The Gap

“The heartbreaking gap between the way we were and the way we are…”

Just a book-review excerpt that got me thinking in my post-ending emotions…

Endings and beginnings, and after that and before. The way we were, the way we are, the way we will be. The way I was, the way I am, the way I will be. It’s what I would write about if I were brave enough.

Where in our timeline that gap, those gaps fall… that is what shapes each of our stories. Some look back on the glory days with the most fondness; some cannot even look back, the pain too excruciating. Some realize the missed opportunities; most never do. Regret can infiltrate nostalgia and release its toxins directly into the heart. The way we were, the way we are… sometimes the greatest heartbreak is the lack of gap, when we are static, when we are trapped, when we are still in that situation; it’s what broke me once, realizing decades later, in that inconvenient moment of denial ripped off, raw, it was the same as it always was.

I was trapped for half my life. Of course, no one ever truly is. But we might as well be, for the layers of boulders we submit to, allowing ourselves to be entombed. For me, I ironically stayed for my children, for if we left, I would have to send them back regularly without me. I chose to never let them be without me as their protector. I was aware of the light fading from the start, as I finally gave in to the vows. I saw the single sun ray through the avalanche the whole time. I chose not to move the rocks.

The way we were, the way I was… I look back on her now sometimes. Through windows. The one-way rainy panes of pain. I wish I could reach her. To let her know about today, who we are now. I know she will never lose faith, but oh those years… so many…. Yet, it simply is true: who we are now, we could never be, if we weren’t the way we were then. If I had the power to spare her, I don’t think I would. Well, maybe I would. To think she could have known happiness all those years…

In my late forties now, I have only just begun to become who I am. The way I am… it is the present. I could never be me until now. You never can be, I don’t think, without self-love. And you really have to be free first for that to happen. I honestly never really had the time or energy for myself; all I knew was survival mode. Crisis mode. Selfless mode. Sickness mode. There are always genuine pieces of us intact through that all though, I feel. Our souls that predate our mortal lifespan. The girl in the panes… she doesn’t realize. She just doesn’t. She and I are so different. Yet, we are the same. I feel myself still in her. The soul. The dreams she is loosening her grip on, yet always retaining fierce faith.

Sometimes, we deteriorate from the way we were. We chase what we think is happiness but always open our arms and hands to find nothing there. We keep chasing. We are still empty and our time is up. Or we succumb to the tomb. We had it once and lost it. We will never reach for that ray and remove the first rock. For others like me, all we have known is the rock cell. My story does not begin at birth. My life is just now starting. My future… well, I am confident that I will devote part of it to searching for such self-tombs, removing a rock from each. I think there is a universal rule that one is the limit. The rest must be done from the inside. I think I have found my way though, whispering, singing, and dropping notes faithfully through those single rays. And I wouldn’t know about these tombs without the experiences I’ve had. I visit my own from my past, and release a butterfly within; I feel his hand then slide into mine, and his sunset-silhouetted kiss in what I’ve come to know as love, makes my own flutter up inside. Again.

“We’re going to be more than alright,” I whisper to my past self through the hole. Then we head to his old tomb before heading home. Through the gap, in hand, we see my poem.

Dynamic Art

The things we edit…

When it comes to my photography, editing to me is not perfecting, so I suppose I should call it altering; it is transforming creatively the tone, literarily, though that often comes from color changes, cooling or warming, fading or imbuing, really a canvas with my technology as the brush, though you would be surprised with the media I use, an old iPhone about to give out and whatever standard editing app it came with.

My lab is my mind’s eye in reverse, creating what my soul wishes to express, I but a medium myself. I play until the aha moment, always knowing that is exactly what I was looking for. Each starting photo, a message itself I collect from nature. Sometimes it speaks as is, especially when it is lit. Sometimes it lends itself, whispers, “Do with me what you may, May Child; my metamorphism is in your trusted hands. Make me the more you believe I am.”

