Rain drops trickled from the sky last Friday midday.
Sitting outside on the porch with a tomato sandwich and book, a voice called to my right. Or it might have been a voice, I wasn’t sure. In the middle of two of my favorite pastimes, I figured if someone wanted my attention, they’d make it clear.
Hearing the voice again, I looked up to see a woman on a bike.
The rider stood stride a mountain-type bike outfitted with two large red all-weather storage satchels off her seat on either side of her rear tire.
Standing face-to-face in the light rain, I thought she wanted to know where Dixie Highway was. That was an easy fix.
But the more we talked, she had just come from Dixie Highway and needed help getting to . . .
Suddenly, this became quite interesting.
She was the sweeper for a cycling group headed to the South Carolina coast. They started their journey on the west side of Atlanta. After spending last night at Hard Labor Creek (a park 10 miles from me), this leg of their journey took them to Hamburg Park in Mitchell, Georgia.
Taking out a sheet with her directions, the paper so damp it disintegrated in her hands. The extended downpour had separated her from the group but she had communicated with them by text.
Oh. And her phone was now dead.
I offered a portable charger from some conference SWAG bag. She laughed that it wouldn’t help, saying that she calls herself analog her phone is so old.
With no GPS, a disintegrating directional sheet, no phone, no idea where to go, I offered to get my bike and show her another way to Bethany Road through town.
* * *
I dashed back home through the raindrops filled with a since of urgency. I had a mission! A purpose!
Grabbing my bike, shoes, helmet, I trotted back up to the corner relieved to see my friend still waiting.
“Oh wow, you got a bike,” she said after seeing my road bike.
“Yes. She’s 10 years old. My midlife crisis.”
She laughed saying that she will be 40 in a few months, “Maybe that’s what this is?”
How was this woman going to get to Mitchell, Georgia in the rain by herself?
Riding along in the rain, I started a little small talk.
“What do you do?” I ventured.
“I’m in the energy conservation field. I work in San Fransisco with the . . ”
“YOU LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO?”
My new friend riding a bike in the rain through the Georgia country side, lagging far behind a group heading to Mitchell, Georgia was not from Atlanta but from California. She worked installing energy effiencent lighting. She had gone to graduate school to study carpentry. Bad timing on that, she laughed with a little sigh.?
I learned that she was born in Memphis and lived all over the south and had been in San Francisco 10 years. And her 40th birthday in a few months would be spent climbing Machu Picchu.
When we got up to the highway she was to cross to get on Bethany, we dismounted.
Remembering she had no phone and disintegrating directions I said, “You need my phone number. Please call if you need anything.”
She began sorting through her packs for a paper and pen.
And pulled out a turtle.
“A turtle, NO WAY. I love turtles!” I told about me being the turtle wrangler and pulled up my twitter background.
“This is magical!” Rashida exclaimed.
Yes. Somewhere in the searching for paper, the writing of my number, squealing over shared love of turtles, we exchanged names.
So after I googled Mitchell, Georgia and found out it was an hour by car (three or four by bike she thought), Rashida packed up her turtle and road away.
* * *
Saturday I received a text from Rashida that she had met up with her group and was headed to their next stop Magnolia Springs State Park.
I hope Rashida uses that email address I gave her.
I want to find out how the journey ended. I want to ask her thoughts about the whole adventure. I want to follow her to Machu Picchu.
No phone. No twitter. No blog. I asked because she could have a killer blog.
My new hero Rashida living life. Unplugged but so very plugged in.
If I was the jealous type, I might be. Just a little.
I’ve got my bunting on. Have you?
This is a photo from my porch.
Yesterday, I was riding my bike through nearby Rutledge and took note of all the bunting displayed.
This would make the perfect blog post. Timely, local and easy.
If you want to know the unvarnished truth coating the mind of a busy person who blogs. That’s it.
So I rode down there today to capture patriotism for you this Memorial Day weekend. After perusing the vegetable transplants at the hardware store, I headed onward deep into the heart of downtown Rutledge.
The stop can.
Yes, fiddling with my filters, hopping in and out of my car.
I witnessed a quiet town’s patriotism.
Birds chirping and cars passing by on the way to other places. Other spaces.
I’m afraid that my first thought on Memorial Day is yay the motorcycles will pass the house and it will be summer!
But with the passage of time, the more I reflect on the young soldiers who never had another hot dog or waved a flag as floats ferried past on a parade route.
Those who never again watched the joy of a child playing in a sprinkler’s spray.
Never got another chance for ice cream at The Caboose.
Never again played hide-and-peek with a ballon.
