Down to Earth In A Sonesta

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April 3, 2022, Atlanta- I left Heart of Dixie Motel, the fixer-upper that did not even have its own towels. (I had my own, for just such an eventuality.) It was mid-morning and I had plenty of time to get up here, to mid-town Atlanta, by the time I was to host a Zoom call. So it went, and the two paradigms of life in America stood in contrast to one another. Rural Dadeville, with mostly comfortable single family homes and a motel or two to house migrant workers, just up the road from the aspiring surrounds of Lake Martin-a fishing and boating mecca that gives east central Alabama a much-needed boost, versus Atlanta, the symbol of the South that rose again, with every amenity that one could call upon.

I find myself in a Sonesta Hotel, one of those which have become part of the system first established by A.M. Sonnabend, a Boston-based entrepreneur, of whom I heard as a child. Mr. Sonnabend lent the first three letters of his name to the brand-“Son”esta. I worked in a Sonesta, in Bangor, Maine, for a few months, in 1976-7, while simultaneously feeling my way in the newly-emerging field of educating the emotionally-disabled. I held my own in that motel job, and may actually have been better off sticking with the field, at least until I got my head on straighter. Things happen the way they should, though, and here I am, 46 years later, glad to have reached equilibrium in my life and impacted a fair number of children and youth in a positive way.

The next day or two will find me bidding farewell to the Hyundai Sonata, which safely took me to Miami Beach and back, via Brunswick, Amelia Island, Kennedy Space Center, Key West, Big Cypress, Naples (FL), Lake Okeechobee, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Spring Hill, and the Carter Country of southwest Georgia. Thinking things through, in the safety of a comfortable hotel room, is not hard. I have Celtic music gently playing and the knowledge that, although the faith-based activities I hoped to have included in this journey were eclipsed by lingering pandemic-related restrictions, I did right by family members along the way and made new, if fleeting, friendships-with people I may very well encounter again in the future. I kept the online meeting commitments I had, that either did not conflict with family engagements or get rendered cumbersome by lack of a proper venue at the time they were scheduled.

Above all else, I did not fold, did not collapse or get shaken by either aloneness or by the ignorance of others who did not honour my presence, even though I did theirs. March was both a hard energy month and a stage filled with opportunities for growth. April, May and June will bring more of the latter-mostly around Home Base, but with another likely journey of observation and service, towards the end of Spring.

The flutes and strings are telling me to be gentle with self and re-group, in any way that such is needed.

Two Voices of Reason, and Their Opposites

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April 2, 2022, Dadeville, AL- “Behold a tree. Does it speak to us thusly: ‘Don’t you see that God is not working Himself into a frenzy in me? I am calmly, quietly, silently pouring forth my life and bringing forth fruit. ‘ Do thou likewise.”-Clarence Jordan

Mr. Jordan was one of the founders of Koinonia Farm, an intentional experiment in Christian living, which began in 1942, west of Americus, GA. Together with his wife, Florence, and colleagues Martin and Mabel England, he built a community based on the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people. This brought hostility from those who were afraid of racial equality, with Ku Klux Klan attacks and drive-by shootings, as well as bombings in the 1950s.

Koinonia’s response was nonviolence and prayer. The founders, and the community, survived nicely, and the enterprise remains as it was founded, rooted in love and prayer. Clarence passed away in 1969. Out of Koinonia’s ministerial efforts have come Habitat for Humanity, and The Fuller Center for Housing. Koinonia remains a fully-functioning cooperative farm.

Here are some scenes of the property, which I visited this morning.

An example of an unreasoning individual showed up, as I was preparing to turn left into the chapel’s driveway, and passed my car, on a double yellow line, in the opposite lane, seconds before I would have turned, had I not felt the energy telling me-“WAIT!” The vehicle must have been moving at 50 mph, leaving the road and bouncing back on it, about fifteen seconds later.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, is still alive, at age 97. He lives with his wife Rosalynn, on a private compound, in Plains, GA, where they grew up. Plains proudly holds its favourite son and daughter to its heart. The small downtown bears the imprint of the U.S. National Park Service. While not everyone on the block is a fan of Mr. Carter, those who grew up there are.

Two very positive shop owners were the proprietor of a peanut butter ice cream parlor, who is a native of Plains and a small cash dispenser/convenience store owner, who comes from Sri Lanka. The owner of Plains Trading Post has one of the largest troves of political memorabilia and media, in the nation. I will leave it at that. He has several rare books on various historical topics. I bought one, as a gift to a family member.

At the Jimmy Carter National Historical Site, on the campus of the former Plains High School, it was noteworthy that one of the strongest influences on Mr. Carter was his school’s lead educator, Miss Julia Coleman-who was a pedagogically active Superintendent. Miss Coleman (She rejected the title, Ms.) was active in community gardening and took a personal interest in both the white and black schools, and their students. It dismayed her that there was so much resistance to integration of the two student bodies, even as late as 1965.

The fullness of Jimmy Carter’s life is well-depicted in the 25-minute video that is shown in the historical site’s auditorium. I hope to learn more, at the Carter Center, his Presidential Library, in Atlanta-but not until my next visit in the area. (Mr. Carter believes on keeping the Sabbath, so the facility is closed on Sunday). Needless to say, his legacy is already one of the most genuine and consistently enriched, of all the Presidents.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is situated at the very field where the men trained. Just north of the city of Tuskegee, Alabama, it is a spacious area, and is still used as a training site for pilots of small aircraft.

This hangar contains examples of two training airplanes, a plane motor and has audio presentations of several different players in the endeavour. Women served as security, parachute preparers, and aircraft mechanics.

It was a full day, and I admit to being a bit less energetic than the various people zipping along the backroads of Alabama, while I headed to and from Oskar’s Cafe, and Heart of Dixie Motel, Dadeville. Oskar’s has modest, but very filling portions-continuing in the spirit of Georgia and Florida. Madolyn was another very focused and energetic server. The motel needs a lot of work, but it’s clean and safe.

Tomorrow, I head back to Atlanta, for a day or two.