Sometimes I feel the nature challenges me in this way to keep going beyond and beyond, rebirthing new ways, not godlike, but godchildlike, spending my days attune to the spirit in the petals and breezes, in the rays and the blades, in the insect and the web. I create with images I creatively capture, crouched down and over the barely noticed, shrinking further than Alice into the macroworld, still infused with wonder, perhaps even more so. With each alteration, a new message, perhaps divinely inspired.

I do my duties in the world so I can retreat––into the yard, into myself, into the absence of voices except my inner one and the whispers from butterflies and the birdsong, and I listen and listen for The One as I visit my many companions of the natural realm. Often, I bring heaven down. To earth. Though I find enough evidence that it is already here. All about us. And as much as I avoid the humans, I know the greatest purpose here is to love one another. My purpose the same but from afar. Bringing light and hope to you is how I try to do my part. 

The things we edit… 

Often, in relation, we edit by removing blemishes, by cropping out all the real, showcasing our best fake versions of ourselves and our lives, for behind the cameras lie the whole truths. We compete. We turn the cameras around onto the shells of our selves, lose the nature and others, snapshots of ourselves as the universe’s center, lenses in reverse yet outward, for our inner selves are not the focus. 

There are pieces of heaven in each of us. Because we were each made the way He intended. What we make of ourselves from what we were given: that is the welcomed art of continued collaborative creation. Excavate the light within. Keep painting with your truest inner discovered colors. We should never settle for being done when we are each and all continued masterpieces in progress. May we never fade permanently to sepia or still life; though both of these are essential to the process. 

I still believe we can beautifully alter all of this… 

All words and images on this site ©LauraDenise

A Fallen Blossom At Dawn

Another fallen blossom…
like the ones before
in years passed
I photographed
and told stories for.

Each of these moves me
in such profound ways;
what’s underfoot,
what others pass,
stops me in my tracks
with the silent beauty
so profoundly displayed.

For a lifetime, I feel
I could sit and contemplate,
reflect on all the lessons
and secrets it portrays…

This is how I know
I’m different, 
for off the beaten path,
tucked away,
alone in nature
is my happiest place. 

The soft morning light
haloing the fallen lady
bids me pay respect 
and paint legacy allegories.

Not as sad as the last one
I payed homage to, 
(but of course that is influenced 
by my inner untappable currents
and current surface mood,
no doubt, in turn, affected by
the recent tides and moon…)
this fallen beauty, still so poised,
fills me with bittersweet truths,

for we, the best things, this life itself…
all fleeting, all blossoms plucked by breezes
in the grand scheme of it all,
these hundred years if we are lucky
(but who’s to say that’s luck
when we know not
what’s next and beyond;
perhaps those taken early
were needed for something else,
angels only visiting
to help us with ourselves…)
nothing at all, 
a blink in time,
though insignificant
nor the center 
of the universe 
should we feel;
we are each dearly loved,
part of the same mother tree
unseen but a morph of every variety,
the keeper of every seed and leaf
releasing us one by one
into the world 
upon the breezes
in perfectly timed seasons
to root ourselves
until it’s our time
and we are called back again
like this beautiful blossom
having just detached.
I always wonder if it’s 
a leap of faith or
sacrifice or circumstance.

In any event, who could not
ponder the rest of their life
happening upon

a “fallen” blossom
at dawn. 

Poem and image ©LauraDenise

Clues & Pieces

Reinvention of the self,
a mosaic,
from pieces forged
and discovered–
some to be polished,
painted,
others best with
the coatings of
dust and dirt.

Have you found yourself? 

I’ve been rethinking this concept lately. For me, I have never really been looking for myself but rather my home, that place where I feel completely welcome, where I am already accurately and wholly known, where I can be completely, freely me, where I’ve been missed, where it makes sense, where it feels just right.  My soul has always been restless.  As a girl and teen, I always felt different, in a sense, like I couldn’t really relate to others. I think because I was always thinking, philosophizing, dreaming. Feeling seemed to be my superpower–not in sensitivity but in depth. I have always thought and felt too deeply about things. I have always been an old soul, have always felt like I’m just not in the right time period or realm. 

