Strange No More: Seeing Through the Darkness.

None of us really changes over time. We become more of what we fully are.” +Anne Rice

I do realize that words shape thought based on how they are used, from inflection to tone, even beyond meaning. But a question I want to put on the table for you to unpack at your convenience. Do we learn to see in the dark or see through the darkness?

In early spring of 2018, I was in Seattle, WA for an art conference. Visiting Seattle museum of Art, I had the opportunity to see some of my favorite artists on view; Fahamou Pekoe, Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas, Jacob Lawrence, and stand next to the the the Jean-Michel Basquiat “Untitled” piece that had sold at Sotheby’s auction for a sizzling $110.5 million the year before. It was a surreal experience on so many levels. The Moore Hotel was being remodeled. The Moore Coffee house was on the same strip. Then there was Moore Food Seattle with my initials JM in the middle. I went to the Jimi Hendrix museum and walked all along the watchtower (also made some art there). In the shadow of the Seattle Space Needle, I was mesmerized by the MoPop (Museum of Pop Culture). Letters and photos of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain are still imprinted on my psyche. I’d planned to visit Bruce Lee’s gravesite but never quite made it. As intriguing and entrancing as Seattle was, I was ready to go. Too much cold and gray dipped in rain. The best purchase I made there was a pair of Carhartt insulated jeans. Pulled them on like a second skin. When the day came to leave, I was practically running through the airport. I needed some sunshine, desperately.

When my plane touched down in Huntsville, it was evident that the dreary weather had taken the ride with me, from Seattle as well. The gray sky hung over my head like a murder of crows blocking out the sun. I was so desperate for some sun that I accepted an offer to go to Disney World in Orlando. Florida meant SUN. My soul needed some of that good ole skin toastin’ sun. It was drizzly and gray all the way down to the Orlando line. When the sun finally broke through those clouds, my soul just opened up and shouted.

Five days later after a whirlwind of a time at Disney World, we were heading up the coast. I know it’s a major juxtaposition to sum up Disney World in a sentence but this is just the finger pointing to the moon, not the moon itself. We gettin’ there. I had decided in my sun-drenced state, to head up the coast, see St Augustine, where I had an outdoor installation, and head on up and through Savannah. Yup, Savannah was calling again. The St. Augustine stop was brief. When we left, we made calls to to Savannah for a hotel room. There was none. Spring break, Easter Holiday, and some festival, took up all the rooms in Savannah. We finally found a hotel in nearby Pooler, thirteen northwest of Savannah. We hung around Pooler that evening and got up the next day to head to downtown Savannah.

As we neared the city, I could tell by the traffic that it was a really busy time. On the edge of town I stopped at this most enthralling graveyard and walked though. After gathering a small boatload of the Spanish moss, I love so much, we proceeded to the downtown area. ( I was told that the Spanish moss wouldn’t grow in in my yard. I slung it up in the maple tree in front of my house. It lived for about two years, producing flowers and everything, and probably would have live longer if I had watered it over an intense summer drought.) The cars were rolling in bumper close. It was packed! I came up a side street and turned into the square and there about 13 yards across from me was an empty parking spot. Synchronicity at work. I whipped in and a gentleman approached my car and informed me that it was hotel parking but I could park there for $10. No problem here. I’m just happy to find a spot at all. He continued to talk in unofficial tour guide fashion. “And right behind you is the first African Baptist Church…”

I couldn’t believe it. I could but it was hard to process the fact that I had pulled into the first and only spot open and here I was in the parking lot of the same hotel from years back. Talk about a divinity circle. “The tour of the church starts in 20 minutes. You don’t want to miss that.” The gentleman went on. No, I definitely won’t, I thought to myself. We decided to go for a walk and arrive back in time for the next tour. The city was just as beautiful as before. Towering live oaks with wavy arms stretched out in praise for my return. Well, maybe not really but it sounds sublime. The Spanish moss draped and hung like choir robes swaying to the rhythm of a sacred hymn. A gentlemen in a starched white shirt and tie, seated on a bench, stopped up with the strumming of his guitar. He looked up at me and said. “You look like an artist.” “I’ve been called worse”, I replied with a smile. He chuckled and invested the next 15 minutes in us. He called himself Sir Deepy. He was a true son of Savannah, loving her to the core. After exchanging information, we left inspired by his insight and song and continued our sojourn through downtown Savannah.

I knew I was on miracle territory and that this unfolding was another episode in my awakening. The gentleman at the church greeted us like family, reduced the entrance fee to practically free and ushered us in. The sanctuary was cool and inviting. Photos of dignified looking African American men adorned the walls behind the pulpit. No sooner had the moderator began when I received a text…from the same partner that I was in Savannah with two years prior. That’s strange, I thought and sent her a photo of the sanctuary with an accompanying text, “I finally got in that church…in Savannah.” She texted back “Wow, that’s strange. I was literally just looking at these photos.” Immediately she texted back with photos from the previous trip to Savannah. the first one was the exterior of the hotel. Synchronicity. But where is it leading? For the next hour plus we were imbued with priceless history. I ran my fingers across the kosmograms in the basement floor, the dark wood artifacts. Felt a presence I could not explain. And left knowing again that my path is on purpose.

It’s a challenge to wrap up these experiences in words. There are too many parts that fit for it not to make a full picture at some point. I keep walking this path, knowing there is so much more we can experience if we can see past what we are conditioned to see. If we can suspend our limited preconceived notions of what has to be in order for us to accept what is right before out eyes. If we can see with the eyes of a child and feel with the heart of a mother, we can speak with the voice of god. This is a manifesting declaration shaped by an inner sound that’s been playing since before we were born. It accompanied us throughout our childhood serving as the background melody for our unlimited imagination. At some point, it may have been drowned out by the sounds of others imposing their wills over our own. I’m here to tell you, your music is still inside of you. The blueprint to your possibilities are still intact. I invite you to step to the rhythm of the you that you were before they told you who you were supposed to be. That’s where I’m going.

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