“You look a little lost…”
Boy was I in trouble, and not like a “Karen” bickering at the flight attendant kind of trouble.
Locking eyes with that tall glass of water left me with a complexion so flushed, I was grateful I had to wear a mask. Did he really see me? Or was he potentially locking eyes with a blonde Southern bombshell sitting behind me? Regardless, I felt as if my brain had been lobotomized and all comprehension was scrubbed clean. My heart was encompassed in fuzzy red velour, spreading a warmth to my core that shot straight to my toes. I had no idea they made men like that.
“I wish I could offer the seat next to me,” I thought to myself as I watched him walk towards the back of the plane. I’m no neurologist, but I feel as if our minds have an interesting way of remembering people. Prior to this, it was Amelia’s eccentric fashion taste with a dash of sarcastic nihilism in every joke she shared. Now I had this indigo-eyed, All-American daydream who could easily chop down an Oak tree and turn it into a log cabin. I really wish I had said something… maybe we’ll cross paths again someday.
A wave of peace washed over me as we ascended into the Southern clouds. I spent the quick 90 minute flight meditating, doodling, writing, and catching up on admin work. The anticipation of visiting a new place fueled my excitement like a kid on Christmas. After signing out of work for the day, a low, Texan drawl announced himself.
“Goooood afternoon ladies and gents… please remain in your seats for the remainder of our flight… we’ll be landin’ in beautiful Nashville shortly…”
My jaw dropped as I gazed out the window. It looked like a photo out of Nat Geo. From the green velvet rolling hills dotted with trees to the patches of farmland and shrubbery, my heart got that same warm velour feeling again.
“Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous,” I thought to myself as we flew over the emerald valleys.
We herded off the plane in droves, ducking and weaving through endless construction. I was welcomed by chemical fumes and power drills crushing through marble floors. “I feel right at home,” I sarcastically thought to myself as I made my way to baggage claim, which was much more difficult than I anticipated.
“Can I help ya miss? You look a little lost…”
To my dismay, the man before me was not the chiseled lumberjack. Decked in a neon orange vest, aged New Balances, navy khaki shorts, and a dainty name tag that read “Tim,” he was a short, round man with a teddy-bear demeanor. I grinned under my musty, humid mask.
“Hi! Yep… first time here. Trying to get to Baggage Claim 1.”
“Not to worry ma’am. Things are a lil’ crazy right now in this here airport. B1 is gonna be juuuust down here to your right. Now, if you need anything at all we got Charlotte at this here help desk, and my name’s Tim if you have any other questions.”
Charlotte was a petite, older black woman with a heavenly Southern voice. After greeting one another, I thanked Tim for his help.
“Of course ma’am. Welcome to Nash. Enjoy your stay.”
It wasn’t long before I encountered yet another stocky, grizzly man grabbing his military green canvas backpack off the ramp. Glancing up with coffee-colored eyes that pierced my soul like a bow and arrow, I declared Nashville as heaven on Earth.
“Yep, I’m in trouble.”
One quiet Uber ride later, I arrive in Hermitage, a quiet suburban community in East Nashville. Surrounded by bountiful trees and hiking trails, I immediately fell in love with this neighborhood. My dearest friend Kaley greeted me at the door, grabbed my bags, and poured me a much-needed gin and tonic.
Now, you’re probably wondering how I ended up here.
Kaley’s friends Chris and Triniti were out of town for a week and were in need of some house and dog-sitters. Kaley asked if I was interested, to which I responded with a “hell YEAH,” and immediately booked my $57 COVID-priced flight. I also had my own upstairs workspace and guest room, making me eternally grateful to have friends all over the country.
The week went by pretty quickly. We worked ten hour days, cooked incredible meals, took care of Ru (the perfect American Setter), hosted socially distanced happy hours, and conducted tequila-influenced photo shoots in the backyard. It was a much needed getaway.
One night over a heavenly bottle of Chardonnay, I decided to extend my stay. Kaley mentioned visiting her dad’s farm in Hampshire, which made me grin ear to ear. I explained how my Dad’s rural Mississippi roots piqued my curiosity to experience Southern farm life. After many computer clicks and glasses of straw-hued courage, I successfully changed my flight and split a car rental with Kaley. There was no turning back now.
I’ve always been torn between the constant city bustle and getting up at 4am to feed my hypothetical chickens. There’s something magical about life on a farm, and Kaley’s Dad Kevin had it down to a full blown, immersive experience.
I’ve never seen so much green in my entire life; the Pacific Northwest had me fooled. The first morning brought a screeching rooster followed by the aroma of freshly baked bread, permeating throughout the house. Lunch breaks included blackberry picking, scraping bee hives, fetching eggs in the nick of a storm, and sipping on fresh squeezed lemonade with the buzz of mystical critters at my feet. At dinner we indulged in pot roasts that melted in your mouth, smoked pork chops paired with fresh vegetables, and homemade ice cream for dessert. Regardless of any meal, everything we consumed came from the land beneath our feet. I could get used to this.
Mother Nature showed zero mercy here. One moment there’d be radiant sunshine, the next a deafening downpour with apocalyptic thunder, shaking every inch of the house. Blue lightning bolts shot throughout the sky as if Zeus himself was cracking the heavens open. These storms would be so dense, you could barely see five feet in front of you. I was rocked to the core yet so enamoured; the South possessed such raw beauty. I couldn’t get enough.
Country living also brought a whole new level of pain tolerance. While discovering bugs I’d never seen before, I plucked the occasional tick from my back, got zapped by electric fences, dodged angsty wasps, and collected swollen welts from mysterious insects. Nothing a little ice pack and bourbon couldn’t fix. All in all, I gained a new found love and respect for nature.
I could see my older self here; rocking chair on the porch, furry best friend at my feet, husband’s hand in mine, fully immersed in nature’s chatter and wispy air. I’d sit in silence, appreciating the land and everything it does for us. For being the root of life and the foundation of a beautiful farmstead. For being a prime example of resiliency. For reminding us to never take anything for granted.
One night during a wine-drunken game of Spades, Kevin went to bed as the ladies and I stayed up to share stories. Kaley’s stepmom Micky asked about my Dad. I explained how he grew up on a farm with thirteen siblings in a shack that resembled Jenny’s from Forrest Gump. A close call with the KKK brought him to join the Airforce, leaving Mississippi behind to explore the world. He truly was a legendary man.
I paused for a moment as I stared out a rain-soaked window, deep in this introspective daze of self reflection, feeling something staring back at me. Suddenly, a beautiful gray moth appeared at the window.
It was like a movie scene; struggling to stay present as I endured an internal monologue. The room was full of chatter and I found myself falling silent, question every single action I’ve taken thus far. What was the purpose of this trip? How could I stop searching outside of myself? Why was I still running? And from what?
Micky gently grabbed and squeezed my hand as the muffled banter returned to full volume.
“Honey, he’s with your family always. Sometimes we just need a lil’ reminder…“ she consoled, catching my gaze at the kitchen window.
“I know for a fact he’s proud of you. It’s easy to get caught up in our own way, ya know? Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just take everythin’ day by day, alright?“
Her sweet Tennessee voice comforted me like a fuzzy blanket.
“Now… who wants a lil’ night cap?” Micky asked as she reached for another bottle of Malbec. We let out a wine-infused, happy-teared giggle which resembled a resounding “yes.” The lights gently flickered with the pass of rumbling thunder. As the rain slowed to a stop, I glanced back at the window to find that my fluttery friend was gone…
Maybe he was here all along.