An example of this–well, I think I wrote a poem about it once. Let me grab it… Here it is:

Freckle Constellation

This group of freckles
on my forearm
has me mooning,
time-warping
to childhood…

Funny how even then,
felt like these freckles
meant something,
seemed like
a constellation,
a coding,
a knowing,
a piece of
the puzzle
of me.

Funny how even then
when we would travel
at night in the station wagon,
I pondered if the street lights
spelled out a message that
you could only see from
a distance…

Funny how even then
I would get lost in my
own philosophical thoughts,
felt a bit out of sorts
when others seemed
so content splashing in
shallow waters
when I was so anxious
to explore the
depths of the sea.

Now at 44, I find myself
mulling over those same
mysteries, a calling to me,
a profound knowing that
there’s not only so much more,
but somehow that so much more
involves me,
and not passively.

Do I believe in destiny?
Perhaps partially.

I feel like I was born to love
but also to defend,
sword in hand…

I wonder how my story
will end.

I look for clues
in the freckle tattoo…

(04/06/18)

Yep, that definitely fits right in with my current contemplation… I think it’s a combination for me of looking for my place–my home–and also myself. For a while now, I’ve just assumed that I would not find this internal place and peace in this life, and that was okay with me; I have always intended to make the most of it. But lately, I am finding that I am actually getting very close. I am finding along the way pieces of myself. I just don’t know if it is a mosaicking process of creating myself or if it is a collection of clues that lead to myself. I like the idea of both. 

This all came up this evening because I was looking at some pictures of wildflowers I recently took, lol (see what I mean about getting lost in thought?…) Wildflowers speak to my soul, plain and simple. The meeker, the smaller, the more tattered, the more beautiful to me, the stronger the pull, the more complex the silent stories… White/ivory flowers have the same kind of spiritual effect on me. Framing fragile, wild “weeds” in the first or last rays of the day… that is my soul in a photograph. Just something about it… a piece, a clue, for sure. 

I have a very strong connection to nature. It’s where I prefer to be. It’s where I feel I belong. I would rather watch the clouds all day and all night than do any of those things others like to do. That makes me a freak to some, I suppose; my family makes fun of me for it. While most flocked to tourist attractions over spring break, I lived the dream: poetry, photography, and nature. At home. Lots of pajama time. Lots of coffee and tea. (Hence the abundance of posts on Sunday, my last day to indulge in my hobbies before work began again.) Although I am rather socially fearless and can easily be the life of a party, I would rather be home alone doing my own thing. I think I would be quite content as a hermit, preferably a writer in a small, cozy cottage amidst diverse nature. 

So wildflowers are a clue along the trail of myself, or the trail home, or a piece I choose to include in my “me” mural. 

past the flower beds
I seek colors of the wild
to appease my soul

I sit for a while
let my inner light visit
no place like this home

(double haiku)

The morning after writing this post, I discovered my friend’s beautiful video capturing one of his “children’s” books (with his gorgeous artwork and inspired by his dear chickens). It made me cry. And the timing and relevance…so special. Please do take a moment to be moved. Please do yourself the favor of enjoying more of John’s work and soul: https://mylifewithgracie.com/2021/03/20/a-read-beside-me-book-video/

Monday to Monday

Everything happens for a reason? No, I don’t think so. I hope not. I am not a believer in fate to that extreme. It’s too controlling. If it were truth, I’d personally journey to dethrone those meddling Moirai and take back my life. I’d do it for others too.

Now destiny to me is a whole different matter. Even the word is more beautiful. While fate feels fortune-cookie prescribed, destiny feels like personal potential. Fate’s word origin is “that which has been spoken” whereas destiny’s is “to establish.” One makes me wish to defy and retaliate, though essentially, it would supposedly be futile to do so; at worst, it makes me want to give up, surrender. The other makes me want to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter the obstacles—in fact, obstacles become welcome and necessary—choosing the paths, to become all that I can be, all that my higher power wishes for me to discover about myself to bring me closer and closer to The Light.

