After the stormy weather that moved through mid-week (the same system that took a terrible toll on lives and property to the south in Alabama), today was a glorious Saturday morning in the Carolinas. On Saturday mornings, I usually run my errands. One of the benefits of country living is that you get to haul your own trash to the local recycling center, so that’s where my day begins. It forces one into consciously minimizing the amount of waste that is generated during the week, so I guess, this is a ‘good thing’. Thankfully, one of the county’s recycling centers isn’t too far away, and it’s on the way into town, where I’m eventually headed. Donning my hat as  ‘good citizen of the planet Earth’, I  conscientiously separate my trash into kitchen waste, cardboard, metal, plastic, and glass,  make my deposit, and then head for Sam’s Emporium of Everything-Under-the-Sun, otherwise known to locals as the Super Wal-Mart.

There are basically two things to be done in Lancaster…go to church…and go to Wal-Mart. I’ve been on the lookout for a good coffee-house and a bookstore, but I’m still searching. I know…there’s always Charlotte, which has everything, but I’d prefer to support the local economy. So I pick up a few things for the week, like instant oatmeal (my favorite is the maple & brown sugar variety…low sugar version, of course), an assortment of Lean Cuisine and Amy’s frozen dinners, and some treats for the dogs. Cooking for one, it seems, is a bit problematical  for me, so I’ve been simplifying my diet lately, leaning mainly towards vegetarian fare. I’m reading a book (Short Trip to the Edge by Scott Cairns)  about the Eastern Orthodox monks of Mt. Athos in Greece, and their simple cooking of, for example,  fish, potatoes, bread, and olives, sounds mighty appealing to me at the moment. If the olives are the kind that are stuffed with bleu cheese, I may even consider converting.

After Wal-Mart, I had one more stop, and that was at the local Tractor Supply store (ok…there are basically three things to do in Lancaster) to pick up a bag of feed for Hector. This store has practically everything you need for either your animals or your tractor. When I go there, I always make it a point to wear my red Mississippi State baseball cap (which Sharon bought for me when she was in Gulfport for awhile, the winter before Katrina devastated that area)  so that I’m not mistaken for some citified transplant from the North. I try to drop my ‘g’s and flatten my vowels, and say Hey, instead of Hi. Nobody has pegged me yet…I think.

Driving back home, the windows are open, and I’ve got a Nanci Griffith CD playing. This has been a good morning under a cool, cloudless, deep blue Carolina sky. Only one thing missing…sigh…

Night songs

I awoke early this morning at about 2 am. This is becoming a regular habit of  late. After a few hours of sound sleep, I awaken and lay quietly soaking in the sounds of the night. I’m still keeping the windows open at night, at least until the days get uncomfortably hot, and the night air becomes unbearably humid. But even then, I leave the bedroom window open a crack, so that the night songs can still creep in. So I lay in the dark and listen carefully. There’s the hum of a background chorus of crickets and spring peepers. Then, the soloists start making their presence known, beginning with the whip-poor-wills off in the distance with their incessant pining. Some nights I can make out the forlorn hoots of a barred owl in the woods to the south. Lately though, there’s been a solitary mockingbird singing in the night. I did some research on this and found that the only mockingbirds that sing in the darkness are males who don’t yet have a mate. Evidently, there’s no rest for those in desperate need of affection.

I like the way that John O’Donohue , in his book, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, describes the night:

“The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb-time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.”

Somewhat of a ritual has evolved in the last few months in these early hours. When Belle and Tinker (our two Pomeranians) hear me stirring, they will crawl out from under our bed (they like caves), and silently wait until I pick them up and lay them on the bed. Belle will go to the opposite corner of the king-size bed, while Tinker will usually sidle up alongside me.  There we lay listening to the night songs. The dogs are soon asleep, though, and softly snoring. It’s a comforting sound to me during these solitary nights, and it slowly lulls me back to sleep until the morning.

