Chris "Sutty" Suddeth prefers you call him the Write Reiki Master because that's what he is. He uses his five plus years of running his own holistic energy practice to inform and drive his writing. Sutty is too tall to be Yoda, but write like him he does." Mr. Mom is my full-time, blessed labor of love and writing is the labor of lust siren song that has been blasting in my ears since arriving at the cusp of my teen years. It was only after we had our daughter on 9/9/09 and I began my other career as an intuitive healer and Reiki Master that I was able to consistently put pen to paper. I have been working with the writing coach of the writing coaches, Kathie Giorgio, to make my dream of becoming a published novelist a reality.
SUTTY - THE ENERGY NOVELIST
In the past, I have been published as a movie and restaurant critic for my hometown newspaper, The Greenville News in Greenville, SC. Currently, I am currently writing an alternative healing column for the Island News in my adopted hometown of Beaufort, SC and was published by Reiki Rays on Facebook in December. I graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1998 and have been living on Fripp Island, SC since 2003. I would tell you my hobby is golf, but it’s more than just chasing around a little white ball for me. I feel heaven must have a golf course and it’ll look something like Augusta National on steroids.
PUBLISHED AND UNPUBLISHED WORKS
You can read Chris Suddeth's "mindful blurbs" publications in the Savannah Now where he frequently contributes.
Sutty's stories have been also published in various periodicals.
"Heaven is Augusta Green” is being published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company this year in their Ghost Anthology edition . It is a short story lifted from his novel "Swoondalini" and obviously lends credibility to the overall work.
Heaven is Augusta Green
For me, the year 2000 ushered in more than just Y2K mania. Not only did it signal the end of my early 20’s and bring about the realization that I was no longer a college kid. But that hallmark year became the first in which my paternal grandmother did not buy a birthday present for me, as all grandmothers worth their salt faithfully do for their grandchildren.
Would I have loved to receive a Polo shirt from Belk’s for my quarter century mark? Sure. Were my feelings hurt that I didn’t receive that Belk’s closeout special from my Mama Suddeth? Absolutely. But it wasn’t the lack of a present that hurt my feelings. The sad fact was that the Matron Saint of Dunean, South Carolina (Dunean is a textile community, known as the “mill hill,” within the city of Greenville, SC), truly could not remember my 25th. Slowly, yet steadily, over the course of the preceding eight years since my grandfather’s passing in 1992, Alzheimer’s had abducted a once sharp and highly respected member of this Greenville community.
All who have lived the life-altering effects of Alzheimer’s understand that forgetting grandchildren’s birthdays and eventually the way home in a town where my grandmother lived her entire adult life is only the beginning. In truth, she could have legitimately been admitted into assisted living the year before Y2K ended the world as we knew it. As is often the case with families in this situation, we found difficulty in “giving up on” the glue that anchored the Suddeth family and the community at-large for longer than our collective memories could recall.
I feel it more fitting, and frankly easier, to recall this fine, regal lady in her prime before our stove privileges were revoked. Back then, whether feeding a crowd or an individual, Mama Suddeth lulled us into her kitchen with whistling to rival the Pied Piper’s flute and savory scents that sang a siren song to our stomachs. In her kitchen, this spirited woman would be fully present for her guests, whether family or friends, while making sure the tea was sweet enough and brewed well in advance to allow the proper marrying of flavors. It was in this sacred spot that I first became acquainted with her “flaw” of seeing and assuming only the good in people. Now I embrace and cherish this naïve genetic “flaw” within myself.
Through the myopic vision with which we view our loved ones from the past, I solemnly believe there’s not a soul food dish she couldn’t execute in competition with, and better than, the Rachael Rays of today. (I’ll make an exception with Giada De Laurentiis for obvious reasons.) Of Julia Child’s OSS trained ilk, Mama Suddeth was brought up in the Depression-era South that only emerged out of Reconstruction and the Depression due to the horrors of World War II.
Mama Suddeth didn’t achieve the fame of Julia Child, but then again, who has? Still, as Julia’s signature dish was roast chicken, Mama Suddeth had her own signature dish of chicken and dumplings. And those dumplings were real, mind you, no Bisquick bullshit for that grande dame. (She’d undoubtedly slap me on the back of the head for typing bullshit, so apologies, Mama Suddeth.)
Once she was incarcerated in the nursing home, we all had ample opportunity to ply anything out of her that was within her power to disclose. With Mama Suddeth, all one had to do was ask. However, denial and time conspired to rob us of any such opportunities. Eventually we would claim she was having a good day if she put a sentence together, much less remembered someone’s name. I digress.
