I’m home for one day between trips (one 2012 final event for Circling Faith, this past Saturday at Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia (see picture at right) and tomorrow I’m off to Denver to visit kids and grands) with little time for blogging, so this will be short. I wanted to share my recent adventures in air travel, since many folks will be doing this during the holidays. (And I’ve got another trip in December after this one.)
But first, at midnight last Thursday night—the night before I would be flying to Atlanta—I got a phone call from Lakeland Nursing Home in Jackson (Mississippi) where my mother is a resident. My heart always skips a beat when I see their name on my caller ID, and especially at midnight. Mom had gotten out of bed unassisted and fallen on the floor in her room. She didn’t seem to be in pain, but they still had to call the ambulance to take her to the emergency room at St. Dominics Hospital. For the next few hours, I slept restlessly, waiting for them to call me back. My mind was spinning—would I have to cancel my flight to Atlanta and my plans to join Wendy Reed and Barbara Brown Taylor for our reading in Athens? Would I need to drive to Jackson? Finally around 5:30 a.m. they called back to say Mom was back at Lakeland. X-rays showed nothing was broken. She didn’t even have any bruises or bumps. And of course, she had already forgotten what happened.
Sleep-deprived, I got up, finished packing and headed to the airport. The plane was full to overflowing. (I’m thinking lots of folks were headed to Atlanta for the Alabama-Georgia SEC final game.) So, the airport personnel at the gate asked us over and over to please check our carry-on bags, that there would NOT be room for all of them on the plane, and it would delay the flight if we don’t. Of course I was first in line to check mine, and I noticed a few others checking theirs. But once we boarded, the fun began. One woman in particular, caused most of our delay. She had two carry-ons. One was obviously too large, and yet she insisted on carrying it down the aisle of the plane, where she discovered it wouldn’t fit in the overhead bins. There were dozens of people standing behind her, trying to get to their seats. So, she had to stand in the back of the plane until everyone boarded, then take her bag to the front to check it. She continued to argue that she didn’t want to check it, although there was no place it would fit. A baby was crying. A cat (yes) was meowing loudly. The air vent above my seat was broken and it was hot on the crowded plane. But finally we were off.
(BTW… I had a wonderful weekend with my sister-in-law, Cathy, and her family in Atlanta. She drove me to Athens on Saturday for my reading at Avid Bookshop. We enjoyed touring the University of Georgia campus (where all three of her kids went to school) and downtown Athens. Brunch at NONA (New Orleans style) and dinner at The Last Resort, after our event at Avid Bookshops. Terrific weekend! I’ll post lots of pictures on Facebook later today.)
So… on the return trip on Sunday, I go to the Sky Club to relax and have a drink before the flight. I’m happy to discover that I’ve been upgraded to First Class, which will make my flight more pleasant. But the attendant in the Sky Club fails to tell me, when I show her my boarding pass, that the gate has been changed. So, I walk out of the Sky Club, which is near Gate 16, and walk 14 gates away to Gate 30, only to find out the flight has been moved to
Gate 4. Hurrying 26 gates back through the crowds in the other direction, I make it in time and get seated. No luggage drama this time. But after the flight attendant gives their demonstration, the captain comes on and says there’s a small mechanical difficulty. Twenty minutes later he says we can’t fly this plane, to please de-board the plane and they would tell us which gate to go to for another flight. Dozens of weary travelers crowd around the gate waiting for instructions. Finally they tell us which gate to go to, and we go rushing en mass to our new destination. But another group of travelers pass us by, singing Christmas carols! It wasn’t a professional flash mob group, (like this one in Denver last year) but their joyful spirits sure did lift mine, and I found myself singing along with them, “jingle all the way!”
Waiting in line at my new gate, I looked around at my fellow passengers, and wondered if they were traveling for business or pleasure here at the beginning of the holiday season. I’m sure it was a mix.
We boarded the plane, taking the exact same seats we had on the previous plane. I sat down beside my previous seat partner, and we exchanged a greeting, and watched the familiar faces going down the aisle beside us. One man smiled at us and said, “Déjà vu, right?”
My travel partner didn’t miss a beat. “Groundhog Day!”
And we all laughed.
The flight was only an hour late getting into Memphis. I missed the Harbor Town Christmas Parade, but got to see our neighbors mingling around the big lighted tree at Christmas Tree Park, just around the corner from our house, where their children posed with Santa for pictures and their parents enjoyed food and drinks. Bill and I decided to eat at our neighborhood bar & grill, Tug’s. I had had enough excitement for the day.
Enjoy your travels during the holidays. Take time to sing. And to laugh.
