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Blog Posts (233)
- The Sycamore Has Always Been
The sycamore has always been my favorite tree. The sycamore as in species. All sycamores. Its branches spread wide and fill the space around it, not in an intrusive or demanding way like the guy on the plane who commandeers the armrest before takeoff with nary an intention of relinquishing even the smallest sliver to you or anyone else, but in a inclusive, generous way, stretching and curving and bending in order to embrace, to draw in. Its leaves are the perfect color of green. They are broad and soft, big enough to use as fans on sultry summer afternoons if only they weren’t so limp. They dangle from the branches and flirt with the wind, whistling in a soft alto accompanied by the light percussion of limbs rattling against each other. The bark may be my favorite thing about sycamores. I was a young child when I saw my first piece of it loosed from the tree, all silvery gray and thin as a potato chip. It made me think of papyrus and I wondered if I could write on it. One look at the trunk from which it had fallen, however, brought on a wave of sadness I’d not lived long enough to understand. The splotches from which the bark had fallen leaving slick and unprotected skin looked like a healed-over wound, a scar left as a reminder of the wholeness that was no more. The sycamore has always been my favorite tree. The sycamore as in the one in my parents’ backyard. The one planted not long after we arrived on the farm, growing quickly, joyfully even to fill up the sky. It created shade for the long hot summers, drew a breeze from somewhere beyond the flat fields that surrounded the house. Its limbs grew in perfect proportion to the legs of the children that would one day climb it, invisible among the swaying leaves. It stood guard over the flower bed Mama planted and weeded and watered every spring and summer until the disease that would ultimately take her made gardening a pleasure of the past. And all of this is why I am grieving. Grieving a loss I didn’t even know we’d experienced until one day last week when Owen and I were walking up the road and noticed way too much sunshine pouring through the spaces between the pecan trees and the fig tree and the gardenia bush. It took a moment or two of staring to even see it – the sycamore tree stretching up and up just as it always has, but naked. Not a leaf anywhere. Daddy hadn’t noticed it either. We stood at the kitchen window and stared out at the skeleton, its graceful outline revealing its own kind of beauty. “Must’ve been hit by lightning,” he said in a tone I don’t hear often from a man who has spent his life acknowledging without sentimentality the life cycle of plants and animals. And people. He shook his head as I recited the wonders of this my favorite tree of favorite trees. “You’ll have to cut it down,” I muttered begrudgingly. “If it fell, it would take out the whole house.” “Yeh.” It was only then that I noticed the flush of green at the base of the trunk, a thicket of thin limbs leafed out in an explosion of sycamore leaves. “Look!” I pointed. “Some of it is still alive.” Somehow, despite the indefensible assault of lightning, some part of the heart of the tree had survived and was, even now, struggling to live, to recreate itself. From where I write, I can see it, still towering over the other trees, its bare branches looking for all the world like upstretched arms, reaching ever toward the sky. It may not succeed. But it is trying. The sycamore has always been my favorite tree. Still is. Especially now. Copyright 2023
A few weeks ago I had lunch with a group of my high school friends and one of them had the audacity to mention that next year will be our 50th reunion. It did not come as a surprise (We can all do math; we had Velma Kemp for algebra.), but it did come as a shock and that undeniable fact has been lurking along the edges of my consciousness ever since. Then a few days ago my mail included a high school graduation announcement from a young lady I’ve known since she was a toddler. It is lovely – printed on heavy stock with photos of the smiling graduate in cap and gown and a subtle caption regarding acceptance to her first-choice college. ‘Tis the season. I suspect that there will be more arriving in the next few weeks, but I can’t begin to guess from whom. I can’t keep up anymore – the girls and boys for whom I gave baby showers and attended recitals and took to get ice cream have become subject to soap opera aging, going from first graders in April to high school seniors in August. Just the other day I was driving down what used to be Lester Road, staring at the building that looks nothing like the high school into which I walked every day for four years and thinking about the girl I was then. That girl did all her assignments and never got a tardy slip. That girl bought a spirit ribbon every Friday and never forgot her locker combination. That girl had her future all figured out and never considered