I have aspirations. And a big one is the ability to parlay the ease and unconditional love with which Mama Suddeth would put together a family table. The joy she radiated in creating a family meal. A meal. Nearly anybody can put food on the table by ordering out for a pizza, but to make a meal and build the kitchen of a childhood’s Christmas Eve memories takes care and dedication.
Mama Suddeth held onto life the way she held on to children and grandchildren of her own, with determination and tenacity. She did this to other people’s children too. Especially in my teen years, Mama Suddeth would embarrass the fire out of me when she would come across the children of strangers. The younger the child, the better. Without a thought, she would instinctually pick them right up and coo and laugh. Most people couldn’t, and probably shouldn’t be able to get away with doing that, but Mama Suddeth’s Peter Pan aura and a personality that commanded by love and respect coaxed jovial trust from young and old alike. Finally, with the Alzheimer’s scythe dangling over her head, the only thing that would soothe her during sundowners was a baby doll she would probably swear was real if the spoken word was within her dwindling powers on that particular day.
In the end, she lived three weeks longer than the doctors said she should have to achieve her life’s hard-earned Great Release. By then everyone in the family had grown so weary, but used to the idea of losing Mama Suddeth, that we only wanted mercy for her. I credit writing this story, five years after her passing, with allowing me a venue and opportunity to grieve properly. During the last seven years of Mama Suddeth’s life, my relocation from our hometown to coastal Lowcountry Beaufort, four hours southeast of Greenville, SC afforded me the “luxury” of not having to deal with her condition on a regular basis. Upon word of her passing, instead of being swallowed by the grieving that I was sure I got out of the way in years previous, due to her lack of coherency, my first thought was of the chicken and dumplings recipe. (Denial is a powerful thing.) Where was the recipe? Was it even written down? None of us had eaten the dish in years and I can’t recall the last time she cooked it for me because she was supposed to cook it forever.
One of life’s ironies is that often when you cease searching for a lost treasure, it will appear at the right moment. And so it was with Mama Suddeth’s chicken and dumplings recipe, which emerged from an old box at the top of my mother’s closet a couple years after Mama Suddeth’s passing. At the time my journey as a stay-at-home father was in full swing and I was coming into my own in my kitchen. Shocked delight was among the strongest feelings I had when I saw in Mama Suddeth’s own hand, the recipe that bound generations of friends and family together. I believe she was reaching out from beyond the Veil at the proper time in my life for me to take on “the dumpling mantle of responsibility.”
Following is that recipe, and I have no doubt my grandmother would approve and encourage its sharing:
3 or 4 Large Chicken Breasts
64 oz. carton of Chicken Broth
I generally shred the chicken while poaching on medium heat
For the Dumplings you’ll need:
2 cups of Flour
1/3 cup of Crisco
2.5 tablespoons of Baking Powder
1 tablespoon of Salt
½ cup Buttermilk
Combine first four dumpling ingredients in a large prep bowl by mashing with large fork into the consistency similar to cornmeal. Then add buttermilk and mix with hands until you have dough. If dough is too sticky add a little flour, if too dry and not staying together add a little buttermilk. Roll out and cut into long rectangular squares. Gently drop in simmering broth and stir by lifting gently straight up rather than in a swirling motion. Cook on low heat for at least an hour.
Practice makes perfect. DO NOT attempt if in a hurry to eat. Take the time to put that love in. It’ll be worth it in the end when you see those smiles.
While Mama Suddeth’s directions appear to be child’s play, I can assure you it takes practice to pull off what she made appear effortless when I bothered to watch in my youth. In teaching myself to cook her recipe, and now writing about it, I got to know my beloved grandmother in ways I never dreamed possible so long after her passing.
Now, in 2015, my five year-old daughter helps me in the kitchen and requests Mama Suddeth’s chicken and dumplings all the time. This would have thrilled her great-grandmother to pieces. I take pride in the fact that I can recreate the exact taste of those Sunday dinner memories in my ever-growing arsenal of signature dishes. My dumplings tend to break apart like the Arctic icepacks in Spring rather than the perfect rectangles hers were, but I figure by Y2K’s 50th anniversary they’ll be on par with Mama Suddeth’s. Until then, I endeavor to share with family and special friends a dish that allows me to feel Mama Suddeth’s matronly touch as I roll out those real dumplings with my own child. The love in my belly after consuming this meal is tangible and I’m grateful to be able to spread the doting simplicity of a grandmother’s caring hand.
Chicken and Dumplings for the Soul
Honestly, the last thing I remember on this Earth was going to see a Reiki Master named Ifetayo for an attunement before my final round in the U.S. Open. The sun was yet to rise, since I was in the dew-sweeper group with the various other rejects that qualified and miraculously made the cut. It had been a few years since I actually made the cut.
