Something happened to me when we moved to Tennessee, something unplanned. My expectations were not met and everything felt like it was falling to shit. Now I know, I know, I’m not the first person to completely turn their life upside down and start something new. I know, I’m not the first person to have dreams that they think are just dreams actually turn in to reality. And I know, I’m not the first one to realize that happiness isn’t necessarily what happens when that reality sets in.
I learned quickly that dreams require work, lots of work. And dreams can turn to nightmares quicker than a snake can slither across your path. I learned that life can be scary, and life can be gruesome, and people can be terrible and hearts can turn black.
My heart turned into something I didn’t recognize. Something that was so dark, it lost dimension. Something that could absorb but not reflect. Vantablack, the closest you will ever come to seeing a black hole.
For six months, we have received nothing but positive feedback on our new lives. The family that has visited, the guests that have stayed here, the new friends that we have made, have all said the same thing, “You have something really special.”
I was able to hear it and absorb it, but whenever anyone asked me how I liked it here or how I felt about this new life, I was only able to reflect, “Eh.”
I have floated down the most beautiful river five times now, soaking up the sunshine, being rejuvenated by the crisp cool water, hoping that I would feel anew once we were back on dry land. I have walked for miles and miles in the nature loving every moment. The spectacular sounds of rushing water beside me drowning out the voices of doubt. Breathing in the crisp fresh air into my lungs, seeing the birds and the turtles and the flowers all flourishing with life. I could take it all in, but it’s not what would come out. I didn’t like it, it wasn’t me, but I was slowly starting to make a new home in my black hole of a heart.
Now I have never been all sunshine and flowers. I’ve always been a bit dark (maybe more than a bit), I tell it like it is, my mouth has no filter. Sometimes I’m funny, but mostly I’m just mean and people think I’m kidding (I got that from a meme, but it’s true so….). I’m not a pessimist but I am a realist. I have never been able to handle the kind of people who can’t see good, I want to shake them and slap them into reality. Life is hard, get over it, life is good too and you’re missing it.
But I have been missing it. I was absorbing but I couldn’t reflect, and I was lost.
We were completely slammed this past weekend due to the eclipse. We were in the path of totality and people traveled far and wide to come stay with us. Canada, Ohio, Texas, Florida and even some friends from Georgia made their way up here too.
All of our guests were thrilled to arrive. We gave them their eclipse glasses and made sure that they were comfortable, we told them some of the best places to go for the viewing and then we let them go on their merry way and enjoy their time here. Everything went down without a hitch, basically for the first time ever.
I spent Sunday hiking a waterfall with my friend and our younger children. She was barefoot, I was in flip-flops (again). The kids hopped from rock to rock and jumped in the different pools of water. It was perfect.
I, the local, would never have found this beautiful little piece of paradise, if my adventurous friend, the tourist, hadn’t made me join her. Our families spent the evening together, cooking dinner over the fire pit, drinking wine and something else that rhymes with wine, listening to music and talking about everything under the sun.
Monday morning I spent singing to the Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack, in honor of the total eclipse of the sun, and turning over a cabin for an incoming guest. We decided to give into the hype and not just watch the eclipse from our deck, but to go down to the river and be surrounded by other humans and actually experience the experience.
We packed up chairs and blankets and lunch and eclipse glasses and humans and drove for less than five minutes down our forest road to the beautiful water. Once we were unloaded and had set up camp, we realized it was unbearably hot, so most of the kids jumped in the river. My mother rescued the sweaty grown-ups by purchasing every different type of adult beverage she could get her hands on. We turned on some hippie music while we waited for the big event and lifted our eyes to the heavens every so often to check out what the sun and moon were up to. As they got closer and closer the energy around us changed completely. The air was cooling down considerably, the crickets started chirping and glow sticks were being passed around for the two and a half minutes of darkness that we were about to experience.
In the final moments before totality, everyone put their glasses on and watched as the moon second by second covered more of the sun. When the last sliver of light was kissed by the shadow of the moon, cheers erupted all around us. We screamed, we just couldn’t help it. I thought for sure, that it was the most amazing thing I would ever see.
Until I took off my glasses.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I was looking at, I have chills even as I write this now. It was a picture that I have no words to describe for you. And I don’t want to, it was mine. I looked all around me during those far too few minutes and realized there was no where on the entire Earth that I would rather be. People traveled far and wide, thousands of miles, to see something so spectacular. And it was happening in my backyard.
During that two-minute hippie fest of totality, there was not just a total eclipse of the sun, but also, wait for it….
A total eclipse of the heart.
As the sun began to peak through again and we saw a diamond in the sky, the light began to peak through my heart. It was so full of love and hope and awe that for the first time in six months, I felt like I could breathe. I felt like I could love this life. I could love this place. I could love these people.
But, my eclipse is slow. Most of my heart is still in shadows. It will take more phenomenons, and more beauty and more people to make it brighter. But day by day the light will break through, and someday, gone will be the vantablack.