The Thing About Grass…

There is something about coming home. At least this version of home. I drive around, wondering if a building or a sign or a landmark will draw me back.  It doesn’t. Stop driving! Having been a corporate gypsy for most of my adult life, “home” is where I make it, if you will.

With each move there was a promise of something better, something greener. It’s not that the proverbial grass wasn’t green enough in the places before. Maybe just a restlessness. The idea of staying somewhere, anywhere, just didn’t appeal to me for the better part of thirty years. But seven years into the most unlikely of places, in a little village in North Carolina, I am finding I sort of belong. But that’s just it…it’s not the place.

It’s the grass, you see.

photo by florence barreau

After building my house in Nashville I decided to to sod the back forty. The sod guys showed up and we placed the squares of turf in rows along the big hill and down to the flatter ground by the deck. After staking in the last piece, Eric (sod guy) pulled me aside and offered his Kentucky Fescue wisdom.

“Okay sir…let’s get some water on this right away.” I said okay and turned to head for the garage to grab sprinklers and hoses. He grabbed me by the arm and said, “I need ya to listen to me for a minute.” His tone was serious.

“Now let’s get water on this now. And after you’ve watered it, WATER IT AGAIN.”

I said, “Okay, got it.”

He never released my arm and his voice got a little louder, almost paternal.

“And THEN, after you’ve watered it again, WATER IT AGAIN.” I complied.

It grew and flourished and coloured the scape of my little slice of the Tennessee hills. I had to mow it, weed it from time to time, feed it, and give it drink when rain was on hiatus. I loved that damned grass.

I am seeing that it isn’t about the real estate. My “turf” is made up of these blades of grass that are deeply human. In this metaphorical overflow there is a point here. I find myself comfortably placed among a few others on a small piece of this planet. Growing together. My family of new. The very sight of them brings a smile. They are there in joy and crisis and in the mundane. I was lucky enough to be aware when we met…opening the opportunity to be known and loved and treasured by them, and them by me. These few who make this life full again. It doesn’t matter the state or the city or the hill. I am here with them. It is where I choose to be and I choose because I grow well.

Giving thanks for the dear ones in my life. I’ll keep watering.

Goodwill Haunting…(repost)

We are going to do some cleaning and purging and rescuing in my mom’s garage this week. I have green dots and red dots for things to go or stay…for good. If not for this week (years in the making) this space would be prototype for an episode of Hoarders.

As I thought of project and the stories sure to come, I was reminded of this original post. I offer it back as head and heart prep for the time ahead.


March 26, 2012


I took a bunch of stuff to Goodwill tonight. Bags of clothes and boxes of things. Things from a life before. Things that needed a new home.

There is an emotional stew that accompanies the journey from pile to trunk through the drive and into the outstretched arms of a volunteer on the loading dock. Jeans worn through later years with kids in the woods and on the beaches and playtime with the Wonder Dog. Lamps that threw light on a thousand books that opened or closed or then reopened my mind and my soul. Art that seemed to strike a chord of relevance at the time or whose colors worked nicely with the pillows on the old worn leather couch (also going) or the dining set or just because they said something. Shoes and t-shirts that like tree bark represent eras and philosophical shifts and attempts at identity.

And yes, the books themselves. Those paper works that absorbed the oil of my hands. Pages torn and bent and highlighted and underlined and noted. My teachers. My silent debate partners. My friends. My enemies and allies. My muses.

Knick Knacks of all type. Some that had meaning and others whose motivation for collecting completely escapes me. Fewer of them made the journey to Goodwill than were packed originally. With each touch and turn a memory would trace its way back. I smiled. I cried a bit. I stood and put one here and there on my bookshelf or on a table or back in the box pulled from its attic home. A pause in the proverbial handoff of an heirloom. These inanimate things have so much life. Ghosts in their own right. Speaking to me as they were toted and offered to another. Reminding me that like photographs and cards and rings and other things all had a place in my history. Haunting me now that I know I have left them. Tonight sitting on metal shelves in rows with like kind, awaiting their next caretaker. My hope is that the things worn will warm a body. My hope is that other things warm hearts as they surely did for me once before. New day. New era. I’m not afraid of ghosts. Visit me as you will. Finish the journey with me…with others whose life I hope you touch.

Something To Look Forward To: A Life’s Campaign Promise

Mom has been visiting me for a week or so now. In keeping with our tradition,the time during dinner or later is spent considering the mysteries and jewels of life. At four-score and something, she is more interested in learning than offering the wisdom of generations of experience. She does that too, but her curiosity always trumps her need to jive memoirs or wax nostalgic of “back in the day” (which I also dig).

Looking Forward

“Always have something to look forward to.” Patti Keyser

Mom and Dad didn’t have a lot of those lines that became a staple of their conversation from my youth to adulthood (whatever that is). But this line has been a part of mom’s counsel since I can remember. In the midst of a conversation about relationships and politics and my continuing education and who remembers what else (we were well into a bottle of Pinot), she smiled and said, “Always have something to look forward to.”

I paused and appreciated the gift of optimism. I’ve been called an eternal optimist, an idealist, a prototype for ‘rose colored glasses,’ and even once, a Pollyanna. In her role as the Maternal Optimist, she has been reminding me all week –unbeknownst to her — that life has great possibilities. Hell, she is working on her next decade.

As we discussed her new interest in yoga and her desire to return to painting, she said to me, “I need a plan. Will you help me with one?”

I can only only hope that thirty-six years from now that I have a plan for the next ten.

Joy in the little things is what was to be my lesson from her this week. I had to drive to one of our hospitals about a hundred miles away this week. I offered to have her join me and to drop her off at a mall for a hair style and some shopping while I attended meetings. She enthusiastically accepted. But you see, the mall and the shopping didn’t matter much; she told me she was just looking forward to the drive. On the way home, I was talking about the features on my iPhone (which she was uber interested in for a moment). She listened for a moment and then drew my attention to a really cool cloud formation and went on and on about the color and the shape. “I’ve never seen a pattern like that,” she said. Later that night, I spoke of the beautiful Napa Valley varietal we enjoyed after dinner. Mom was fascinated in the recycled glass wine glasses we drank from. We skipped primetime drama shows in order to watch and virtually empathize with those whose lives were entirely changed by an angry storm. We talked of our country’s resilience, despite storms and whomever occupies the White House. I stayed on the porch and reflected on simple joy…a life less complicated.

My thoughts were drawn to the generation two down from mom. My hope (already very high) was Red Bulled.

My nephew, David, pastors youth and travels any chance he gets to war torn regions of the world to build things…to grow things…buildings, hearts, spirits. My niece teaches. She teaches those with challenges. Like most teachers, she is part educator, part therapist, part advocate, and all in! Their mom (my sister) is another one of those what’s-right-with-the-world people. ALWAYS looking at possibilities and not barriers. It carries.

My daughter pulls from her formal education and her experience in poverty immersed villages in Nepal to offer counsel and compassion to those who struggle with demons of the mind and spirit. Her smile crushes the most aggressive cynicism. And my son studies night and day and then attends his clinicals in preparation of a life dedicated to healing. His scientific mind mixed with his Montana-sized heart for people will make healthcare better.

You see, my point in this epic post is this: I look around me…at this group of DNA, and think of just how much there is to look forward to. I think we are in good and capable hands. I have so much to look forward to. This new and full life. Full of unknowns and joys and mysteries to be solved or at least observed.

Thanks, Mom. Love always.