the possibility of deviation. That girl was smart, but not yet wise. I think she is now, though. She has lived through enough wars and political crises and cultural sea-changes to acknowledge that textbooks can never be definitive. She has experienced enough disappointment and frustration and grief to understand that a sterling report card and an honor graduate stole do not guarantee happiness. She has survived enough change to know that resilience is more important than perfect attendance. She has learned to say “I don’t know.” She has learned to say it whenever and wherever she gets the opportunity. She has learned that admitting ignorance is better than demonstrating stupidity. She has learned that “I don’t know” is the birthplace of curiosity and curiosity has fed her when nothing else could. She has learned to take some chances. Not the race-the-train kind or the intentionally-stupid I-dare-yous, but the ones that push her out of her comfort zone, the ones that require her to recognize, articulate, and face down her greatest fears. The ones that appear out of the ether like the voice of Gandalf or Yoda or God. The ones with no guarantee that the result will be what she wanted or planned. She has learned to pay attention. To everything. To the scent of cardboard boxes and the sound of a squirrel running through dead leaves. To the coolness of sheets on sunburned skin and the weight of a door being pulled open. To the echo of her own voice in the darkness. To beginnings and endings. To people – cashiers and receptionists and janitors, the people in the next booth, the police officer directing traffic at the intersection. Ultimately, she has learned that there is no finish line, no graduation, no moment when the work of becoming oneself is done. Copyright 2023
- Road Signs and Quotation Marks
I started keeping a quote book when I was in college. It wasn’t really intentional, but one day I walked into a classroom and saw a quote on the chalkboard that made me gasp: “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.” It is from an essay by Thomas Huxley, a 19th century English biologist and anthropologist. I doubt he had any idea that 80 years later his words would change forever a girl in the American South. In all the years since I have been forever on the lookout for phrases, sentences, and short paragraphs that articulate life’s great truths. I have been known to entertain, irritate, and/or bore my friends, family, and casual conversationalists with serial repetitions of lines from poems, holy books, novels, and – on occasion – obscure movies. Last Saturday I found a new one. I was listening to a podcast, whose name I can’t remember, when the interviewee quoted G.K. Chesterton, the English writer, philosopher, Christian apologist, and literary and art critic. “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there,” he wrote. “ The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place[.]” I don’t think Chesterton meant home in the literal sense – home as in address or birthplace – , but as the state of being content, satisfied, fulfilled. The thing about quotes is that they usually take the shape of the experience of the person quoting them and these words struck me as accurate, potent, and particularly memorable. Late afternoon of the same day, I went walking down our road. (I’ve always thought of it that way – in the possessive sense. For decades no one who didn’t have my last name lived on this four-mile stretch of sand and Georgia clay. My mother’s drapes had hand prints where the panels met in the center, where one of us pulled them aside every time we heard a truck, curious as to who was so audacious as to travel down a road to which they had no right.) Above me, clouds skittered back and forth, forcing me to walk through alternate patches of sunshine and shade as the road narrowed into nothingness in the distance. I found myself remembering that when we first came here, when it was just becoming our road, it ended at the Canoochee River. The road itself stopped at the very edge of the cold brown river. A dead-end. I stopped. Or, more accurately, I was stopped. Stood there in the shallow ruts created as a result of the previous day’s rain as the truth became clear. G.K. Chesterton, scholar though he was, was wrong. There is a third way home. I have always been a good navigator. I am rarely lost. I am deft with maps and adept at following directions that include instructions like, “Turn at the instant mart between the CVS and the First Baptist Church and just keep going until you see a bunch of cars on the right.” That does not mean, however, that I have never reached a dead end. I have. On roads, with ideas, in relationships. Two facts have remained consistent in my unsuccessful attempts to get somewhere, figure something out, save something that is already lost. First, not every dead end is preceded by a bright yellow diamond-shaped sign warning you of its approach. And, second, unless you can fool yourself into believing that the DOT is on its way with graders and dump trucks and a whole lot of asphalt, you have to turn around. Turn around and go back the way you came. Turn around and acknowledge that that road was never going to take you anywhere you really wanted to be. Turn around and notice that the longer you walk or drive (or run, swim, bike, or fly) the closer you get to the place from which you started, a place that looks an awful lot like home. Copyright 2023
