I’m still amazed on a daily basis. Truly. Simply amazed. I was talking to a good friend the other day and acknowledged a fundamental truth about the life I’ve lived…there is absolutely no practical reason I’m still alive. Through my 47 years, I’ve made so many poor decisions, engaged in so many risky behaviors and lived on the very edge of personal destruction in so many ways. I’m not sure why I’ve been allowed to live through and survive up until now. Surely at some point in my life, my card should have been punched and another, more worthy, soul could have been allowed to shine their light in this world instead of my own. Surely my light, having been allowed to continue shining despite myself, should be dim at this point.
Yet my light gets brighter every day. My life has truly become peaceful. Not perfect. But beautiful, fulfilling and complete. I am whole despite having shattered and fallen apart so many times. I am joyful. I am new. I am redeemed. The more I learn about grace on my spiritual journey, the more I come to realize Grace is exactly what I’m experiencing. This beautiful sweetness in having a brilliant existence, burning brighter and more genuinely than ever before, despite there being no discernible reason I should be alive, much less happily so. As oxygen is to the body, grace is to the soul. It feels so good to have my soul breathing exceptional well for the first time I can remember since 1975. Amazing Grace.
Living in the Ozarks and driving through countryside dotted with soul-wrenching “Trump” and “Make America Great Again” signs, I have felt so conflicted about finding happiness in the Hills. Sometimes I actually grieve to feel so bitterly different from the community around me. I’m a Kathy Griffin supporter, a Muslim lover, a Bernie Sanders fanatic, a Colin Kaepernick admirer, a disgusted Columbus Day hater, a Pro-Choice contributor and a Trump loather. I’ve often wondered, if those around me knew how different my beliefs are from their own, would I be rejected or ridiculed? When the current political structure collapses, should I worry I’ll be in danger? Will those I love be safe here with me? I feel so “home” here in the hills…is it because my white skin and outward appearance give me a welcome I would otherwise not feel? Am I selling out by fitting in?
Last week I painted trees on the road approaching my driveway with bright glow-in-the dark rainbows. This wasn’t an intentional political statement but was instead a practical solution to helping others find my home on the long private timbered road winding through the remote Ozark hills. While I appreciate and fully support the rainbow message in today’s political environment, my choice to paint rainbows on my trees wasn’t intentionally a political statement. I’m a 70’s kid and my love of rainbows was born when I got my first pair of Mork & Mindy suspenders as a kid and my first pair of jeans with bright rainbows stitched across the pockets. It wasn’t until after I’d painted the first that I considered how it might be received and then I wondered…would my rainbow trees bring me answers to some of the questions I’ve been asking about how I truly fit in?
It brings me great joy to report that my rainbow trees, and my neighbor’s reactions to them, have made me feel even more at home here and even more certain that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Two neighbors I had yet to meet drove by as I was painting stopped to introduce themselves and remarked “You’re really making this place beautiful!” The older ultra conservative gentleman up the road, assuming I’d just outed myself to the neighborhood, sent me a message saying “We will continue to be good neighbors as far as I’m concerned!! I’m me and you are you. I will never be mean to you.” And my organic farmer neighbors painted their trees to match mine. The good news is that I’m truly home and I truly fit in. The even better news is that rainbows are contagious.