Were I to subscribe to omens, the family drive from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Candler, North Carolina, last week would have put me in a black mood. I’m not sure what formula Google Maps uses to estimate travel time, but I doubt it includes weather, bodily functions, and babies, all of which can add decades. My spunky iPhone 6 (not Plus!) predicted 9 hours and 49 minutes, or some such crap. When wife Kathy, daughter Elena, son-in-law Matt, grandson Cole, and I rolled up my sister Cindy’s long driveway, our constitutions were too battered for math. We squinted at each other and said, “Huh? Yeah, maybe like 17 hours?” Blowing snow, freezing rain, and West Virginia mountains occasionally had us down to 30 mph. Good thing I sit still and pray-meditate a lot. When I was younger, such a drive would have set my bowels into angry, claustrophobic spasms. Are we there yet?
The presumed reason for renting a Town and Country van and heading south was my sister-in-law Betsy Ann’s 80th birthday party. I should have known better. The actual purpose of travel, across town or to another hemisphere, doesn’t reveal itself unless I leave my soul’s door ajar and pay attention. Somewhere in the midst of eating spaghetti or getting lost in a Louis Armstrong song or walking into a coffee shop, I think, “Ah, so this is why I came here.” Tears are often involved.
As soon as Kathy and I put our bags in Cindy and her spouse Linda’s guest room, I began to suspect the days ahead would be about love or life or wonder–something wide-eyed. On the dresser was a photograph of Kathy and me from close to thirty years ago in a frame that said, “Welcome, Kathy and John.”
Thoughtful, this gesture. Along with the photograph went a bag of on-the-road stuff, like toothpaste, shampoo, and travel guides. That’s Cindy for you. Goodness pours out of the woman. She made our mother’s spaghetti sauce for dinner the first evening because she knows it was one of my favorites. But that’s a small detail. Cindy and Linda’s whole household hums with joyful, affectionate chaos. Pets are always making a ruckus, and their grandson Liam’s toys constantly chirp out music.
As if the blessings I’ve mentioned weren’t enough, we energetic travelers got to sample Asheville. A couple of moments there tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Soul, awake!” Asheville! Man, what a town! What I saw moved me, softened me up, cleared my vision. Behold Asheville:
Ah, to wander from beauty to beauty as a fiddle and banjo converse. The buoyant music made me buzz with gladness, and I wasn’t alone. Was I seeing the Holy Ghost in eyes of strangers, somehow no longer strangers? That’s how I felt.
But the moment, my harmonic convergence, arrived at Betsy Ann’s party. Taking advantage of free flowing pinot noir, I watched a photographic loop of the birthday girl’s life. One shot was an epiphany. I don’t consult omens, but do welcome a wave of inspiration, the sight, sound, or word that bestows an ah of recognition, a truth received.
As you can tell, both of my sisters are lesbians joined in marriage. For decades I’ve been fine with homosexuality–as if what I think matters anyway. But when I saw this photograph, all I knew was joy. Oh that everyone who wants to join hands and hearts with another could do so. The human race is doubled over by body blows. Venom is the new norm. And don’t even mention manners.
But look! An 80-year-old woman puts her head on my sister’s 66-year-old shoulder–my sister Cathy, one of the most kind and decent souls in circulation. Don’t most of us want to rest in the arms of a beloved? To lean into another, share the view of a bright land, and think, “I’m home, yes. My home is here, yes. With this one person, yes“?
I’m all about love: guilty as charged. Sentimental, too, I guess. We all have to be about something. I pick this: it’s a wish. If only we could all find love in the measure we need and have the inner freedom to make our way there without fear or shame, however we find ourselves bidden. For some folks, days are weary, desperate, lonely. Love can turn the walk into a jig. If only we could all reach old age and sing to our beloved, as Betsy Ann did.
Turns out the Holy Ghost wasn’t only in Asheville. She was also in Candler, at a birthday party, and in every other place of tenderness and care. What is the Holy Ghost, after all, if not love?
What a lovely piece, John. It’s a reminder of what we can see when our eyes, hearts and minds are open.
Hi, Michelle. That’s really everything for me: trying to keep spirit open and not shut down during dark times. Hope all is well with you and yours. Peace, John
This post filled me with joy.
Thanks for telling me this, Nancy. I receive your joy back again. Peace and keep moving, ay? John
Thanks, Vicki. Hope all is well with you and yours. Peace, John
Beautiful post, John.
Thanks, Deb. Ah, at last I can catch up on reading and keeping up with blogging friends. Good thoughts your way. John
wonderful how friends
even the holy ghost 🙂
Yes! Imagine a world with no strangers! Peace, John
Very Beautiful John!!!
Thanks, Shelley. Hope all is well with you these days. John
After having a hard day I made it a point to sit and read and reflect. God has reminded me throughout the day how I am loved and how I need to share love. Thank you for adding to God’s message that all that really matters in this world is the love we share with one another.
Hi, Jackie. Yeah, I’m not sure how theologically pure the idea is, but I feel more and more that if we can somehow can get loving each other right, we will be keeping God’s word. Hope all is well with you and the gang. Peace, John
Wonderful words about love, John. My partner’s brother was gay and died of Aids many years ago. He worked hard, advocating for affordable housing for people with Aids in Vancouver. McLaren House is named after him. He was loved and accepted by family. They are very proud of him.
Oh, John, what a wonderful world, indeed. I can’t tell you how much this post lifted me. Love abounds. It sings loudest for me in the picture of your sister and Betsy Ann, and Cole and Liam.
In a very busy, chaotic week for me, I put this post aside to read later based on the title. Asheville is the home of Thomas Wolfe, and Look Homeward Angel is one of my favorite books. It’s all about going home again, and it looks like you did.
I am pretty sure the holy ghost is wherever you are. Love the pic of Cole and Liam!
Right back at you, Sally. I bet the Holy Ghost, in all of her forms, sits on all of our shoulders. Peace, John
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