Ours, we…my, I

Slept in late this Easter Sunday morning…6:30 AM. Relatively late. I usually get up about 4:30 AM during the week to make the trek into Charlotte. I awoke to the sound of a Mockingbird who was working through his repertoire in the cool, foggy morning. Then Hector joined in with his raspy cock-a-doodle doos. I can usually hear our neighbor’s rooster, about a quarter of a mile away answer back…dueling roosters. Our neighbors…I catch myself everytime I use those plural possessive pronouns these days. Our house…our dogs…our neighbors. The same thing with we. It’s hard breaking a familiar habit, and every time it happens it brings me back to reality. I liked ours and we…I and my seem so incomplete now.

Well…it was Easter Sunday, so had to get ready for church. I go to Open Door Fellowship church in town, a very small non-denominational congregation. I’m the only one who doesn’t have an accent…or maybe I AM the one who has the accent. All of the people there are very nice and very welcoming. I started attending a week after Sharon died. She had checked out this church once back in November, and had given her seal of approval. She was right again…as usual. I’ve always felt a bit odd going by myself though…especially since I’m still wearing my wedding ring (that’s a whole ‘nother topic). Anyway…it was a nice service. A visiting family group of musicians led Praise and Worship, and Pastor John showed a clip from the movie “The Passion of the Christ”. He spoke on Isaiah 53, and about claiming what is already ours (“By His stripes, we ARE healed”).  Sharon used to kid me about how a Chicago city boy who grew up as a Roman Catholic could ever wind up going to a Spirit-filled, speaking-in-tongues, shout Hallelujah church. I blame it all on Rodney Howard Browne…with a little help from the Holy Spirit.

Yes…I know we’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath…but after church, I really needed to get the old John Deere revved up (after recharging a dead battery and putting air in the tires…I had neglected my duties before winter had set in). I’ve decided to go for a more natural look this year by mowing less grass. I’ve already seen some daisy-like flowers popping up on their own.  I sent away for some prairie grass seeds to add a little exotic flair to the landscaping (yes…I’m doing my part to introduce invasive, non-indigenous species into the neighborhood). I’m probably only one of about three households within the surrounding square mile, so I don’t think the neighbors will mind. They don’t mind Hector.

I finally got the grass cut…not bad for the first pass of the season (I’m now thinking of letting a little more of the grass revert to its natural seed-bearing form). After a brief interlude of running out of gas (I was able to search out a few thimblefuls in an almost empty gas can in the shed, which helped me to avoid pushing the tractor back up the hill to its parking spot). Grass is now done…until next weekend if we get more rain during the week.

So goes my experiment in country living.

Tomorrow is Sharon’s birthday.

never the same

I wrote this when we were attending Rodney Howard Browne’s church in Tampa, Florida. Rodney would pace around saying “Never the same…never the same”  with his South African accent when speaking about the effects of receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s taken on another significance lately…

never the same

Everything can change…

…in a New York Minute. On January 22nd of this year, Sharon Kay, the love of my life, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack right before my eyes. No goodbyes…no sad farewells…just one minute here, and the next…gone from my life. The only thing I could do for her was to kiss her goodbye, and then read Psalm 23 to her. I hope it was the last thing she heard. It’s been three months and one day, and I’m still trying to sort it out in my mind. I’m hoping that getting my thoughts down on the pages of this blog will help me wrap my head around this most significant change in my life.

Sharon’s Rose

In my heart there blooms a flower,

day by day, and hour by hour,

sweeter fragrance no one knows…Sharon’s rose.

Planted as a seed so small,

how it climbed o’er my heart’s wall,

constantly it blooms and grows…Sharon’s rose.

Even though this rose is wild,

with its thorns a love beguiled,

still the love that I chose…Sharon’s rose.

What can I say about Sharon? She was my wife…my best friend…my lover. She was a mother who raised two beautiful children…Beau and Amber. She was a loving daughter…a nurse, who helped countless number of people during her brief stay here on Earth. She held the children of Haiti and Mozambique in her heart by her generous support and prayer for their needs. She prayed for the peace of Jerusalem.

But most of all, she was a servant of the most High Lord Jesus.

She came into my life, and pulled me back onto the path of the straight and the narrow. In doing this, she was truly a gift from God, and I will be eternally grateful. In the book of Revelation, John the apostle spoke about the coming return of our King, something that Sharon looked forward to…

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Sharon has run the race…she has finished the good fight. She no longer has to wait. She is at last in the arms of her Lord and Savior. No more pain, no more tears, no more sorrow…
She’s home.