Courage, I decide in a warm bed between clean white sheets, is conscious action. It comes with the territory of life on the edge. Courage is feeling the heart beat a little louder and holding true as it pounds harder. Courage is the ‘yes’ of life, the blood of love. It is an absolute refusal to settle for mediocrity, to barter the spirit’s longing with the desire to tell stories about why things must stay as they are. Courage is the willingness to square our shoulders and bare our breastbone to the sun, the wind, the rain and the storms of life. Courage is an open heart. And steady eyes and an open heart are the only armor we need as pilgrims of life.
From My Pilgrim’s Heart
There was something I forgot to tell y’all about the Cherokee Inn, the bluegrass bar in Jackson with the green checkered tablecloths where I tasted my first fried green tomatoes.
That’s tom-ay-toes, by the way.
And that’s about the toothpicks on the ceiling.
Look up at the black roof above and there’s all these little light coloured sticks with cellophane flags poked in this way and that.
I craned my neck.
You’re kiddin’ me, I thought.
Toothpicks. Apparently they blow them up there with a straw. That’s some mighty lungs they have here in Mississippi.
This afternoon, my friend Lisa and I found a small patch o’ woods in nearby Clinton and roamed around the pathways like we were walkin’ a small labyrinth carved out of all that’s left of Mississippi woodlands.
Which probably isn’t true, but I sure do wonder where the animals are these days. Although there were loads of squirrels, beetles and ticks, a few birds and butterflies, and a worm.
I’m staying in Lisa’s spare room, which is wall to wall piles of productive mess. Lisa is sorting, reducing her life to a cabin-sized backpack. She’s on her way to meet her destiny, a woman on a mission that starts in June when she surrenders just about everything she owns and everything she knows about her world, and lets life lead her who knows where. She’s been saving for four years for this trip and she’s countin’ down the days.
She’s a woman willing to square her shoulders and raise her breastbone to the sun and I salute her courage.
She’s here if you’d like to meet her: http://postcardsfromnana.weebly.com/
There are sooo many things I think about bein’ in Jackson, Mississippi.
About the Pearl River. About white lawyer faces starin’ down at me from billboards askin’ if I got birth defects from my mama takin’ depression pills. About USA-appropriate road signs demanding I ‘yeild!’, rather than ‘stop’. About a park you wouldn’t go after dark called Battlefield Park. About trees called Sparkleberry and Possumhaw. About the Natchez Trace from Nashville to Natchez, the old trail where the wagonwheel ruts have hollowed out the earth in some places to eight foot deep. About ‘outlaws and cutthroats’, which I thought a bit unnecessary when ‘outlaws’ would do just fine.
Sitting at the gas station watching the people come and go, I think about how far race relations have come, about how quickly things can move the moment somebody takes the lead. I’m not so naive to think there’s not a long way to go and there’s not some biiiig conversations still to be had.
Courage is the yes of life . . . the blood of love. And these folk have seen their fair share of both.