Or had a chance to draft an easy peasy Memorial Day blog post.
Lake Lanier is a resort 30 minutes north of Atlanta. For us, that meant a 90 minute drive. But what’s an hour and a half of riding in a car for a chance to run through holiday lights?
They hold this race the Saturday and Sunday before the park opens the light show to car traffic.
Joe and I headed that was last Sunday afternoon.
This was at the start. Notice the castle in the background. Oz-ian I think.
It was misty and chilly, which added to the cheery winter mood.
Cheery winter mood?
Yes. I got caught up in the lights and the little whiff of Santa in the air.
This required suspending my long and fast rule: NO Christmas before Thanksgiving. I surprised myself how easy it was to drift into that mum-of-a-little-child-at-Christmas haze.
The official start.
They had waves which was a good thing. Lots and lots of children. Serious runners were up front followed by mid-pace runners, joggers, walkers and entire young families pushing toddlers in strollers.
A few photos.
These pics aren’t conveying the excited children chatting to parents. Parents encouraging their child to run to the next reindeer. The young 20-somethings running in packs. I knew that when I was snapping away. But I had to try.
13. 1 miles of history . . . Or so says the back of our dri-fit shirts.
Every fall my running buddy Kim says we need to do this race. So this year, I signed up and when Kim couldn’t join me — I talked my husband into going with me. He walks for exercise.
Like really fast walk.
He’s secure in his maleness to walk 13.1 miles. Which is cool with me because the main thang is to have him walking his little heart out getting cardio exercise.
The man is into history as in would-have-loved-to-have-been a history professor into history, so I thought this was perfect for him. So after I begged and pleaded and promised things I’ll never follow through with, he agreed to go with me.
It’s ironic that recently, we stumbled upon a PBS show about Chickamauga. Okay, I happened to walk in the bedroom while he was watching — remember he is the history nut in the family.
According to the show, Chickamauga is a Native American word meaning river of death. The river there was so named when the Cherokee contracted smallpox. The sick would go to the river seeking relief from their fever and many of them died while at the water.
Ironically, the battle fought at this river of death was the second deadliest of the Civil War. Second only to Gettysburg. Very sobering and hard to imagine, in a place that today is the epitome of bucolic beauty and tranquility.
Here we sat last Saturday morning.
Let’s cover why this race is great from a runner’s perspective. You can wait in your car with the heater on. Which is awesome said anyone who has stood around for an hour in cold weather before a race.
As far as the race size — it wasn’t too small; it wasn’t too big. It was just right. The marathon and half folks started together. I was reading about how the first place woman in the marathon was disqualified when her split times didn’t make sense. I think she probably got confused and didn’t run some of the course. Who knows?
Alls I know is that I covered every inch. And then some.
My time was where I seem to be stuck these days — 2:30. Well, 2:31:something. Which is 15 minutes slower than I did consistently a few years ago. But considering the wear and tear on my joints, I’m just happy to be participating in these things.
As much as I enjoyed this race, I encountered technical difficulties.
And since this is my blog and not an official race report, I will bore share them with you.
— The race started. I turn on my iPod shuffle. No sound. For about the first half a mile I fiddled with the shuffle. I fiddled with the ear buds. Never got the blasted thing to work. So I quickly changed expectations — 13 miles. No music. No problem. Said no one ever.
— Between Mile 7 and 8 my RunKeeper died. Well, my phone did. So instead of carrying a dead phone in my hand, I stuck it in my tights. Before long, my phone would fall down my leg and end up at my knee. Which caused me to stop and reach down into my tights to retrieve dead phone. I did this off and on for a few miles till I thought — this is maddening and carried my phone in my hand the rest of the way.
So even with no music or time, I’d have to say this was one of my top three half marathons. And I’ve run a ton.
A beautiful spot. Race day conditions were perfect. In the 30s. No wind. Blue sky.
I took this because I thought the steam rising off the runners was cool.
Yes, we were running through a battlefield. One where many, many young men lost their lives.
I have no notions to romanticize The Civil War. It was a horrific thing. A horrific thing that had to be.
Slavery was a way of life in the plantation South — an inhumanity unthinkable in our culture today.
History proved war the heinous solution to end an even greater evil.
That was 151 years ago.
I kept having to remind myself that thousands of men died here.
Sixteen thousand, two hundred Union casualties and 18,500 recorded for the Confederate.
I can only shake my head as I type that.
We did it.
Thanks Johnny for coming with me.
So with no music and no timekeeper to neurotically check, I still give this race a must do.
Today I traveled to Georgia State and College University (GCSU) — a truly outstanding liberal arts public school — to interview a few professors for something I’m working on.