Some things happen for a reason. I absolutely believe in this. That reason being loving, personal, divine intervention, when we are directly presented gifts, even (and perhaps more importantly) obstacles and uneasy feelings. It is these moments that I feel are crucial for our destinies. The choices. The free will.

Monday after work, I seized the day, to ride the wave of what was at the time the merging of a beautiful late afternoon with my good spirits; I headed for the coast (across the street but a 20-minute drive to the National Seashore parking area I opted for rather than the main beach). I just wanted to bank some credit on my emotional health, as this school year for me as a teacher has been the most challenging yet. Usually in my past, I would more likely seek out nature as my medicine upon feeling the first symptoms of mental unwellness, though my soul requires daily doses of the outdoors. I’ve had the photos I took that afternoon in my phone; no particular inspiration came from them during the week. Until now.

Monday again. A holiday. Yet something off within me. I get frustrated with that feeling because I feel I’ve put sooooo much work into my total healing that I deserve to never feel an uncomfortable feeling again. That’s absurd though, I know, and I would probably hate such a boring emotional predictability. I talked to my higher power aloud, as is natural for me. I retracted my request to take these disquieting feelings from me to “unless I am meant to feel them for a purpose because I need to, because you are trying to help me realize something.” I sat down on the couch with my morning coffee (deliberately avoiding my bed) and brought a notebook, as it seemed like a pen-to-paper doodling therapy session might be needed over the digital screen. It’s raining out; I usually love staying home as reader and writer on a rainy day, but for some reason, though I finished reading a novel, my muses for the first time in a couple of years were not around this week. Until now.

Some things happen for a reason.

The only WordPress post I found myself at, Listening to the Reed, was one from the same soul whose music moved me recently. After reading it and thanking her for the inspiration, my typing fingers remembered again how to dance. And what I saw in Monday’s photos became apparent. Funny how it all comes together in magical moments….

Even before the water comes into view, parking lot inspiration captures me as I snap a photo of a stranger, here too, to use her gifts, “alone” in nature. She is me, the poet, the photographer, using different media. She is the musician brushing notes, and although we all seem to speak a different language, our stories, our messages, are all too similar, invisibly thread us together, I am certain. Her silence, my silence, a silent symphony that runs through us both, all. Solitude is not without its benefits. May we become, again and again, blank and empty, for our higher power’s use of us as instruments, as lenses, as canvases. May we share with one another those masterpieces, the instruments being masterpieces themselves. 

The sun is out still; I am thankful to get off work early enough to enjoy it. Sixty degrees on this February pre-evening. I came to this area for the adventure, though I’ve also come in the past for the solitude. I can see the shoreline through the trees; the hike doesn’t begin until I sink deeper into the sand. The view always seems like a long sought after oasis discovery, yet it is always simply before me, so easily accessible. It seems like cheating to start at Paradise. 

The late afternoon rays highlight the remains of a tree. I’ve visited this one before, but the light upon and within is particularly captivating today. The way the tree stands so resolutely, still firmly rooted yet maimed, seems honorable, and I pause to add a moment of silence to the silence. To me, it is a veteran, not fallen but partially sacrificed. I am standing upon the barrier island that protects the mainland, in official wilderness, where the defenders too often are unseen and unappreciated. 

The soft, beautiful light within draws me in further, not deeper but into the world of its complex interior, a secret cavern faithfully harbored, a portal hesitantly opened for the sincere, and I enter with reverence into its still and shallow waters. 

Exposed, I see every feature, every fissure, every shadowed crevice, and the continued sacrifices. I am reminded of Silverstein’s Giving Tree, and it stills me to pay even more homage. 

From inside the sacred sanctuary, the view of the sun seems so much more beautiful, and the Light so personally and tenderly loving. I recall the times, like a week from today, my private, protected, inner self has looked through such deeply-anchored panes. 

