Atlanta, Georgia || A Place to Begin
Trust is a beautiful thing.
Something so tender you could pop it with a pin and bathe in the memory of that time, but I do not pop it with a pin. I stay watery and ballooning from underneath. I stay full. Things are going so well right now that I just might explode, but I do not explode. I do not pop. This goes on for the first nights of my journey laying on my brother’s guest bed. Atlanta on fire. Atlanta in ice. Atlanta thaws and vibrates. Each night presents itself like another chance to lose it all, like another place to fail, but I do not fail. I fear loss and feel the
urge to grasp, but I do not lose. I do not grasp. The unsettled settles night after night with the house cat named Kit we rescued 10 years ago underneath Steve’s house.
He curls his body over my feet like something gentle. Like something that does not always attack and scratch all living things. We lay together as very misunderstood beings. We are both breathing through the good times, and at least one of us is learning how to let the good parts in without worrying about when they will disappear. Everything is exactly the way that it is supposed to be.
My brother and his husband have a three story town house and five pets that scatter themselves along the wooden steps, floors and couches of all levels. All of my brother’s animals are loving except for our Kit who does not know what it means to love, so he watches and tries his best at understanding. This is usually a biting and scratching affair, but we (I) love him even more for his misgivings. They make big crockpots of soup soaking the dried beans over night. White beans with andouille sausage. Cajun meals. The smells and tastes of this kitchen are more welcome than I thought possible. He is a much better chef than I realized, or maybe two years has added more love to his meals. We bake cookies and play games. No one drinks because no one drinks alcohol in his house. We play board games and make coffee because that is more fun anyhow. There is something evolving here in his life that I did not notice before. I know we cannot pretend like the whole world is wonderful all of the time, but we can definitely take note of when it is working very well. The hard parts are all in this whether it is accepting the good or the bad. It has to be both. It is almost always both.
Everything is going to be all right after all. I did not explode. There is nothing to break. I am capable of holding space for someone else in my heart without destroying it.
Tampa, Florida || Causeway
No rush. There is absolutely no rush.
Trust. I do not take it for granted, and I do not inflate my role in it by any means. I am a few thoughts from disorganization. I am only a few swallowed breaths away from chaos and the overwhelming feeling of personal space. Instead of looking at each family member’s home as another place to learn where I can hide or how I will be able to keep up the good sides of myself, I look at each pass off as a deep and purposeful strike of luck. I mentally prepare a sentence to sum up this feeling and repeat it over and over to myself on the plane ride to Tampa,and every night that I sleep on the small twin bed in my little niece’s room.
“I am so lucky to have so many people who love me enough to want to be around me and invite me into their homes. Each new family that picks me up is even more excited than the last to see me and love me.”
The realization of MY family and the fact that I do indeed have a place in it is life altering. I fall further through my skin and into my body. The animated hand is mine after all and it holds the hands of others because I am my body as much as I am my soul. I feel my eyes way down deep into my stomach as I hold my hand on my belly for a deep inhale ( RISING) and an even deeper exhale ( FALLING).
I am useful. I am needed. There are chores to do! I can do this!
Aunt Lorraine directs my father and I on where to place platters and tiered trays.
“Chop up that onion,” she’s been planning for days and days, “We will do an ice ring for the punch.”
A recent injury has her out of work for the first time in over 15 years I think, but I do not mind the orders because I want to help. How can I help? I am still. I have perspective.
Give me tasks.
Chop the wood.
Fetch the water.
Feed the chickens or Dixie.
Dad and I bake cookies. We talk and laugh. There is no rushing. Here it is. Here I am, at the heart of avoidance, yet I remain present. I stay in the room and in the conversations. We stay busy, and on Christmas Eve we even get dressed up to meet the McCaffreys at 52 seasons. My cousin Caroline orders a ginger soda mocktail with me like it is a normal thing. We laugh so hard we cry like all the other times we ever have with the McCaffreys. Aunt Lorraine and I stop by the ocean where I collect two small sea shells for my meditation space. I put my toes in the ocean. For all the times I thought I was unlovable there is someone here on this vacation who proves me wrong. I almost cry again behind my almost sleeping eyes reflecting on the evening and feeling something like a ten year old version of myself would have felt on Christmas Eve except just with acceptance and joy. I was such a happy girl. I am a happy woman.
I roll out my yoga mat in the backyard. Everyone is respectful.
Gainesville, Florida || Grandma’s Aviary
New since last winter, clans of ducks have taken refuge in the pond behind my Grandma’s house in Gainesville, FL. She fills a large bird feeder on a wooden post in the backyard with a bird seed mixture meant for song birds. It has cardinals and bluejays on the packaging. She barely has a chance to put the lid on the feeder before those exact song birds swoop in for the taking. She is a Christian Mystic. I know it. Look at her! She looks angelic. She is my blood. Hi, I’m Jacqui! Like I’ve never taken the time to meet my own grandmother. Hi Pat! She knows everything. I want to know everything she knows.
“Coffee is hot”, she hands me my mug to finish before it gets cold. Cooking and baking with grandma begins. “Do you know how to crack eggs?” Yes. “Good.”
“Muffin batter should be lumpy.”
“Pumpkin chocolate cake goes in a bundt pan.”
“Fold the chips in with a rubber spatula.”
“Break the asparagus. Find the weak spot. You know where it is.”
“Wear this jacket. You’ll freeze.”
“Cup your thumb in your palm to measure 1 table spoon. That’s too much. Use a paper towel. Okay, use your hands to lather the Sweet Potatoes with olive oil.”
“Buy the Italian spices from the International Aisle NEVER on the cooking and baking AISLE!
“Pork Tenderloin is only 1.79 per Lb. We need the whole pig. We will freeze it.”
“Coffee is still hot”
Things. Things I can do. Things I can do sober.I know how to be still. I can be with people. I am part of a family that loves me very, very much.I sang and danced sober. I walked around with my own face, sober.
We had a family talent show, and Papa is still the most intelligent and respectable human I know.
Phoenix, Arizona ||Salt
I finish my book on the four hour plane ride from Atlanta to Phoenix. He picks me up. I am shy. We leave in our car. Salty tears and windows down. The Arizona sun pours in as the desert wind cakes to my cheeks like sand like something else and everything else. We pass palms and every kind of cactus imaginable. We pass a cathedral named St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. This must be a good sign. Peaceful does not seem to cover what I mean here. The salty tears continue down my cheeks. They know what I mean. They are everything I know. This is how whole we can be. This is very small or it is too large to imagine. That makes it both. It is always both. It is always everything.
This is how short my time here will be, and this is how long I’ve been here already. All moments have built to this one right now. And they support me. For the first time, it does not happen in words. It happens like a globe in an experimental tank balancing perfectly with magnets. I am a globe with exact balance, and this is what I am. My person lays his perfect fingers over mine. We are here. All things happened to help us reach right here. We are because we are here.
Satellites & Final Thoughts
Time and place determine everything. There is satellite from the 70’s coasting out into deep space sending back information about what it sees and hears, but the technology is so dated that its distance from our planet hardly makes a difference compared to what our modern telescopes and satellites can pick up. Where we are and what we are made of make a big difference in the way we experience life. Something about moving around so much has finally allowed me to sit still and experience the people around me. Home has many different shapes, and coming back to Georgia let me realize that this place is just as beautiful as all of the homes we’ve had over the past two years except with more heart and meaning. Roots that stretch through the Georgia, Florida lines. It is so hard to understand where we come from until we understand where the rest of the world lives and breathes. What is it that makes us special and why does that all of a sudden feel so good to know that I am someone who comes from this place and not that place?
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