One of the great things about living in the South...
...is that you get to listen to music like this live every Sunday. Isn't it enough to make a non-believer sing about God? Yea, it's so beautiful. But even if you don't go to church, this wonderful music finds you everywhere. Last Sunday, I found myself at Mrs. N's house, watching her make an arrangement out of flowers, while gospel was blurting out the radio, and the house was filled with the beautiful smell of different things being fried or boiled on the gas stove. Her son was cooking and singing along in a kitchen full of steam and gospel ("Joy, joy, God's great joy!") while her husband was laid back on the couch, cigarette hanging from his lips as usual, and I could swear that through the smoke and the steam and the flower musk I saw the beans in the pot dancing, and the frying eggs shivering in Lord's praise. Even Chance the crazy little barking dog ("we found 'im in a pound and we took a chance on 'im"), that has to be tied on a cement block with a cable when guests are over to stop him from jumping at them with his snapping teeth, was quiet, basking in the warmth of a beautiful Sunday morning.
Mrs N. used to be a florist, and she owned the shop we now occupy, but multiple sclerosis confined her to a wheelchair, and a life full of little bottles of pills and daytime TV. She also worked as a nurse, and told me that her knowledge and persistence saved her life, because the doctors didn't seem to pay enough attention to her symptoms, and were ready to write them off as nothing. Next to her, the kitchen counter top is always covered with herbal supplements, and she advises me to practice restraint in my use of antibiotics and conventional medications ("Get you some Shiitake mushroom for that, increase your Vitamin D dose to a thousand, and take coconut oil for your heart).
Next to her collection of strange-sounding remedies are her florist tools, a box full of wire, wire cutters, scissors, shears, Aqua-hold, ribbon and other tools of the trade that were forgotten in some cupboard for a few years and have now resurfaced, ready to take on a new life. Since we wanted to learn how to be florists and open up the shop one day, and she was bored all day at home, we struck a wonderful agreement: that she would show us how to make flower arrangements, and that we would keep her busy.
And so here is one chapter of my current life, my regular visits to Mrs N's house, walking in carrying buckets of roses, carnations, delphiniums, snapdragons and chrysanthemums, and walking out with meticulous arrangements, and the latest 'Young and the Restless' gossip, Mrs N's favourite TV show.
Life here is good. Even though I try so hard to adapt and fit in a world so different from mine, there are beautiful moments that spark this small suspicion I have that a part of my soul really belongs here, or was born here but accidentally found its way to Cyprus on some easterly wind just in time to enter my little body back on 25 April, 1988. Like the other day, when the sun was shining a brilliant, brimming light all over this small, Misissippi rivertown, and I was working outside on the patio, sitting crosslegged on the floor among compost, pots and tools, planting my new garden: basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay and jasmin to remind me of home. Some neighbour was blasting old school Merry Claytonesque soul music, and I could hear the distant but loud cries of a pastor giving a sermon somewhere outside through a loudspeaker - "...Halelujah! Halelujah!.." - a lively crowd must have been gathered around him to hear the pep-talk, because I could also hear them shouting in agreement - "Yes indeed", "Praise the Lord!" "Alright now", "Preach it!". Just then my best friend walked out of the house carrying coffee, smiling. I looked up at him, eyes squinting from the sun's strong glare, and smiling back broadly I thought: "Joy, joy, down in my soul."
P.S: I strongly suggest you go on youtube to watch this video, then click on the right hand side where youtube has a playlist 'Mix', to hear all the wonderful songs in this recording.