“Alice, you thought it was a good idea to show up to a sacred spiritual event in your life drunk from last night and high from the joint you had on the way over here?” Ifetayo asked.
I let the question hang in the air. I wasn’t used to being questioned. Actually, I stopped drinking right before I hopped in the shower and raced over here in my courtesy car. And I always smoked weed right before a round. Why would I change my routine for her?
She closed her eyes to slits and seemed to see something beyond me. I looked over my shoulder, but saw nothing. “I’m not getting a red light for you, so let’s begin. We have a lot of work to do, and a scant time to get it done.”
Later that day, on the 59th hole, I took a double-crossed long-iron shot from my seventeen-year old South Korean playing partner directly between my still buoyant breasts that paid more bills than golf did these days. When I was her age, I became the youngest winner in Women’s U.S. Open history. My clubs drew the attention of the cameras the day of my first and only victory. From then on, until that teenager dropped me like the wasted talent I was, my looks and antics off the course held the media’s attention. A short time after the win, I turned eighteen and all bets were off. I became the freak show of the LPGA with controversy and calamity always within reach. Now, this child would have to live with killing me.
The first thing I heard was, “A tradition unlike any other, The Masters,” the voice of Jim Nantz proudly announced.
The first thing I saw was the Augusta Green vortex that deposited me softly at the entrance to Magnolia Lane. I looked behind me and was pleased to see that Washington Street and Augusta proper were a blur. They were secondary and, therefore, didn’t matter. I strolled down Magnolia Lane, taking it in. This was Augusta National on steroids.
Obviously, not having a penis meant that I couldn’t compete in the Masters, but being in the world of golf and an attractive female translated into the proper connections to be able to play on golf’s most hallowed soil. Augusta was the one place on this Earth that I was reverent and deferential in my otherwise irreverent existence.
Ever since my pappy took me to see The Masters for the first time at the age of seven, it held a place of awe in my heart. I can still remember everything we did that day, from where we ate lunch under the 4th tee box, to the first professional I saw. Jesper Parnevik’s famous turned up hat bill practically welcomed me to Augusta National. I was so awestruck to see the Big Three that Pappy had to nudge me along repeatedly. I can remember the weather, the price of the food, what I wore, what I ate, what Pappy ate. A kind local lady ushered us around, showing us tricks like rushing up to an errant tee shot, so you could literally reach out and touch a playing competitor as he hit his recovery shot off the pine straw. We were able to get within arm’s length of Bernhard Langer that way. I even recall a man offering me twelve hundred dollars late on cut day for my tournament badge.
The first thing I smelled was cigar smoke. I knew it was him. “Pappy?”
“I’m here,” he responded. His voice possessed a melodic timbre. Cigar smoke emerged from one of the famous magnolia trees for which the driveway approaching the old clubhouse was named. I then saw my beloved grandfather. He was much younger and fitter-looking than the years leading up to his passing. My family always bemoaned the fact that he didn’t live to see me win the U.S. Open, but I was glad he was dead for the subsequent years of debauchery. I always hoped he would be the first one I’d see when I passed on.
“Well, you got your wish,” Pappy said, deadpan. He was a man of few words and a dry sense of humor. “Wanna hit a shag-bag?”
What then appeared before me was not Augusta National’s driving range, but my driving range that Pappy made for me, including the iron stakes representing fifty, one hundred, one-fifty, and two hundred yards. It even had the centuries old live oak, burdened with Spanish moss and resurrection fern, at exactly one hundred forty-five yards from my tee box, with the St. Helena Island, South Carolina’s marsh in the distance. I first started learning to shape my shots around that tree.
He smiled at my wonderment. If my grandfather was awake, he had a cigar jammed in his mouth. To complete the authenticity to the driving range was Pappy’s 1965 aqua colored Rambler where he would park it under the live oak and nap. “Are you going to warm up on your driving range?” Pappy asked again.
I just realized I hadn’t answered him. Naturally, my head was spinning and panic was setting in.
He embraced and steadied me. His touch was electrical and communicated unconditional love. “Want me to clue you in?”
“Yes, please. You would do that?” Not that Pappy would withhold information, but he would make you work for it if he thought it’d serve your greater good. They say the best teachers know how to make you ask the right questions, then let you figure out the rest.
“This is the last place you will need help, but I will provide it if you’d like.” He smiled the smile of when I would do something cute as a little girl. I only gawked at him. I didn’t know what to say or do. “Very well, what is it that you always say or think about Augusta National? You said it the first time I took you to The Masters.”