I continue on my solo voyage, following the coastline that has changed, and I remember another hurricane has passed through since my last visit. The windblown tree that throws off the perpendicular order with its angle is the first testament that life inevitably alters us. Yet again, I focus on the roots, still buried, that interconnect with others, locking, intertwining, determined to protect, holding the sand itself together. I recall where I was when this happened, a bit inland, in an interior closet with my daughter and dog. I recall prayers to my higher power to turn the powerfully-increasing storm back to sea, not west or east but back, asking to protect us all, in every land. How relevant, yet even more symbolic, are the exposed roots of the great (still) Live Oak I happen upon next… 

I bend down again to inspect the clues without altering the scene, a cracked log, split halfway down the center and not by the axe, reveals the hollow and part of the skeleton within, severed from the tree, no longer adrift, arrived and at rest at its burial place, but not even that is certain. 

Instead of the expected crabs that usually endlessly entertain me here, I find never-encountered peculiar objects and remnants I have yet to identify. Some explorers are quick to Google their finds, but as curious as I am and as much of a lifelong learner as I hope to be, most of the time, I treasure more the mystery, the unexplained, my imagination, the childlike wonder. So much on this excursion is new this time, and I find a peculiar yet not very unsettling eeriness in the lack of both human life and wildlife found anywhere. I continue on, backward or forward in time, I cannot tell, but the present is nowhere about. 

Not-quite-parallel lines, natural elements, hurricane relics, and human footprints all seem to travel in the same direction: along the shore, toward the light. The sound (aptly named) both contributes, discreetly takes away, and smooths again the slate of history. I leave my own temporary tracks, an intermingling legacy, but I sense if I turn around, I may catch Time itself sweeping the evidence away. After all, I am but a visitor in this past or future, and my present is patiently waiting for my return. I press on, though, just a bit more, farther and further away from the portal. 

The sand itself becomes more and more buried beneath the new after-storm covering. The terrain, so foreign-feeling, draws my attention to my every step. Sooner than I wanted, I arrive at the infamous “where the beach ends.”  

This was not the end before though; funny how endings can change. I want to be allowed to pass, to make it to the tree patch where the seabirds often nest. I pause at the obstacle I could surmount if I choose to, but I doubt the wildlife I am looking for is up there this time. It is neither doubt nor fear of the unknown though that propels my pivot but the satisfaction of this leg of my journey today, and my present is one that I am not trying to escape, unlike the pattern of my past. 

In my return journey, as it grows late in the day, I do not light the torch but instead frame the flame between two seemingly scorched matchstick trees. Sometimes a shift in perspective can become a powerful thing. This non-desolate non-wasteland thrives with natural, resilient beauty. We are blessed to witness its offerings. In the absence of our existence, the surf would still play its music, the flower would still bloom, the bird would still sing, though I do believe they prefer to gift us those things. But the green.. the green would gleefully creep out from the earth and revel in its reclamation, stretch its vines and branches and burst forth new leaves and lift itself again to the heavens. 

The clouds begin to rise up, themselves, from the sea, rising up to cradle Sun and gently lower it into the ripples, to extinguish the day’s light. Benevolent Moon will soon fill in so darkness never truly sets in, and stars will adorn the night, to collect our wishes and christen them in the magical moonlit tide.

I hear not the cry of Yeats’ falcon; I see not his sea beast. The only wild creature that crosses my path is the single, silent pelican, wings spread wide, as it soars like a promise of hope into the cloud-misted sunset. 

I was called to the coast on a Monday,
though my core was perfectly intact.
On a rainy day inside me,
it restored my soul on the next. 

Photographer’s note: the only thing I edited in these photos was lightening some of the shadows…

Related by Laura: My Mother is the Beach

First Dandelion

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I am a champion of dandelions, so when I spotted the first one unseasonably early this year in January, it was meaningful to me.

This “winter” along the Gulf Coast has been a wonderland for me despite the absence of snow. Summer flowers refused to fold, autumn arrived in December and passed yet lingers, some leaves finally fallen and browned, others “frozen” in time.

I don’t think the leaves and flowers and frost are confused by the erratic temperatures. It feels more willful than that. They feel alive, refusing to conform, but not in a defiant resistance, more of a joyful jubilee, an awakening, a desire to witness, delayed death meeting premature birth, overlapping, perhaps just this once as planets form a particular pattern.

