstone National Park Wyoming Astrophotography” by Astroval1 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg#/media/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg

upon encountering a frog on a mid-winter evening

walking along on this winter evening that has dressed up like spring
meandering really, not counting steps or time or headed anywhere
in particular
just giving her a moment to sniff and smell and do
all the dog things she does
it’s different somehow in the dark
the world seems quieter
calmer
and while there’s so much I cannot see,
somehow it all seems clearer

and that’s when out of nowhere really
the little frog hopped in our path
and surprised both of us

where on earth has he been?
a week ago the earth was frozen
frigid temperatures closed everything
the cold and bitter winds called for hunkering down,
preparation and survival were the code words for the day

and where were you then, little one?
had you yet grown your legs a week ago?
where were you hiding when the world said
there is no life left here, nothing growing
only this harsh world suitable for no man nor beast,
how did you survive the freeze when all else was lost?

and yet you show up
as if you are not the most amazing thing in this world
something that should not be, that logic cannot fathom how–
there you are
hopping across my path
unafraid, not to be veered from your destination
by person or dog

intent on doing what you do

a small miracle, defying all reason

much like the hope that comes out of the blue
when least expected
during the dark and coldest of times
surfacing just in time to tie the knot at the end of the rope
and whisper
“hold on”
and carry us through the dark, cold night
to witness the glory of a new day

img_1396

 

circling the wagons close

some of life’s most sacred moments, holy moments
happen along the raw edges of hurt
and pain
when we circle the wagons close
and sit with each other in the dark

holding hands, hands in laps
fingering the edges of the wrap we have on
to ward off the cold
the cold that is here
the cold yet to come
all of it
the veins a light hue of blue
seen through worn hands that have birthed and washed
and tucked littles beneath blankets and cleaned and prepared
and reached for love one last time
before quietly letting go
and grasping for the good in that

it’s what we do
when darkness
and the cold come to call
we stand together against the chill
drying tears,
laughing and crying all in the same breath,
holding each other tight

it is one of life’s greatest honors and hardest gifts to bear,
to sit with another
when the news comes
and after, when the pieces, shattered and scattered, are there
and we don’t know yet what to do with them

whether around a kitchen table
girding our souls for what is to come
with the laughter of children in the background,
a playful reminder of
happier memories and times,
times when we were those littles and the “old” folks sat vigil,
waiting on the news

or in an apartment with friends we hold dear
pizza and movies a soothing salve for the stinging pain of heartache and loss,
that grief knows no age limits

or sitting in the waiting room
waiting
holding our breath and gripping hands, waiting to hear the words that
will choose the path ahead for us,
always waiting, no choices
only waiting

it is in all of these moments
and all of the emails and messages and cards
and phone calls and trips and opening our doors to pups
and children
and hugs and all the times we say “I love you”
with a little more emphasis
and hug a little longer

all of those precious moments
are
so real
raw
broken
beautiful
holy

and though we may not have the answers
or good news
or the energy to face another moment of this–
we have each other

in the face of questions
and anger
and pain
and sadness
and oh, all those tears we try to keep hidden,
in the face of it all
we have each other

circling the wagons close
to hold all the love in
like lightning bugs on a summer night
strong and moving around through the darkness,
holding all who are near in the Light

and like the circle
never-ending
bathing the wounded in light
and love
and holding each other close
as we let the tears fall

it’s what our people do
on days like this

wagon-wheel-856097_1920

redemption story

the truth is, we are all living a redemption story–
in any given moment we can change direction
make choices that take us on another path completely
rewrite our story
change up the cast of characters
have a set change and cull the props

at any point on our path
we can chart another course
and turn this life around
such that what was born of the dark times
can shine such beautiful light
eventually,
one day

and what was broken and caused all the pain
can lead others to the light, to beauty
and towards their own redemption story

all of us have that chance
for atonement and healing hearts,
as long we are on this journey
and putting one foot in front of the other
it is not too late

there always exists the choice
for small, great things
that can leave an imprint on the hearts and minds
of history
changing the course for all of us
if only we are strong and speak in truth
with courage
celebrating joy and leaving beauty marks in our wake

we are all living out our stories
it is for us to make it a good one

img_1315

be strong, true, joy / Walk in the Light / the story is always redemption

Note:  As I was making this picture with the Latin words, I used an on-line translator, as it’s been just a few years since my last Latin class.  To double check my translation, I reversed the process and learned the truest interpretation of the words here.  The one that made my the most joy-filled, the most hopeful is the last one.  Instead of saying “The redemption story is always possible,” it interpreted it to read, “The story is always redemption.”  So much hope there.  For all of us.  Love to all.