Since childhood I have always sensed energizing, protective, and unseen guiding presences in my life. For several years a lovely lady visited me regularly during my sleep – or at least, what I thought was my sleep. Today, at age forty-seven, I can still vividly recall this kindly woman’s moments shared with me from the age of four years until I was nearing junior high. Often, these meetings included singing without any concern for waking my parents. Other times, stories were told, Bible stories about the heroes were read, poems recited, or general small talk shared. It was a year or so into junior high school that I realized the sweet lady had not paid a visit. It seemed, however, she had been replaced by other motivators in my life, mainly music.
One day, perhaps around my sophomore or junior year of high school, my grandmother pulled out old family photos. Many, many Sundays were spent going through the treasure trove of our family’s history told through photographs, but this particular Sunday, there was a different box, one I didn’t recognize. Grandma Donna handed me some photos and after thumbing through several I recognized the sweet lady who visited me as a child. It was my great-grandmother, Thelma Daugherty Barmes.
Sadly, seven years before my birth, Grandma Thelma was involved in a fatal automobile-train accident, expiring the following evening, January 16th, 1957, at 5:05pm.
Grandma Thelma was a wonderful musician; a pianist and vocalist. One of my first vocal lessons came from my Grandpa Leroy as he relayed watching his mother teach a voice lesson when he was a small boy – Grandma Thelma instructed the student to keep the tongue down, and to sing towards the teeth.
In college, I became fascinated with the possibility of angels. Several professor friends recounted personal anecdotes related to angelic activities in their own lives, prompting me to wonder if the visits from great-grandmother were – well, angelic visitations.
There are so many arenas dedicated to the study of angels. I’ve scoured the topics, the varying beliefs, and the Biblical history of angelic beings, and I finally decided that since there will never be one consistent consensus on the topic, it would be my choice to accept the fact angels exist, knowing they had personally appeared throughout my life. Today, I still believe I have an angel team that assists me in a variety of activities throughout my life-journey. I have no idea who they are, or whether or not the same ones continually accompany me. Quite simply, I do not doubt their presence, and I trust them.
Over the past twenty years, or so, I have also come to recognize that fellow humans also serve a similar purpose just as the unseen-beings on my “angel team.” I have countless experiences of brief encounters where someone, or some unexplained incident, has briefly, even momentarily, appeared alongside me on my life-journey to offer guidance, encouragement, or specific information I needed at that moment.
God acting anonymously? Perhaps.
I do believe these positive beings are off-shoots, working on behalf of The Great Spirit.
Regardless who they are, what they are, from where they came, whether they are winged or wear halos, they simply exist in my life. And how damned lucky I am for these special moments!
Last summer I was terribly ill, and it took me through mid-Autumn to fully recover my strength, and stamina. My spirits sagged because I just did not have the mind-effort to write on the Wright Brothers musical. I would open the file. I would look at the words that suddenly appeared foreign and click shut the file. It seemed as though my great-passion for this particular craft had died a sudden, unexplainable death. I began searching for answers to the questions I proposed:
Does this musical suck? (Considering the combined talents of my wonderful, patient co-writers, Gail & Leslie, I knew the lyrics and music elevated my work)
Am I suppose to even be doing this?
Is something trying to tell me I should do something else?
It was a frustrating Autumn, and early Winter. The most infuriating thing is that I have the ideal life as a writer, something not often afforded my friends and acquaintances who have been published, or produced. I have my mornings and early afternoons free, and teach private lessons from approximately 3:00pm until 8:00pm. One day a week I am at a middle school. Since my sons have always been involved in extra-curricular music activities that often keeps them busy on Saturdays – another full, free day of writing.
My life is ideally set to fully, and passionately embrace this craft. However, from the end of July, before I discovered my illness, to early winter, I felt absolutely dead inside. I coasted through the holidays, and my post-Christmas vacation still found me emotionally uninvested, and dealing with the same illness, again.
This past Saturday morning I was reminded by my calendar text that there was a Writing Workshop set for Sunday at 2:30pm. The workshop was geared for middle grade/young adult audiences, nothing actually to do with playwrighting. I dismissed it.
Sunday morning something caught my eye while scrolling down Facebook. A terrific author, and inspiring personality, Katrina Kittle posted:
“Dayton Area Writers – TODAY (Sunday) at Books & Co from 2-3:30pm, hosting a free mini-writers’ workshop, taught by myself and the lovely Kristina McBride. The topic: Writing for Middle Grade and Young Adult Audiences.”
I sort of dismissed it.
The sun, despite doing its thing on the opposite side of my house, was filling my bed/sitting room with a glowing radiance. It seemed to beckon me for a hike with my teenage son and the three dogs. For several days I’d been dealing with a nasty situation involving an individual who felt compelled to self-appoint a mythical reign over a project for which I was serving as coordinator. That morning, after two nights of minimal sleep, pulsating pressure in the head, and the inability to fix the situation, I stepped back and handed over the reins.
A renewed energy quickly flooded my brain, my entire being.
Katrina Kittle’s reminder of the writer’s workshop reappeared on a later Facebook scroll. For the first time in over six months I actually felt life creeping back into my soul. I remember how invigorated I was when I heard Katrina speak about her novel, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS, during one of our ACTION Adoption Service training sessions. I had also attended several theatrical performances where Katrina played a psychologist assisting a patient through the horrors experienced both during the London Blitz of WWII, and years later on 9/11. Katrina’s voice is captivating, and her spirit is invigorating, and infectious.
At this point I knew that my angel team was kicking in a God-wink. Quintin and I discovered a movie he wanted to see (I did not) was at the same time, so we killed two birds with one stone. He hit the cinema, and I hit Books & Company.
As I grabbed my keys, preparing to leave the house, a song – one of my favorite songs – on Spotify began playing. I sat down, and absorbed the message.
When a thing is wick, it has a life about it.
Now, maybe not a life like you and me.
But somewhere there’s a single streak of green inside it.
Come, and let me show you what I mean.
When a think is wick, it has a light around it.
Maybe not a light that you can see.
But hiding down below a spark’s asleep inside it,
Waiting for the right time to be seen.
You clear away the dead parts,
So the tender buds can form,
Loosen up the earth and
Let the roots get warm,
Let the roots get warm.
~ ~ ~
And all through the darkest nighttime,
It’s waiting for the right time.
When a thing is wick, it will grow!
The words to “Wick,” from THE SECRET GARDEN, was another God-wink for the day.
The workshop, led by Katrina Kittle and Kristina McBride, was my final remedy. Within minutes of the workshop beginning, I realized the dead parts encasing my spirit were breaking through the earth. That spark, as lyricist Marsha Norman explained in THE SECRET GARDEN, had been hiding down below, sleeping within… It was the right time.
After a meeting with a good friend I respect and admire, and another fun dinner with Quintin, I quickly returned home with the joy of the workshop’s reassurance beating within. I opened my laptop, clicked on the file titled THE BIRD LET LOOSE, and opened the script. Everything was familiar once again. There seemed to be a chorus of voices calling out from the pages, thrilled that I had returned. A reunion began.
It seems my angel team had led me, at the right time, to Sunday, January 8th, 2012. Were Katrina and Kristina serving as angels?
Who can say.
For whatever reason, these two lovely ladies, as countless others throughout my life, were a piece of the puzzle that has continually courted me on this wonderful journey. Perhaps some people, much like my family and teachers have always been, are the golden bricks that pave my own personal yellow bricked-road.
The passion is restored. I am acknowledging, appreciating, and adoring my apprenticeship once again.
Can I say life is wonderful, and that I am so blessed?