I see the parallels in me.

I woke long before dawn on a Sunday because I couldn’t sleep, didn’t want to, any longer. I yearned to write, to seize the day, because it was mine. As much as I love my career, it dictates me like any other. No agenda today but my own, the only notes needed, the scribblings of poetic thoughts flittering in the spring of my mind. Like the flowers and leaves out of doors, I will inevitably sleep but if fate allows, I’ll decide the time. A nap with the window open mid-afternoon, perhaps in the middle of a chapter, perhaps in an hour.

The seasons of our lives are wed to time, and these seasons are defying order, the same way the past in me can mix with my present, competing for my attention, openly and beneath. Sometimes it is simply past time for the last leaf to release its grip; after all, it is sacrificial and needed for the tree’s perseverance. The trees of life within us, like the blooms, will assuredly bud again. Perhaps the exposed bareness is necessary for us too, to feel the abrasive, harsh winds, to virus-hibernate for a while, to better appreciate the warmth and warmer rains, and friends. To extend once again or for the first time, our olive branches.

I lean down to the ground behind my privacy fence to capture the “Tooth of the Lion.” I shake my head instead of getting mad when I am photo-bombed. Sometimes the unexpected comes along, for we were not designed to be able to translate the harbinger’s song.

Sunflowers in the Sand

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Sunflowers in the sand

baffle my preconceived notions,

such a traditional earthy flower

sprouting alongside the ocean.

 

It draws me in,

such an unexpected sight,

yellow-bursting heads,

mini-suns against the muted,

so bold and bright.

 

So many thoughts

beyond the beauty

begin to orbit

in my mind.

 

I am reminded

of childhood,

encouraged to

color in the book

true to experienced life,

don’t make the sun blue,

stay within the lines,

learn early

to close your mind.

 

Sunflowers in the sand

seem to defy,

toss their heads proudly

yet their humility

roots a portrait

symbolic of choosing

one’s own path

and life.

 

People on the beach

pass by,

seem oblivious

to the mini-miracles

and massive messages

that entrance

and shape me

from the inside.

 

And that is the difference

between the photographer-poet

and the others:

we see beneath and beyond,

we hear the whispers.

 

We capture it in the lens

and ink-dipped pens

and present it back to you,

artfully gifting

a beautiful impression,

another perspective,

a deeper connection,

hoping you’ll pause

long enough for

reflection.

 

Sunflowers in the sand

should never be overlooked.

You would never find them

in a coloring book.

 

Poem and image ©LauraDenise

I Look Deeply

I look deeply into my childhood eyes.

At 47, I somehow find myself still looking for myself. With major life changes a couple of years ago came a focus on me for the first time. I have been learning about myself, healing myself, growing myself. Extremely low self-esteem grew to tolerating myself to accepting myself to liking myself to loving myself. Vanity knows it has no chance with me; I have simply come to embrace the me God lovingly and very intentionally created. At the same time, I am striving to excavate that person, repeatedly cleaning the mirror and removing the accumulated film put there over time by others and by my own self that has distorted who I am beneath.

I am not having any kind of midlife crisis. I have already had enough crises to last me a lifetime. I do feel I have been having an identity crisis, though. Perhaps because I have always been a caretaker and people-pleaser and rule-follower. I’m not sure what parts of me I merely absorbed from others, which are soulfully me and which are simply surface superficial. What does not only looking at myself but others with new clarity in the mirrors and lenses reveal? I had grown comfortable in denial in some matters for quite time, almost as if I put myself into a self-induced protective state to fully reawaken at a later time, when I was more capable of handling truths.

I am wakening now. As a friend put it recently, this is my renaissance.

