"Little sisters of the sun lit
Candles in the rain
Fed the world on oats and raisins
Candles in the rain
Lit the fire to the soul
Who never knew his friend
Meher baba lives again
Candles in the rain
To be there is to remember
Lay it down again
Lay it down again
Men can live as brothers
Candles in the rain"
— Melanie Safka
Well, thank the Lord, we dodged the bullet on Dorian, what a name, not one I would pick for anyone, male or female, but that’s an individual choice. The name is not important. The fact God saw fit in His mercy to allow this storm to pass us by is very important. If you can’t think of anything else for which to give thanks including eyesight to read this column, thank God you still have a roof over your head, as there are many folks in the Bahamas and the Florida Panhandle who still don’t. Keep them in your prayers.
In thinking about this storm passing us over, I thought about the concept of Peace. Now, recently my good friend, Sherry Millington, who, by the way is a fantastic cook, oh, that girl can cook, and so can her daughter, Sarah, who makes some of the most wonderful cakes ever, Sherry made a pilgrimage to Woodstock, New York, site of the iconic music festival in 1969 for its 50th anniversary, and Sherry was there at the age of only 5 or 6 in 1969, cough, cough, a mere child when she attended. Lord have mercy on me.
Woodstock meant many things to many people, but primarily it meant expressing to the world that folks could live in peace and harmony and experience something wonderful, and I am glad Sherry made the trip. Had a festival been held in 2019, as it was 50 years ago, I am not being overly skeptical, just pragmatic, BUT I don’t believe the same characteristics or beliefs have prevailed? Would someone have been gunned down? Would too much racial division or religious intolerance have caused trouble? I don’t know. I know, at present, we live in a troubled world. You are as likely to be “gunned down” in your church as you are in a nightclub, and I am not promoting one over the other, simply stating an observation.
It “rained home” for me on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, when I went to read to students at Hamilton County Elementary, as I do almost weekly. A security officer, newly hired, stopped me in the hall, and asked “Do you have your ID?” I showed it to him, and he asked me “Who are you?” I said “I am Johnny Bullard, Chairperson of the Hamilton County School Board and THANK YOU for doing your job.”
No one ever dreamed we would be where are now, BUT about 18 years ago, that ALL changed. I think the beginning in this nation of so much concern for safety and the beginning of troubles, and I may be wrong, as I often am, was Sept. 11, 2001. The infamous 9-11. And, before that, going back to Sherry and her pilgrimage to Woodstock, Vietnam, the war in Vietnam CHANGED this nation tremendously. Now, as always, we long for peace, and so I went back to a column I wrote some time ago where I asked folks their concept or their thoughts about peace. I will share them with you here:
"I live in a large metropolitan area, busy, busy, all the time. When I come home to north central Florida and sit in the rocking chairs on my parent's back porch and just rock and rock, whether I am visiting with anyone or not; that is a place of peace for me.”
"I love sitting in my own backyard, listening to my grandchildren play and enjoying their laughter and the joy of that love."
"When I retired from the school system, my husband built a big ‘gathering barn’ for me. I love my friends and family, and I love to cook. The happiest of times and the most peaceful have been spent in that gathering barn."
"Driving in my pickup truck, right by myself, around the miles of beautiful, scenic roads in our part of Florida. The canopied oak trees, your window ‘rolled down,’ the beauty of all that is around you. I feel peaceful.”
"I love sitting on the bench near the carillon tower at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center White Springs and listening to the strains of the ‘Old Folks at Home’ or any Foster melody playing on the Stephen Foster carillon."
"I love going down to Suwannee Springs and sitting at the picnic tables when there are not a lot of people around, sipping my cup of coffee, and just enjoying memories, the river, the glory and beauty of a place that is dear to me. Happy memories there."
"I love going back to the farm I inherited from my father. It is not an operable farm as it was the days of my childhood. Silenced are the tractors, the old harrows and bottom plows are rusting, the tenant houses have been dismantled, the last one will go before much longer, but when I walk around those fields, I feel the spirit of my father, I hear the laughter of long ago, and in my mind's eye, I see the fields of flue cured tobacco, watermelons, and other crops he grew and tended with loving care. It is a place of peace for me.”
"Reading my Suwannee Democrat or Jasper News each week right by myself, sitting in my big, comfortable recliner. That is peace to me."
"The public library in my hometown. I love to go to the library, read the local newspapers, and check out books. The public library is a place of peace to me."
And this one from ME, sometimes I will ask Mrs. Carolyn Cannon, White Springs, my longtime friend to lend me her key to White Springs United Methodist Church where I am a member, and I will place a plant or flower on the high altar. Sometimes I go there to practice a song with dear Betty Borman or Julie Gafford, our talented musicians. Many times before they arrive, or after they leave, and the light streams through the beautiful, historic stained glass windows, I kneel for long periods of time and pray. I talk to the Lord a lot at that altar, and I do listen a lot too. Now, just for me, I feel closer to God in that place or sitting on the bank of the Suwannee River behind our family farm than any other two places in the world, but I know He’s everywhere, all the time. I don’t have much sense, but I have sense enough to know that.
Folks, remember this, EVERYONE you meet, EVERYONE you meet, or KNOW, if they have lived a while, they have experienced, are experiencing, or, trust me, WILL experience a storm in their life. My dear Grandma Bullard always said “Honey, everyone you meet has a cross to bear. Some bear that cross on the outside and tell the world about it, at times to the exhaustion of the listener, but with those people, smile and be as sympathetic as you can. MOST, carry that cross on the inside and never say a word to anyone, BUT, if they have lived a while, TRUST me that Cross is right there so try and be a little more tolerant and a little kinder too.” My paternal grandmother was very wise, both my grandmothers were, maternal and paternal, how blessed I was to have Mary Joyner Bullard and Annie V. Johnson Taylor in my life. Wise ladies, loving ladies, who KNEW all about sacrifice and love. You can’t have one without the other. Not even the Savior escaped that.
Thank you to my readers for their responses, in the middle of the storm and we had a literal one who came to close to us last week named Dorian. When I wrote this article we had a storm named Matthew, anyone remember? Anyhow, all of our storms, aren't we thankful to have these places of renewal, refreshment and peace? I know I am.
Before closing, I want to express heartfelt sympathy to the family of the late Mr. “Coach” Billy Blair, Jennings. No one loved Jennings, Florida, North Hamilton Elementary, nor the University of Florida Gators more. He is part of a generation of educators in this area who were wonderful, wonderful and memorable and caring.
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a day filled with joy, PEACE, and, above all, lots of love and laughter. The goldenrod is here, so HOPE, six more weeks, according to the old folks till the weather cools down some. Let’s hope so.