I never leave the house on Black Friday. But today I’m going to make an exception. My Goddaughter, Sophie, is dancing some scenes from “The Nutcracker” at the Peabody Hotel this afternoon. Shouldn’t be too many crazy shoppers hanging out there, right? And watching ballet is one of the activities I suggested during the holidays in my Mental Health Monday post, “Fighting the Holiday Blues with Music, Art, Food, Friends, and Writing.”
Okay, I understand that you need to do your Christmas shopping. And sales are good for your budget. But look at the bigger picture—support those small businesses and cottage industries, some of which are owned by your friends and neighbors. And to remind everyone about this alternative shopping experience, sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday… it’s Small Business Saturday. If you’ve got an American Express card, enroll it here to receive a $25 credit to your account when you spend $25. Sweet.
Here’s an article by Karen Mills, SBA Administrator, explaining more about Small Business Saturday.
Burke’s Books’ Holiday Gifts Ideas – Memphis’ oldest independent book store. Browsing their shelves and chatting with their wonderful staff is as far from the madding crowd of Black Friday as one can get.
Buy from friends who are selling their art or food items. Especially if they are giving part of the proceeds to a good cause—like Teresa Waters, who is selling pecans to help support the Memphis Interfaith Hospitality Network (MIHN). It’s an emergency shelter serving homeless families in Memphis/Shelby County. I just ordered 15 pounds of praline pecans from her to give as gifts this year.
Last year I purchased a dozen or more boxes of my friend, Fran Tylavsky’s, homemade chocolate bourbon balls. You can order ahead from her business, Frantic Chocolates, or find them for sale at several local sites, including Miss Cordelia’s Grocery (here in Harbor Town) or the Trolley Stop Market.
Our friends, Chris and Anna-Sarah Farha, have a great cottage industry product, Kentucky Chili. Visit their Facebook page for more information. I know it’s available a number of places in Memphis, including Miss Cordelia’s Grocery in Harbor Town.
Down in Madison, Mississippi, my friend Jonni Webb has a terrific pottery business. It’s not too late to order for Christmas. If you’re in the Jackson area, her work is sold at several local small businesses, including Beemon Drugs, Everyday Gourmet, Green Oak Nursery & Florist, Inside Out, and St. Andrew’s Bookstore. Her work is also sold in about 25 other cities throughout Mississippi and other states. Last year I gave a dozen or more of her “stick’em ups” as Christmas gifts. Check out her Itty Bitty Bud flower holders with magnets, and other great gifts.
In Oxford, Mississippi, my friend, Neil White, owns a small publishing company called Nautilus Publishing Company. They’ve got lots of great coffee table books for sale this Christmas. Got a big football fan on your gift list? Give him Mississippi’s 100 Greatest Football Players. For your Memphis friends, there’s this compilation of over 200 famous Memphians. And for fans of the late, great Barry Hannah, there’s A Short Ride: Remembering Barry Hannah. And some of their books are available in a number of independent book stores, so just ask for them when you drop in during the holidays. If you’re in the Jackson area, stop by Lemuria Books Monday, November 26, for a reading and signing for A Short Ride.
So, if you’re enjoying being off work today, stay home and address Christmas cards, read a good book, listen to some good music, (can music save your very soul?) get your Christmas decorations down from the attic, or just relax and get ready to shop tomorrow—on Small Business Saturday. Have a great weekend!
Today I’m headed to Little Rock for an exciting weekend. Not only because I’ll be hanging out with my best friend, Daphne. But also because I’ll be hanging out with (Little Rock native) Jennifer Horne and Wendy Reed, co-editors of Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality. These women have become so much more than editors to me over the past few months. They have become my friends. And my fellow seekers on our shared path with other Southern women who are circling faith. We’re headed to Little Rock for another reading and signing, this time at WordsWorth Books. It’s in the Heights, my favorite neighborhood, filled with boutiques, art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and bars.
This will be my 8th time to give a reading from Circling Faith since it was published this past spring. Each of these events is an opportunity to have a conversation with other Southern women (and men) who, like us, grew up in the “Christ-haunted South.” It’s a special landscape. Those conversations have been as much (or more) fun and enlightening for the contributors and editors of Circling Faith as they have (hopefully) been for our listeners and readers. Whether it’s a small group of parishioners who showed up at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Memphis for a reading during their Sunday School hour, or a crowd of fifty or more who weathered a pretty severe storm to join us on the last day of the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville last month, they’ve been terrific listeners and conversationalists. Book clubs have shown up in Jackson, Mississippi and Nashville, and we’re also invited to meet with another book club in Little Rock this weekend. Writing workshop leaders in Boulder, Colorado and Clarksdale, Mississippi invited me to read my essay from Circling Faith at their events. So, it’s not just about the faith part. It’s also about the writing. The art.
