Small town west Texas.
That's what's on my mind.
Last night, I spent the evening on a dirt and rock clearing literally in the middle of nowhere.
Thirty miles south of Post, in a little spot in the road, toes were tapping to the timeless sounds of The Bellamy Brothers, only to be outdone by the shuffling of boots in sync with the drumbeat. Cowboy hats, concho belts with flecks of turquoise and gaudy belt buckles proudly announcing past trophies in some distant arena, the simple existence of the best people in the world was displayed.
I watched as the sky turned shades of pink and purple, camouflage for me since that matches my hair, and the sun went to bed behind the hills and radio towers in the west. A chill blanketed the air and a storm lurking just miles away provided a backdrop of lightening as the smell of rain mixed with pit barbecue.
It was truly surreal.
A step back in time.
Simpler times to be sure.
Children ran and played with no ties to social media or phones, but a simple desire to run, dance and explore with no security concerns.
Yep. Small town west Texas got in my soul last night. I felt a bit overwhelmed at its perfection.
Recently, Benny and I took a leisure weekend trip to Taos, New Mexico, and stopped by an old abandoned church on the way home. We've passed it in a hurry before, never taking the time to stop and pay her a visit. But this time she beckoned us to stop and hear her story.
Driving up the patchy road, her old wooden frame came into focus. Peeling paint, missing steps on the porch, and hollow window frames where once glass filled the empty space provided an "open air" feel.
The space was sacred.
We stepped over missing floor boards and the ones that were present creaked under the weight of our feet.
We were silent as we stood and read the walls. She had a tale to tell.
Travelers had stopped to pour their hearts onto her white walls.
Lovers professed their undying passions for one another.
Religious sentiments were scribbled out with ink and answered by the atheist.
And secrets were brought to the light as visitors felt release upon writing deepest parts on her walls.
We pondered the magnitude of the talking walls. And we questioned what our own walls at home would say.
And we began to listen.
We listened in the living room while we watched our favorite shows. We listened to the guest rooms that had just entertained loved ones. We listened in the kitchen, the dining room and yes, even the bathroom...awkward!
If you listen closely, your walls are talking, too.
There is something magical about blending JOY and FREEDOM together.
If there had been an order form with mother nature Saturday evening, it would have included 80° weather, no wind, twinkling stars and a bright quarter moon.
If there had been an order form for being surrounded by 50 of your closest friends and new acquaintances— all people of excellent character, giving hearts, and a spice for life, that order would have been fulfilled.
If the musical fairy could have ordered the perfect local musician playing oldies to sing and dance along with, this was the night.
If Cupid could have pulled his bow and shot an arrow into two people who have loved each other for 26 years, and captured them on the dance floor without a care in the world, this would have been the night.
Little did this dancing couple know that someone special, celebrating her 70th level of life was taking a candid snapshot of them, twirling, spinning, laughing on a makeshift patio dance floor.
Little did the people watching know that this dancing couple had no rhythm, no dance experience, four left feet between them, but just enough courage to get out there anyway.
And THAT is where the JOY comes from.
Now, about FREEDOM.
When a person has released some things in their lives that have caused heaviness, there is a sense of FREEDOM that cannot be explained with words. There is a lightness, a flowing, and energy that happens.
It has been said that if you want to fly, you have to let go of everything that holds you down.
Unless you truly know this couple, you might not know that the last few years they have gone through some of the hardest things in their lives... and lived to tell about them.
You might not know that they have lost everything and are working to rebuild their lives one brick at a time.
You might not know that they started a new business this year and, like most small businesses, it takes a long time before it works and most days you are left feeling unsupported and questioning if you did the right thing.
You might not know that their family has been torn apart by unforeseen circumstances and that their lives look nothing like what they planned or dreamed it would look like.
You might not know that they have been on a journey in pursuit of FREEDOM in the last year.
They have been running hard after FREEDOM from sadness, grief, worry, financial stress, excess weight, excess belongings, the pressure of caring what others think about them.
The FREEDOM captured in this candid shot is of wild abandonment.
It is the essence of living life despite what’s going on outside of the dance floor.
It is the culmination of two people choosing to love each other, to not give up, to go on when there are days it would be easier to quit.
It is the unbelievable feeling of dancing in a body that has released one hundred pounds over the course of a year, and knowing the intense amount of effort and dedication that has taken.
It is the feeling of knowing you are safe and unconditionally loved by the people around you in that exact moment.
It is the blessing of non-judgement.
This moment is what we have.
This moment is where we can find JOY and FREEDOM if we simply look for it.
In this moment...we danced.
I’m not sure how it happened.
Somewhere between a blue cheese martini and fried olives and pecans, MAGIC unfolded.