So I look deeply into my childhood eyes. Before the world so heavily influenced me and shaped me. I look for clues about my authentic self, about the me God created before I strayed so far away from his plans for me. It took until recently for me to realize He probably wants better for me, wants happiness for me, wants me to fully develop my talents and grow into my full potential, wants me to take care of myself, wants me to love myself as He does. To not like oneself when you believe you were divinely created seems to me now as an insult to the Creator, to doubt your beauty and purpose and potential. Even the physical body is said to be His temple.

When it comes to identity, I believe despite the influences, we eventually come to a point where we consciously and willfully accept or reject ideas and ideals, trying on different ones, keeping the ones that feel like a natural fit and rejecting the ones that do not. When it comes to my personal identity, I identify as a believer, a feeler, a dreamer, a lover, a nature-lover, a creative, and a philosopher. Funny, those are all of the things I know to be true, to see in those very same eyes, in my childhood photos.

So perhaps I have always known who I am. Perhaps I have simply fallen away from my authentic self. Perhaps it is never too late to begin the journey back. Perhaps the only work I need to do is to clean the path.

As I pick up each piece from my past, I must decide which I leave out and which I pack up. For I do not believe we can ever toss out anything; it will all always come back. All of it becomes a part of us, whether we want it to or not. But we can look at each piece through new lenses over time, evaluate each differently, price each more genuinely. There has been far too much clutter falsely distracting me, leading me astray, some placed in the path by others purposely.

Up ahead, I see myself and look forward to the reunion. For only when you find yourself along the looping trails again can you finally resume the forward journey.

Southbound

This photo popped up on my Facebook Memories this morning with some comments about my inspirational journey that made me teary.

It is of my daughter looking like she is deep in thought. I had just uprooted her life with a sudden move from Ohio to Florida when I accepted my first teaching job at the start of the school year. Six years later, she reports still not being happy with me about that. But I think it was all for the best.

It actually felt selfish. I had finished graduate school, but competition for teaching jobs was fierce in my area despite my having served all of the districts as a substitute teacher. It was the end of July. It looked like I would have to sub another year.

I actually don’t even remember how I learned of the vacancy in Florida, in the area my mom lived, the area I was a regular tourist of for many years. It wasn’t through mom because I remember surprising her with the news.

I got hired over the phone. My future supervisor claimed she just had a feeling about me through our conversations. (Or they were desperate.)

I had three weeks before I had to report to work, three weeks to move! Ahhh! I am NOT a frequent mover. I get very attached to homes and hometowns. We had lived in Ohio from the time my son started Kindergarten to his then junior year at The Ohio State University. We came for a (failed) career opportunity for my husband. Previously, I had lived in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. That’s it.

But Florida was familiar to us all as tourists since my mom moved down there when I was pregnant with my first child. The absolute heart-wrenching part of the decision was leaving my adult son, separating the siblings. But he had already moved out and led a busy life of his own. Most kids grow up and move away, but I was blessed in having mine stay. It was I who left him and moved away, like my mom did when I was his age. It tore me up emotionally. Lots of tears.

But I felt very strongly God’s calling, like I had a few times before in my life. With my marriage at its end (again), I should have been able to make the decision for myself, for my future, for the future of my children, but I simply would not have without feeling God’s hand.

I do still have guilt I moved my daughter and left my son. But I also acquired a stable salary with benefits and was able to pay my bills for the first time in my life. Although my husband followed me down here and we gave it one more shot (again), my twenty-four-year marriage finally came to a peaceful end once and for all four years later.

Above all, I could not ever imagine being more passionate or more fulfilled than I have been every day at this high school, with my staff and student family. Would I have gotten hired eventually up north? Maybe. Would I have loved my school? Maybe. We can never know.

We can never know what the future holds for us, what lies just beyond the next curve in the path. We simply blindly choose the paths, though we must be willing to change direction as needed, sometimes even going off-trail altogether. Sometimes we must collect, empty, exchange the gear in our packs depending on which path or non-path we wish to explore.

We must keep moving forward until we are sure we are home. That direction only becomes clear when we still ourselves enough to hear the calling, feel the gentle tug, of the soul.

I know I ended up where I was meant to be. And now I feel another’s pull leading to me. My story is filling with so many new beginnings.

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