I have moved to Upstate South Carolina from Western North Carolina. I moved because I lost my job and my children were ready to launch; it was time. It has taken me 4 months to move. My children thought I was crazy to start packing in October when our target date for launch was December 31. Well, here it is February 7th and things are still not completely wrapped up…but we’re close. (I’ve been saying “We’re close,” for two months.)
I have noticed several things, which have amazed me, during this move. One is, the sunsets last forever, here in the Upstate. It is probably due to my being used to the mountains, which, I am sure, obscure enough of the horizon to limit the expanse of the sky that is in sunset over a long period of time; there’s simply more visible sky, here. But, there’s also something about the cloud cover looking west from where I live or drive. West, for me, usually means looking over the lake and the ambient moisture of the lake probably has something to do with the predominance of evening cloud cover. This is total conjecture, based on limited knowledge of meteorology, but since nobody reads my writings, anyway, I’ll stick my neck out and say that that is exactly why there are so many wonderful sunsets here.
There are the same varieties of birds, here, that I fed in North Carolina, but also many more. I’ve been too busy to take the time to do much actual bird watching, taking note of all of the varieties, but when I get unpacked, settled, and into a routine, that will become a regular part of my life. I’ve seen more Goldfinches, for sure. And I hope to attract some Bluebirds, as I will be putting up a house or two. But what truly amazes me is that I have to refill all four of my squirrel-proof feeders every day! I’ve been through several enormous bags of bird seed (predominantly sunflower seeds) since I unlocked the front door and put up the first bird-feeder, last October.
While we are on the subject of the birds, I am amazed at how the very large Pileated Woodpeckers and the Mourning Doves can fit inside my window-mounted bird feeder. The opening to the feeder is no more than 4 to 5 inches high and about 10 inches wide. The feeder itself extends into the room about 8 inches and is rounded with a one-way mirror that allows me to see them when it is brighter outside than it is inside. I can not always see the birds well, but I hear them; the feeder is four feet from me as I sit at my computer. The woodpeckers (and I never knew woodpeckers ate seeds) will grab some seeds and then beat at my feeder for good measure. Now, the smaller birds will often pause at the edge of the feeder, with a seed, and beat the seed against the floor or edge of the feeder to crack the seed open. I think the woodpecker is just reminding me that he is, in fact, a Woodpecker…not to be mistaken for a mere seed-eating variety of bird.
Another thing that amazes me about this area of the Upstate is the number of churches. There is a church on just about every corner or mid-block of every street…in every kind of building. There are at least three within walking distance of my home and I live in a rather remote, rural area. The church I am leaving is lovely and in the middle of the city. There is a picture of Grace Episcopal Church, several essays back, that shows how lovely the stone church is, with it’s big Red Doors. It also has rather unique stained glass windows that portray everything from Jesus and Mary Magdalene (my favorite) to a view of Downtown Asheville and the mountain ranges beyond. The artist’s shepherd dog is even in a window.
I will miss my church. I love everything about it: the grey stone walls, the massive wooden beams, the gleam of the wooden floor and pews lit up by the sun’s rays shining through the stained glass, the breezeway with it’s zen views of gardens and trees, even the light fixtures hanging long and still from the high, peaked ceiling. What amazed me was how people would climb ladders, tens of feet up, to hang real, massive, boughs of fir and pine to drape them across the sanctuary for Christmas. I loved that they practiced the tradition of not placing the baby Jesus into the Nativity Scene until midnight on Christmas Eve. (Aw, Jesus, that makes me cry.)
I love the people at Grace. I hadn’t been there forever, but I was there long enough to lose some dear friends to illness and death or their moving to other places. I miss them. There are friendships from there that I am bringing with me, but I will miss seeing the faces, hugging the shoulders, shaking the hands, and hearing, “Good Morning, little buddy!” I have mentioned it before, but the people of Grace have saved me quite a few times. My life has been a hard one, and they have witness it and sat with me, held me, prayed for me, cried with me, and blessed me…every step of the way. They are even blessing me and praying for me as I move here.
I have yet to start my search for a church home, here. The logical choice would be a local church of the same denomination. I have reached out to that church several times to help me in my move. What amazes me is that, each time, they said they did not have time to talk with me or, simply, “no”…but added that they could recommend someone, if I was willing to pay them. I’m not in the mood to get on my soapbox this morning; it’s Sunday and the birds would disapprove. I had previously met the church secretary and, in fact, had a long, lovely conversation one fall day in October and I must have given her the impression that I had money or was comfortably situated. To be honest, I am quite comfortable in my 60-year-old house trailer that I will one day be paying my brother rent for. But this move has been very hard on me, physically and financially. I was moving because I could no longer afford to make house payments, where I was, on the small house in North Carolina. I was forced to vacate. If it had not been for my brother, I would have been home-less.
I needed help…and still do. I had fallen and hurt my neck and shoulder and needed to paint a very small room. I was too proud or dignified to beg or to inform the people at the local church that I not only did not have money to pay a painter, I was in serious financial debt and broke. I’m as old as this trailer, but I managed to work though the pain and paint the room myself…at least the parts behind the furniture. When I finish unpacking and heal my injuries, I will finish painting. In the meantime, I feed the birds, watch the sunsets, tend to my elderly dog, Stella, and my black cat, Mr.Tubbs, and I write.
After being turned down by this church here, I was attending Sunday morning services at Grace in North Carolina, and while preparing to take communion, I told Jesus, “You know I have to forgive them.” He said, “Yes, I know.” “How do I do that?” “They know not what they do.” Good point.
One final amazement…no one reads these essays. Even when I send out emails to over a dozen friends, family, and acquaintances, announcing a new piece, the stats page shows one or two views…usually my own. That’s not too amazing since very few people read my emails. But, I write nonetheless. It’s out there, in the Universe. God may enjoy it but God is who revealed it all to me in the first place, so that just makes me look stupid. My older blogs, listed across the top of this page, had more views, and more ‘likes,’ but that is because they are darker and more depressing, the farther back you go, and appealed to a younger, more internet-present group, hungry for (and searching for) commiseration.
However, one final, final amazement is that I am able to do this at all. I have lived over an amazing span of time and history…particularly when you look at technology and communications. The expanse of knowledge and connected-ness, global awareness, and diversity of information boggles my mind. I saw the first fuzzy black and white TV images, the first moon walks, and, now, real images of galaxies only dreamed of by very few people when I was born. I started programming on punch-cards (look it up), then taught myself Fortran on a 4K terminal to a Unisys mainframe (look it up). My daughter has learned Korean by watching Korean dramas, has reviewed them in a blog which has had hundreds of followers, thousands of viewers, and she has made friends globally this way.
My son is a self-taught genius in everything from music and history, cinematography and philosophy, as well as computer technology, because of the internet and internet-(and formally-)educated friends. He has rebuilt a complex, turbo-charged engine; is a moderator on a sub-reddit (look it up); and knows as much (if not more) about physics, astronomy, rocketry, math, and programming than I do…and I earned a four-year degree in physics (a gazillion years ago). He has a fifth-grade public-school education (I yanked him out of school in the sixth grade because of verbal and emotional abuse by his teachers) and now he is working full-time and attending college classes toward earning degrees in physics and computer science.
All this amazes me. My children amaze me. God amazes me. The world amazes me. And I will continue to express my opinions and observations here, and in letters, and to the people I encounter in grocery store lines, fast food restaurants, and churches, until I can no longer communicate.
And that probably amazes me most of all.
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