Maybe it was the extra salt of the olive juice, possibly the high back chairs that made us feel as though we were in our own private world. It could have been the road trip filled with singing oldies together as we traveled for a decorating job. It is possible that the lighting was just right as we looked across the table at each other and a spark was re-ignited.
But MAGIC happened.
We had just finished a day of delivering floral arrangements, helping out of town clients solve some decorating dilemmas, and crossing state lines to pick up some antiques for display at the store.
Our favorite little Speakeasy in Amarillo called our names.
As we pulled into a front parking space we were thankful that our faithful, nine year old, paid-for vehicle that sports almost 160,000 miles had once again brought us safely to our destination.
We did not have a reservation, so we were surprised to be seated in what we would consider “the best seat in the house.”
The sun was still high in the sky and it beamed through the west facing windows.
We took a selfie. I mean, isn’t that what we do in the year 2019, and we texted it to our friends who originally introduced us to this place. “Wishing you were here” we said...or at least it went something like that.
But as we sat, just the two of us, the conversation unfolded in a way neither of us expected it to. We went from toasting a new angel in our lives, to discussing business, to talking about our individual strengths and ultimately our private lockbox.
“You hold the MAGIC,” I told Benny. “You always have.”
He smiled and lifted his martini glass towards me.
“No. You hold the MAGIC.”
It was that moment. The moment that brought a lump to our throats. It made our hearts beat a little faster. Our eyes became moist and glassy.
WE have the MAGIC.
Together we bring pendulum to balanced.
Our lockbox had been rented twenty-six years ago. We were both given a key and we began placing valuables inside.
We placed two beautiful daughters inside.
We placed memories from vacations.
We tucked away leaps of faith that worked out and some that did not.
We inserted painful past choices, hurts, heartaches, rejections and even deaths.
We spent a lifetime adding treasures to our lockbox.
But somewhere in time, we misplaced the keys. Lucky for us, we never lost them. We just never seemed to have them out at the same time.
In the hustle and bustle of raising our children, starting new business ventures, trying to keep up with the Jones’s (which is futile, ridiculous and we gave up on years ago,) and paying the bills, the keys were buried under a pile of “must-do’s and have-to’s.”
As the local musician strummed his guitar in the corner, the words echoed as if he was sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon. “Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna work out fine if you only will.”
The sun had long since moved to the other side of the earth, the last fried olive left the bowl, and when it did, we saw something beautiful. It was there all along.
The other key.
The key that opens the box.
The key to the valuables.
The key to possibilities.
The key to love.
And love is where MAGIC resides.
I have never been a numbers person.
But if you had driven by our cul-de-sac around dusk last night you would have witnessed some beautiful math.
It has been years since I have seen those kinds of lawn chairs. The kind from my childhood. You remember the ones...metal arms, stiff, poly material strips woven together to form an uncomfortable seat, and if you are unlucky enough to be wearing shorts, scratch your legs on all the exposed edges. These are the kind of old fashioned chairs that remind you of easy summers as a child at grandma’s house or in my case—my mother.
My Mother was an antique dealer, a “junker,” if you will. She would drag my Sweet Daddy all around town looking for treasures like the ones we sat in last night.
Rusty old watering cans, wheel barrows, pie safes with peeling paint, red wooden benches with hidden stories from times past...these were the things she found.
Oh, and anything garden. She had quite the green thumb.
So when she happened upon metal patio chairs from the fifties and sixties in good condition, my Daddy knew his job was to load them up in their white cargo van while she made the deal happen with the seller.
I sat there, under the stars last night, in a large circle of about twenty folding chairs, some old, some new, some folding, some even rocking, but all of them filled with a unique soul, and I remembered her.
It is funny how a simple chair can stir up memories.
I did not know any of these people. And they did not know me. We are new to the neighborhood.
But just like a colony of ants, every person who lives on our block descended onto the driveway of our neighbor. Each of us bringing a covered dish and, yes, a lawn chair.
But we also brought more.
Twenty neighbors. Twenty opinions. Twenty professions. Twenty mindsets. Twenty religions. Twenty political parties. Twenty life philosophies. Twenty people with pasts and futures. Twenty people with histories of divorce, spouse deaths, successful careers, failed businesses, triumphs and defeats. Twenty people who have survived cancer, the death of a child, the rejection of a child. Twenty people who have been touched by suicide, failing bodies, disease. Twenty people who either drink or abstain. Twenty people who are either for CNN or Fox. Twenty people who either support same-sex marriage or not. Twenty people who love meat or think it is murder. Twenty people who think bell bottom pants should make a come back or think they should stay in the vault.
Twenty people sitting in a circle.
