I write this from Fripp Island, South Carolina. I was brought here yesterday by my 26 year old daughter, to visit her good friend, Faith, and her mother, Joan. It's their family beach house. They've come here every summer for over 21 years, and we are here on a mother /daughter 5 day vacation. It is my Mother's Day gift from my daughter.
Last night, looking out at the Atlantic Ocean, which I had just swum in for the first time in many, many years, my heart filled to bursting with gratitude for being brought to the epicenter of my dream. This beach, this Island, this house we are staying in filled with seashells and marine blue pillows, has been my dream for so long I forget when it started.
Maybe my love of Southern writers, maybe scenes in movies or pictures in books have influenced and fed this fantasy I've had of my pristine South Carolina beach town/village/island. I don't know for sure, but what I am sure of is that this little Fripp Island is it.
Rolling low white caps coming one after another fold into each other and disappear into the shore. The houses, painted in muted yellows, blues, faint, faint greens, dotted closely but spaced just right, line the beach with their wooden staircases leading to the sand. This is a magical place. Better even than my dream of it. Frame of reference think Forrest Gump as much of it was filmed here as well as Prince of Tides whose author, Pat Conroy, has a house here.
This morning I got up and out before the others which in itself is a miracle, as I have become a sleeper, lulled by the sound of the ocean. Sitting out on the deck alone I said my good mornings to the sea and sky, the birds and the trees, and then said my prayers. Me saying "I said my prayers" sounds grander than it is but I do talk to who my God is for me, and then I go through the litany of loved ones, see them and send them love. Sometimes the strangest people pop into my head. So this morning, gratitude and joy oozing from every pore, I was thankful over and over again for my amazing abundance of blessings.
I saw my choir, the Brookinaires, at FAME (First African Methodist Episcopal) Church in LA and sent them love as a whole. Then I saw individuals in my Alto section, my Alto sisters, and sent them love. Granny, Rappin' Granny, has a bad back, Maida has to do her puzzles to sharpen her memory, Roz my mentor, David, with his intense sense of order, and Big Jerome, who I want to hug like he's a giant teddy bear. I saw each one in my minds eye, sprinkled some gold around them, asked God to take care of them, and sent them love.
Then I went into the kitchen to get some breakfast and my daughter broke the news of the church shooting in Charleston; nine people dead in the AME Church. What words are there to describe all of the emotions that rush in at once that haven't been used so many times already? When is this going to end may have been my first concrete thought. Next I wanted to go write Henry, our choir director and Roz and all of my friends and say I am sorry. I am so so sorry. I am sorry for feeling the need to say sorry yet again, for what some white skinned people are doing to black skinned people. They are the crazies and they do not represent me, my family or anyone I know.
My daughters friend Faith, who isn't called Faith for nothing, just happens to have her masters in Jewish Studies and is married to a gem of a young Rabbi. So what we did, all four of us, was stand in a circle in the sand and pray for the violence to stop and the healing to begin. Pray for each and every one of us on this planet to be healed enough to say that violence is never the answer and will not be tolerated any more.
This afternoon I tried to be present. To be in the moment, noticing the beauty all around me and give thanks for it. We spent a couple of hours in a local folk art gallery admiring works by "Gullah Artists" local Black artist's who create vibrant and spirit waking painting, sculptures and intricately woven baskets. Admiring them I let them wash me in their bright reds, oranges and blues, and touch me with their textures.
After that we went to the local fish place down by the dock. As I went to take a picture, I passed two black men and every fiber in me wanted to smile and say "Hi". I could feel the words in my thought but I couldn't lift my head. It hung low and my eyes looked at the ground. The shame was so heavy it weighed me down. Shame and fear. I was afraid they wouldn't believe how true my "hi" was, and how sorry my heart is. The intense pain that felt like I'd been kicked in the esophagus with a heavy boot that started when I heard the news, still throbbed.
Don't we know yet that it is not really white against black, Christian against Jew or Sunni against Shiite. It is human being against human being and in that way none of us will survive let alone learn the lesson I believe we are all here to learn, and that is the lesson of love.