Other Pages (11)
- Books | Kathy A. Bradley | Author and Writer in southeast Georgia | A lawyer by training and a storyteller by nature, Kathy A. Bradley is a writer in southeast Georgia for more than 20 years as a newspaper columnist and magazine contributor. Kathy is the author of two books, Breathing and Walking Around and Wondering Toward Center. |
Breathing and Walking Around Kathy's first book, Breathing and Walking Around is a record of four years’ worth of observations of common people, everyday events, and the natural world made from her home in the coastal plains of South Georgia. In short, personal essays she shares with precision and layer upon layer of sensory image "simple tales that emerge, in the end, as parables." Read More Sifting Artifacts In her third book of essays, Kathy Bradley continues to ask important questions about humanity, community, and stewardship. Writing from the family farm where she has lived for almost forty years, she has long looked for answers to those questions in her interactions with the natural world. In Sifting Artifacts, she discovers a new lens through which to look at the world and herself. Read More Wondering Toward Center In her second book of essays, Kathy Bradley continues her examination of the natural world as a prism through which to understand the human experience. With her family farm serving as the anchor, Kathy uses her observations of animal life, agriculture, and the seasons to create what she calls “a map key or decoder ring” for some of the dilemmas of twenty-first-century life. Read More Callings: A Story Corps Book In 2009, Kathy and her father Johnny participated in a Story Corps interview was later featured on NPR's "Morning Edition" and in 2016 it was chosen for inclusion in Callings, a compilation of interviews by Story Corps founder Dave Isay presenting stories from people doing what they love. Read More Q&A with Kathy Bradley, author of SIFTING ARTIFACTS Mercer University Press "In her latest book, Sifting Artifacts, Kathy Bradley explores the meaning of life and relationships through an anthology of essays. During her life, Bradley has been a lawyer and newspaper columnist, and she uses her deep familiarity with the Coastal Georgia countryside to communicate her insights into everyday life. In this interview, Bradley discusses why she became a writer, how writing works in her life, and her hopes for readers of Sifting Artifacts." Read the Full Interview
- Books | Kathy A. Bradley | Author and Writer in se Georgia | A lawyer by training and a storyteller by nature, Kathy A. Bradley is a writer in southeast Georgia for more than 20 years as a newspaper columnist and magazine contributor. Kathy is the author of two books, Breathing and Walking Around and Wondering Toward Center. |
In her third book of essays, Kathy Bradley continues to ask important questions about humanity, community, and stewardship. Writing from the family farm where she has lived for almost forty years, she has long looked for answers to those questions in her interactions with the natural world B the change of seasons, the wildlife that shares the land, the sky and its occupants B, interactions that provide a framework for making sense of uncertainty and obscurity. In Sifting Artifacts, however, she discovers a new lens through which to look at the world and herself. An unexpected visit to a doctor's office introduces Bradley to the metaphor around which her questions begin hovering and in which these essays find their theme, a metaphor that causes her to examine what it means to be a writer. “I have spent much of my life searching,” she writes in the introduction, “mostly for the right words, but also for the right time, the right choice, the right person. It is because I have understood without ever saying, ever articulating, ever being able to articulate that just happens. It happens and it leaves something behind, like a trace element. And what is left behind is never gone.” Bradley invites the reader to accompany her on that search as she moves chronologically toward the understanding that, as she is told by a friend, “It is not simply what you find. It is what you find out." Winner of the Will D. Campbell Prize for Creative Nonfiction; Recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year/Essay (2013) In her second book of essays, Kathy Bradley continues her examination of the natural world as a prism through which to understand the human experience. With her family farm in the coastal plains of South Georgia serving as the anchor, Bradley uses her observations of animal life, agriculture, and