“That—that this must be what Heaven looked like, if there was such a place,” I answered slowly.
“Sounds like you have a handle on things. I’m going to my Rambler,” he said before he vanished in a thick puff of cigar smoke. Was he suggesting that this was Heaven?
“I’m not suggesting it,” Pappy said in a funny little huff in my ear.
I always hoped that I might change my sinful ways at some point in my life, preferably five minutes before my wet-dream of a body died. Being a sinner was more fun than being a saint, or so I always forced myself to believe via being destructively deft at denial. Besides, wasn’t it only an issue of perspective sometimes?
In my mind, Heaven had a golf course and it would only follow that the golf course would be none other than Augusta National. I mean, it was like stepping into a painting, even on the property’s worst days. Last year, I was there when it snowed. Odd-looking, like snow on the beach. A strange, silent beauty all its own. Was I getting the most coveted invite of all humanity?
Could this be Heaven? Not everybody liked golf or what Augusta represented, for that matter. Perhaps it was only my version of Heaven? Whatever it was, it was time to explore. I supposed I would see more of Pappy when it was my time to see more of Pappy.
The sounds of Augusta were almost more important than the azaleas and the perfect grass. At some points, I swear that I could actually hear the vivid colors and see the electric sounds. It was intense and intoxicating. I could feel the profound silence, but the energy of the Sunday back nine’s expectant roar was just beyond perception. One only had to still themselves to feel the Big Three navigating around Amen Corner. However, I appeared to be alone.
It was time to walk or float around or whatever it was I was supposed to do here. Suddenly, I felt the urge to play. Instantly, I found myself at the number one tee box, dressed in my favorite spring golf outfit.
Gene Sarazen made my tee time official to a crowd that only he could see. “Fore, please. Miss Alice, to tee off,” he announced in regal, old-world tones. He kindly shook and kissed my hand, then wished me luck on my round. “Greens are dried out and lightning fast today, Miss Alice,” he offered kindly.
“Thanks, Mr. Sarazen. I will be careful not to fire at every pin,” I said through a permagrin smile.
Mr. Sarazen, the second winner of the Masters in 1935 due to his “shot heard around the world,” chuckled and faded away into the sound of Augusta patrons. I then began my first round of golf in green Heaven. This was Augusta unlike any other. Even though the real thing seemed other-worldly, gone were the annoying reminders that one was on the planet Earth. The pollen, buzzing insects, and inclement weather were voted down by the great Augusta National Board of Trustees in the sky. I found that the temperature hovered around seventy-five degrees with a pleasant breeze.
The layout and the landmarks were the same. Hard to imagine, but the grass was brighter and more uniform. When I took a divot, the grass grew back before my eyes. When I got close to the azaleas, I could hear them singing a soft lullaby. Other times, I heard Huey Lewis and the News harmonizing a cappella.
The challenge of golf was still intact. I would have been disappointed if slices, hooks, chunks, thins, hosel rockets and three-putts were exclusive only to those inhabiting the land of the living. I was so distracted by the majesty of the golf garden of grandeur that I played poorly on the front nine. It was the first time since that U.S. Open win that I played golf with all my being, the way the game was meant to be played at the highest levels of mastery. Or, in this case, the highest and best plane of the spirit world. I truly felt every shot down to the blades of grass resisting my club through impact. The little girl within me played the cliché of taking each shot as they came. I cannot deny the difference that it makes to play for the joy of the game and deference to the game. My essence needed to hear and feel the click-clack reassuring stability of metal spikes. Long forgotten intimacy with the sweet spot of my clubs returned. This intimacy negated the requirement of tracking my ball other than to witness the satisfaction of bending a shot to my will.
As I made the turn, I was determined to play better, but refused to sacrifice better play at the cost of ignoring my surroundings. Before beginning the inward nine, I noticed an older gentleman waving to me from the lawn of the Eisenhower Cabin. He wanted me to hold up for him. I waved him over, and it was, in fact, President Eisenhower. It was Ike! I always enjoyed reading the history of his life. He flashed his famous charismatic grin at me and offered his hand. “You’re not the only one to make this their Heaven, you know.”
“No, I suppose not,” I said as I took his hand and stared at him, starstruck.
“Mind if I join you?”
My mouth dropped open. His smile widened when I still held his hand after an embarrassingly long time. “I’d love to have you join me, Mr. President.” I followed that with a poor approximation of a curtsy in my skort.
“Oh please, none of that here. Call me Ike, Miss?”
“Call me Alice, then.”
“Alice, very nice to make your acquaintance.”
“Nice to meet you, Ike,” I said with awe in my eyes.