As I was coming into Milledgeville this morning — with not a second to spare for my 10 o’ clock meeting — I passed this sign again like I’d done so many times before.
The sign indicating the turn into the 544 acre farm and site of Flannery O’Connor’s family home Andalusia. The place where she wrote most of her published works.
I’m always in a rush. Always busy. Never time to turn in.
But today the interview didn’t last long as expected.
As I walked along the college grounds,
and found my car, it occurred to me I had a little time.
I could stop at Chick-fil-A for a coke and waffle fry or I could turn in?
Turn in the gravel road by the sign on the busy highway and visit Andalusia.
I am always honest with you. I am not pretending to be any Flannery O’Connor expert. I have read some of her works.
Truthfully, I find her hard to read. Maybe it’s the grotesqueness (isn’t that the word everyone uses of her work, so I might as well too) of her characters? Maybe it’s her disturbing brilliance? But there is no doubt she was a force in words. A Gothic Southern writer in the truest sense.
I have also read a fictional book, A Good Hard Lookby Ann Napolitano on Milledgeville and Flannery. The Flannery Napolitano created captured my imagination. This brilliant woman living in rural Georgia. A devout Catholic with painfully-razored mindset who wrote about her fellow denizens in this small Southern world.
Mired in Central Georgia. Trapped by an illness that would take her from this earth at 39.
Today, I turned left. And traveled down the gravel road.
After a little bit I saw this . . .
I don’t know if it was the Paperwhites? Or seeing her standing on that porch with her determined look and horn-rimmed glasses? But my heart stopped.
For a moment.
Now I’m not a drama mama. Lord knows sometimes I wish I was a little bit more something ~ but pretty much what you read is what I am.
And something hit me when I saw the house.
Just the force of her.
Peacocks. She had dozens of peacocks, I had learned that.
They have a few feathered representatives though now these birds sit in a cage rather than drip from the branches of the oaks lining the drive.
I parked and walked around.
It was so very quiet.
And grey. And Gothic.
So very Flannery.
When I got in the car, I just sat.
And started weeping.
I wept for the tragedy of her life.
I wept for my dad.
Nothing like a good cleansing cry in the shadow of literary history.
I have a wonderful life. Not perfect – but I have no reason to ever be in a foul mood.
But today at 2 p.m. I was.
It had been building all day. No all week.
Through the morning rush to football games, keeping aging parents happy on their visit. Spending time with college son home for weekend — and making all his favorite foods. Running around for birthday surprises for husband tomorrow.
Then to Madison’s Chili Cook-off with children.
Only to find all the tasting tickets . . . gone. Sold out.
The result: disappointed children and a mama that couldn’t hid her displeasure.
Why wouldn’t they have enough tickets for everyone? Good grief.
But in small towns wisdom does not make a public fuss and only complains in the sanctuary of her car.
“Did I sound a little short with that lady?” I asked my daughter.
“Yes,” she replied. “But I’m glad.”
Now to be completely honest, we did look around the festival and settled on a substitute lunch of boiled peanuts and a coke.
But later in the afternoon, at the bakery counter at Walmart, I still wore a furrowed brow on the inside.
No. My whole insides were scrunched up in a deep furrowy trench.
Wanda behind the bakery counter asked, “Did you get to the Chili Cookoff today?’
“Funny you should ask that Wanda.”
The next few minutes, we spent trading stories of being turned away without the ability to purchase a chili-tasting wristband.
Pout. Pout and More Pout.
Then she offered, “You know what is free and the best show around — Zeke’s sunflowers up there on the corner. I see them every morning coming to work. Today four cars were pulled over. Folks stopping for pictures.”
A little voice whispered take that way home.
Zeke Lambert is part farmer, part banker and known to all the men — and women — in Madison. For some reason late summer, he sowed sunflower seeds in many of his fields around town.
So on the way home, I pulled into the dirt road of the highway and got out.
Had to share all the splendor on Instagram.
Yes, while I was out frolicking with and inhaling the fresh, wide-open, forever-flowered space, my daughter got my other camera.
Getting back in the car to my tween paparazzi.
Do you see it?
Sure I look worn, ragged, tired — all that I was before.
But I look happy.
I was happy. So happy. A healthy-perspective-of-life happy.
A moment in a sunflower field healed a sour-puss mood that a full morning of positive self talk couldn’t budge.
Before we left another car drove up.
Once I built a bridge and got over my pouty self, I realized the great truth.
Small towns are blessed places.
Second only in the blessings to a field of sunflowers.
What do yo think? What snaps you out of a bad mood?