Hello everyone…did you think I had fallen off the planet. I haven’t…I have just been enjoying a busy holiday season. I have noticed that not as many people are reading my blog over this break so I have slacked off in writing. It has been nice, but for me, writing it kind of like breathing. I have to do it. So while the break has been nice I am now exploding in my head and heart from the lack of expression! Here is my yearly Christmas reflection.
Have you ever lost a dear friend or family member, either by the severing of the relationship or by death? The grief is heavy, the memories strong. This year Mom and Dad are preparing to sell Cloudwood in Clayton. For those of you who don’t know, my parents live on some gorgeous mountain property in Rabun County , and they bought it when I was probably 6 or so. It has been a place of retreat and refuge for all of us for nearly 40 years. It is a part of us. Like a friend that you have to say goodbye to, we have all begun our grieving process and it started this Christmas. We each wrote our favorite memory of the house to share. Mom and Dad gave gifts with stories attached. The bird’s nests we had collected over years were distributed, along with pottery, books, and old family heirlooms. It was a bittersweet day with tears and laughter. We remembered good times and told stories of the past. From childhood games of hide and seek to adult walks through the pasture, it was a heartfelt day of emotion as we spent, what could quite possibly be, our last Christmas in Clayton.
I have often heard that the only thing that remains the same is change. I think it is true. Change is part of life no matter how much we might wish otherwise. Children grow up, loved ones die, children are born…time moves on. I remember Christmas at my Aunt Polly’s house, then at my grandmothers, then to Clayton. With each change has come the challenge of creating new traditions while not loosing sight of the old. We have said goodbye to family members and welcomed new ones. What has remained constant is the love of family. William put it well when we were discussing Clayton, “The stuff doesn’t matter if the people aren’t there. As long as I can see grandma and grandpa it doesn’t matter where we are.” That is quite insightful for a 14 year old.
This special place seems to have its own life. It is like part of the family, and that is what makes it hard. Leaving Cloudwood behind feels like a death or divorce. If I look at it practically, it is wood and nails. That is all…just a beautiful shelter on the top of a mountain. At the same time it is so much more than that. So much of my view of life was shaped there, so many memories wrapped up in the wind. Part of me will always be there, so it is like loosing myself in some ways…an empty spot in my heart. It’s not like we go there that often, a few times a year, but knowing that there is a place to escape to if life gets overwhelming or I just need a quiet moment, is like an anchor to my soul. It will be hard to let this place go. Two of my favorite things are there, family and nature. This place has been one of God’s classrooms in my life. He has taught me and instructed me about himself, about relationships, about nature and beauty. He has spoken to me through the trees and mountains, the stillness and the storms. This is the place I first realized that all creation worships him and speaks of his glory. Learning to reflect on that, and to carry it with me, has been my life lesson from him.
The grief of loosing this family-building piece of paradise will be real. We will all miss it and grieve in our own ways. Hannah had a dream that they decided not to move and we had to give back all of our heirlooms. I am secretly wishing that somehow it could be turned into a retreat center and we could still reserve it for family events. Peter wants to take up a collection from our friends so we can buy it. William wants to give it to someone who really needs a home. We are all trying to hang on when God is requiring us to let go. It is human nature to hang on when he says, “Let go…I have something else for you now.” He has blessed us with the ability to remember and to treasure those memories; to share all the good times with future generations. We can shape the future with our stories of this place and this family. There will always be a special spot in my heart for this place called Cloudwood, but as William said, it is the love of family and friends that stands the test of time. The place is secondary.