Twenty people with paper plates full of green chili rice, cheese grits, pasta salad, grilled German sausage, baked beans, cantaloupe salad, hummus and broccoli, chocolate cake, and Mexican cornbread.
Twenty artists, professors, ministers, dairy owners, decorators, architects, authors, painters, sculptors, counselors.
One hour turned to two. And two hours turned to three.
One glass of wine turned to two. And when the red ran out, the white was just as good.
Rich. I felt rich last night. Sitting in my hot pink camping chair, on what felt like the perfect West Texas evening, I was surrounded by the cream of the crop.
Our common denominator was our private neighborhood block. Our uncommon denominator was our uniqueness.
Our answer to the long division was love.
PJ (9-28-19 and as she writes this, she smiles as she sees her bell-bottom pants😉)
There are 7.7 billion different ones.
Faces, that is.
And though there are such things as doppelgängers, even your look-alike differs from you.
Have you ever just sat and contemplated how amazing and unique your face is.
You know that crooked little smile, the one that made your mom’s heart burst with happiness when you were born? The same one you would like to change as an adult.
And those eyebrows. The ones that, as old age approaches, grow wild and randomly towards the bridge of your nose, but sparse on the edges. Those eyebrows raise with delight when you see your grandchildren running towards your front door, but sag a little when you see what time has done to the lines on your face.
The dimples you donned since birth, the ones that everyone commented on as you were growing up, now take a different path as they have merged with newly formed wrinkles.
Those blue eyes that twinkle back at you in the mirror when you think of your loved ones, and line with moisture when you think of those gone from sight—those eyes have witness true miracles for your entire lifetime. They have seen birth and death, love and loss, mountains and oceans, the changing of the leaves and snowflakes tumbling to earth.
Your lips, the ones that formed your first words as a toddler, locked with your first boyfriend under the football stadium, kissed your husband on your wedding day and pressed against the forehead of your newborn baby years ago, are now much thinner. You notice the feathery lines around their edge as you draw your lip pencil around them to form an outline. Maybe this miracle plumping lipstick will work it’s magic.
Gravity has also done a number on your neck. No amount of creams, potions, lotions or collagen serum will cause the looseness to tighten—only a surgeon can help now.
You sigh, and take another look.
She is beautiful. That face staring back in the mirror is perfect.
She has kind eyes.
Her lips speak of love.
Her neck tosses her head back when she laughs and bows her head when she is praying.
That thing she does with her eyebrows when she is happy and playful is heartwarming.
She is one of a kind.
One of a kind out of 7.7 billion.
“You must’ve been a beautiful baby, but baby...look at you now.”
You. Are. Exquisite.
Paula Estelle Jackson 10-8-19
I learn a lot about myself on the pages of blank paper.
Sitting down in a quiet space, pen in my hand, open journal on my lap, waves of self-discovery roll onshore.
I am thankful.
I am sad.
I am relieved.
I am hopeful.
I am motivated.
I am planning.
I am dreaming.
It is all there.
The rhythmic flow of ink, so thin and precise, seems to have a direct line to my soul as words and ideas spill onto the paper.
In this moment, this quiet solitude, all is well.
Paula Estelle Jackson 10-18-19
There are times
when God seems silent.
As if my prayers
don’t get past the ceiling.
Answers lost in the ticking of time.
Answered by the whispers of Angels.
And somehow, life goes on, time heals or at least forms scabs that turn to faint scars.
And I recognize the ceiling opened when I least expected it, allowing for
Words by Paula Estelle Jackson 10-19-2019
Art by Renee Steger Simpson “Patron Saint of Holy Silence”
The view from Sunday morning is like a nice cup of Cinnamon Sunset tea.
Nothing outside is moving yet. As if the world is a tea bag, steeping in possibilities, it waits for perfection.
The cold snap this week caused pigments in the leaves to stir, and hints of yellow and gold are starting to emerge. And even as the trees are still, yet changing, my hot water is turning a rich color as the flavors seep through my teabag.
There are times when playful neighborhood squirrels cause the metal mobile sculpture outside my window to sway on its fulcrum, but not in this present moment. So is the case with my peaceful mug. It is waiting. It is patient. But it has the capacity to awaken my tastebuds and play.
The cul-de-sac garages are still closed as my neighbors are tucked warmly in their homes.
I reach for my tea. The warmth of the cup feels good on my hands. The smell of cinnamon releases its intoxicating aroma as I take morning’s first sip.
There is nothing but peace in this moment.
And it is as if time stands still for
Paula Estelle Jackson 10-27-2019
HUMOR-IST (is that a word?) I can find and expel (the word expel makes me think of passing gas) humor in most moments of life