the seasons to create what others have called parables, but what she calls “a map key or decoder ring” for some of the dilemmas of twenty-first-century life. Bradley shares the story of how, through wandering, she came to know the land that became her home and how that knowledge worked as ransom to gain her release from societal expectations. “Like numbness beginning to thaw,” she writes, “I felt the pinpricks of pain. I rambled with no purpose beyond looking in order to see, listening so that I might hear.” The chronological stories, four years’ worth of tales that began life as newspaper columns, are inhabited by wild and unpredictable animals, civilized and unpredictable people, moons and cornfields, tides and floods and droughts— each described in sensory detail, each a metaphor rich in meaning. Bradley invites readers along on her wanderings in order that they might find their own meaning in the recounting of commonplace events and the lives of ordinary people. Along the way, Bradley decides to build a labyrinth at the farm, a decision that brings a new perspective to her exploration of the world. “The deliberate and contemplative act of walking an actual labyrinth, the physical movements that I ... imagined would mesh body and spirit and leave me enlightened, the slow and purposeful wandering toward a literal center and back out again has become, instead, a slow and purposeful wondering.” Website Designed by Beola Le'Shaun Consulting Recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year/Essay (2017) Breathing and Walking Around is not a memoir. It is a record of four years’ worth of observations of common people, everyday events, and the natural world made by Kathy Bradley from her home in the coastal plains of South Georgia. A lawyer by training, a storyteller by nature, she shares with precision and layer upon layer of sensory image simple tales that emerge, in the end, as parables. Beginning at Sandhill, the house she built on her family farm, Bradley takes the reader with her as she walks miles of dirt roads with the dogs Lily and Tamar, alert to the details of rural living – the movement of the seasons, the nearness and unpredictability of wildlife, the sights and sounds otherwise drowned out by 21st century living. The meandering continues down the Atlantic beaches, the shorelines of inland lakes, backroads and interstates, and we are at her shoulder as she, like a paleontologist, uncovers joy in the magic and mystery of the familiar and the brand-new. But Breathing and Walking Around is a true story and, so, along with the joy there are moments of questioning and uncertainty, moments when doubt challenges faith. It is in these moments, when Bradley struggles to bring order to her own life, that she most clearly articulates the universal truths that weave through all our stories, ribbons of continuity and hope. Breathing and Walking Around began life as newspaper columns, each dated entry independent and viable on its own, unconnected to any other. Only upon preparation for publication was it clear that they told one story. And that that story was a part of the one big story that includes us all. Q&A with Kathy Bradley, author of SIFTING ARTIFACTS Mercer University Press "In her latest book, Sifting Artifacts, Kathy Bradley explores the meaning of life and relationships through an anthology of essays. During her life, Bradley has been a lawyer and newspaper columnist, and she uses her deep familiarity with the Coastal Georgia countryside to communicate her insights into everyday life. In this interview, Bradley discusses why she became a writer, how writing works in her life, and her hopes for readers of Sifting Artifacts." Read the Full Interview
- Kathy A. Bradley | Southeast Georgia Author | www.KathyABradley.com | A lawyer by training and a storyteller by nature, Kathy A. Bradley is a writer in southeast Georgia for more than 20 years as a newspaper columnist and magazine contributor. Kathy is the author of two books, Breathing and Walking Around and Wondering Toward Center. |
Beauty is everywhere. Kathy A. Bradley A lawyer by training and a storyteller by nature, Kathy A. Bradley has been writing from her family farm in southeast Georgia for more than 20 years as a newspaper columnist and magazine contributor. Kathy is the author of two books, Breathing and Walking Around and Wondering Toward Center, for which she received Georgia Author of the Year Awards in 2013 and 2017. She has also received the Will D. Campbell Prize for Creative Nonfiction, was a finalist for the Foreward INDIES Book of the Year Award in Essay, and was a nominee for the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA). Books Meet Kathy Book Kathy "Beauty is everywhere. Simple is better. Quiet is a gift. Let’s embrace what we already have, where we already stand, and who we already are.” Website Designed by Beola Le'Shaun Consulting Website Design by Beola Le'Shun Consulting Join Thanks for subscribing, stay tuned! Let's Keep in Touch! Subscribe to our newsletter.