As Jennifer and Wendy wrote in the book’s introduction:
“Southerners do possess an uncanny ability to believe in the supernatural, to have faith in the face of defeat. Some say it’s what happens when Celtic and Cherokee mix. That the Scots-Irish have never privileged logic. Others say that the Scots-Irish never knew privilege, period. Historian Wayne Flynt says that in a region of an almost inhumane, hardscrabble poverty, it was the only thing they had.”
The women who contributed essays to Circling Faith come from a variety of Southern upbringings and religious experiences. Some of us have left the faith of our childhoods. Others are seeking a new church home. And there are some who are still “circling” their experience of God and spirituality outside the church.
As Flannery O’Connor said, “Most of us come to the church by a means the church does not allow.”
I’d like to share a few quotes from the anthology. All eighteen essays have blessed me greatly, in one way or another. Some have made me laugh. Others have brought tears to my eyes. And others have made me say, “yes” with a fist pump to the brave artistry with which a story has been crafted. Here’s a sampling of a few essays:
“Poetry had worked the same way. I’ve written elsewhere of its Eucharistic qualities . . . . In memorizing the poems I loved, I ‘ate’ them in a way. I breathed as the poet breathed to recite the words: someone else’s suffering and passion enters your body to transform you, partly by joining you to others in a saving circle.”—Mary Karr’s essay, “Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer” (Author of Lit, The Liar’s Club, Cherry, and Sinners Welcome, from which her essay in Circling Faith was excerpted.)
“Having rejected the land of my fathers and the religion of my fathers… am I essentially cut off at the root? Can I make an intellectual decision to grow faith, or to crave dirt?… It seems strange to go church-shopping, but how else can I define and satisfy my needs? It seems strange to go dirt-shopping, but how else can I taste it, and therefore know if I like it?”—Beth Ann Fennelly’s essay, “Taking Terroir on Faith” (award-winning author of Open House, Tender Hooks, Unmentionables, and Great With Child. She and her husband, Tom Franklin, have just co-written a novel.)
“And yes, I hardly ever go to church. But on the rare occasion I do, I don’t feel any differently there than I do at home or in the grocery store. It’s like the whole world has become my church. And every breath I take is a prayer.”—from Marshall Chapman’s essay, “Going to Church” (Nashville singer/songwriter and author of They Came to Nashville and Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller.)
“Sacraments schooled me in the wedding of spirit and flesh. I learned how to do the official ones in church—not just communion, but also baptism, reconciliation, the laying on of hands—and then, when I had the hang of seeing the holy in the most ordinary things, I moved on to celebrating the sacraments of picnic lunches, ordinary baths, forgiving embraces, and rubbing sick friends’ feet.”—from Barbara Brown Taylor’s essay, “What the Body Knows” (Episcopal priest and author of An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, and Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, and eleven other books.)
“And so the whole point is basically to be in yourself, to not resist whatever needs to be worked on in yourself, to let that rise, to let it come and to look at it as closely as you can, and then let it go. And I sometimes say that meditation is like flossing your mind . . . you get rid of a lot of stuff that you actually don’t need to continue carrying around with you.”—from Alice Walker’s interview, “Alice Walker Calls God Mama” (Alice has written numerous books, including the Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Color Purple.)
“I’ve searched all over for something that is right here at home but realizing it requires practice. It seemed easier to flee to India or sit alone in the serene Alps and fast. These were small tests. But in contact with people every day, my anger flares, my heart opens and closes. I am challenged to see God in my new husband, in his children, in the cashier at Borders, in the nurse who takes my blood and in myself. “—from Debra Moffit’s essay, “Pilgrimage” (Award-winning author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life and Garden of Bliss: Cultivating the Inner Landscape for Self-Discovery.)
We are so thrilled that people are embracing this anthology, which went into a second printing shortly after it came out. If you don’t have it yet, please buy it from your favorite independent bookstore. (Great Christmas gift!) We are thankful to the following shops who have welcomed us for readings or provided our books at events: Burke’s Books (Memphis), Lemuria (Jackson, MS), Square Books (Oxford, MS), Parnassus Books (Nashville), WordsWorth (Little Rock, AR), Alabama Booksmith (Birmingham), Page & Palette (Fairhope, AL) and coming up on December 1, Avid Books (Athen, GA).
I’m thinking of alternating “Wordless Wednesday” and “Writing on Wednesday” for hump day blog posts. Today I’ll do a little combo: an exciting store display at a Barnes & Nobles in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where Circling Faith is paired with Stephen King’s latest book, The Wind Through the Keyhole. And then this terrific King quote. Less blogging and more writing today. To the words!