Old Chunk of Coal

“I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m gonna be a diamond someday.” (I’m listening to this Billy Joe Shaver song while I write as the late Johnny Cash sings it on the album, Unearthed, produced by Rick Rubin and released by American Records two months after Cash’s death in 2003.)

2010 has brought many messages in bottles to the shore of my lively spring here in the longleaf woods. There has been a bubbling up, a falling from the sky, a cracking open of worlds.

Genuine wayfarers in the virtual world have traveled inbound on the ultra-high-speed rail of my optic nerve and were delivered from the main station deep in my consciousness out through my bloodstream to all points, especially my heart.

They arrived from the neighborhood just down the road in Tallahassee and Lakeland, from Phoenix, from North Carolina, Ohio, the Texas hill country, wild Alaska, the beautiful coast in California and especially The City of Angels, from Japan, Wales, India, Spain, Oklahoma, Iowa, the English countryside, Oregon, Nashville, Pennsylvania, Washington state, Boston, a steady stream of good cheer from Wisconsin, Maine, dear Ontario, lately and most welcome New Hampshire and the pond of unknowing, and even by-God-New-York-City, shedding star light through that remarkable worm hole between virtual and real and dusting me with light on each and every pass.

Blog comments, e-mails exchanges, the occasional phone call, an entire virtual Advent village from a dear friend in Wales that I can peek into every day and hear the music in all its traditional otherworldly loveliness; there have been photographs floating into my real world post office box – especially treasured is the photo of that mill in Ontario and the words written inside (no longer strangers, indeed); and then only yesterday, inside a plain brown wrapper, unannounced, a beautiful book arrived, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey, sent by my world-traveling friend in Moose Pass, Alaska. She knew I would love and appreciate this book (and her) and I do.

We have been through a lot together in 2010. As my old friends at the Beaverdam Methodist Church in Rice Cove, North Carolina might say, we have shared joys and sorrows. We have been open and vulnerable with each other, and on occasion have bound each other’s wounds, and celebrated our common urges to create. And we have respected each other’s silences, comings, goings, and meanderings; the madness, the messiness, the breaking open and the breaking through.

There have been so many gifts this year. I have been rocked back on my heels by your writing and general fineness of character and spirit. Your encouragement to me via comments and also by private email has kept me from turning the computer and all my half-written stories into a big old shredded fishing reef out in the Gulf. Thank you.

Let us go forth, now, into this new frontier, 2011. With you all as my companions, my fellow travelers, and guided by my muses for this year: John Updike, Don DeLillo and that man in black, Johnny Cash who is excavating sixteen tons of memory and story from my subconscious. There are others, and there will be others, but these are my teachers and spirit guides in this astonishing moment.

With your continued help and encouragement, like old Billy Joe Shaver, I’ll keep on polishing this rough-edged self, and maybe I’ll be a diamond some day.

My advice for the year? Buckle up your seat belts. It’s going to be another wild ride. And I daresay we wouldn’t have it any other way.


8 thoughts on “Old Chunk of Coal

  1. Wonderful post — so much to look forward to and onward! I am a huge fan/acolyte of both Updike and DeLillo, so I look forward to reading everything you write about them!

    Many blessings to you and Happy New Year!


  2. I think the greatest parts of our years are online support groups—the people who have no vested interest in our recoveries yet who tell us time and again that we are worthwhile.

    Thanks for this post, which is reminding me it’s time to let some people know I haven’t melted into a puddle of simpering salty liquids.

    Best wishes to you for a heathy, prosperous, and, yes, bumpy 2011.


  3. And amen. 2010 was my first full year of blogging. I learned a lot from the practice but the best was the wisdom and kinship of friends I’ve never met.

    Looking forward to 2011 and the journeys for all of us.


  4. I’m striving to make it up to the coal class, I don’t believe I’ll ever make the diamond stage, but as you said, it’ll be a great ride. I for one am looking forward to being transported to Longleaf through your words. Thanks for taking us along with you on your ride.


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