“Ladies first, Alice.” He motioned grandly to the forward lady’s tee box.
“Oh no, Ike, I’ll play from your tees, thanks.” I couldn’t believe I was calling the man who led the Normandy invasion Ike. I was on a first name basis with the former leader of the free world. I threw a tee in the air, and it landed pointing toward him. “Your tee box then.”
“Oh, no, ma’am.” He bowed slightly.
“You’d better take it. You may not get it back.” I could never resist a little good-natured smack-talk, even if it was directed at one of the most powerful men ever to have breathed.
He chuckled and gave a salute. “Yes, ma’am.”
We strolled and pleasantly chatted through the back nine, conversing about every subject from politics to recipes. Amen Corner possessed its earthly voodoo and treated Ike accordingly. By the time we finished number sixteen, I was two holes up on him. I pegged the tee in the ground on number seventeen and looked down the fairway to see one major difference.
“Mr. President!” I scolded.
“Well, Alice, this is my Heaven, too, so you can’t expect me to leave that damned tree there, can you?” He covered his mouth in embarrassment. “Excuse my language, ma’am.”
I laughed a belly laugh not felt in so long, probably since leaving my hometown of Greenville, SC and dating my first love. “You may swear all you like, Ike, and it won’t bother me one bit. I have always hated that damned tree, too, since I like to cut the ball.”
“I knew I liked you the first moment I laid eyes on you, my dear,” Ike said. He swung for the fences, and his drive crept toward the top of the hill. It went right through the spot where the famous Eisenhower Tree grew on Earth until the harsh winter of 2014. I guess he finally got his wish. It only took over a half-century.
“Nice ball.” I teed the ball for a low draw, swung out, and held my hips off. My ball rocketed up the right side of the fairway and drew to end up fifteen yards ahead of Ike.
“Show off!” He grinned and flicked his Lucky Strike to the side. The smoldering cigarette butt disappeared in a slightly more magical way, but still very similar to the real Augusta National.
I giggled. “Thanks. So how long have you been here?”
“Not sure. Doesn’t really matter,” he said as he shrugged. “When did I die? You just came from there, so you tell me.”
“You can tell I just came from the physical world? Am I still alive? If I’m still alive, how am I here talking to a dead President? I have plenty of dead Presidents in the bank, but it won’t do me any good here.” I hit Ike rapid-fire. I even sounded a little crazy to myself.
Ike arched his eyebrow and projected in soothing tones, “It’s okay, you’re just an honored guest at this moment.”
I felt it was okay, and instantly, my emotions calmed. But the life or death question still remained. What was to become of me?
“Time is not a concern here,” Ike said, matter-of-factly. When he could see his answer didn’t satisfy my curiosity, he went on to explain, “Time is only used there and has very little meaning here. It’s more of a tool for learning, like children playing with numbered or lettered blocks.”
“That’s nice,” I said quietly, thinking of the implications of man’s number one enemy, time, being little more than a child’s training wheels.
“No, it just is.”
That sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure why. “General, you are away.”
“My, you are a sassy lady.”
“I know.” I grinned, blushed, and looked down at my petite feet. I couldn’t believe General of the Army and President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower just called me a lady. If I was being honest with myself, which I rarely was, I didn’t consider myself a grown woman, just an experienced teenager.
He hit his shot short of the green and his ball bounced into the cavernous bunker that protected it. “Damn it!” His happy face didn’t match his tone.
Another question occurred to me. “So I guess you’ve been here over fifty years then?”
“Really? Okay.” He sounded interested enough just to be polite.
“So, do you ever leave?”
“Occasionally, I do leave. Other parts of me are incarnated as we speak. But since this incarnation led such a full and stressful life, I’m content to stay where I was most content in life. Make sense?”
“Absolutely. So this is not everybody’s version of Heaven?”
“No, but it is popular, as you may imagine. Life is no different here than on Earth, or any other plane of existence, though.”
“It is what you make out of it. Things are just more reactive here.”
We played the remainder of the round in silent contemplation, and before long, we putted out on number eighteen, and Ike was shaking my hand.
“It’s been a pleasure, Ike.”
Again with that broad, charming, trademark grin that decided the fate of millions in his lifetime, he said, “For me as well, young lady, although I can see that your soul is an ancient soul.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” he asked as he motioned around my aura with his hands and lit another Lucky Strike.
I neglected to notice my aura until Ike pointed it out. I then took note of the yellowish haze surrounding him.
“Well, again, I enjoyed our time together.”
“I did, as well, Ike.” I giggled.
“Just do yourself a favor and make sure you commune with the azaleas down in Amen Corner before you leave.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, saluting him. I felt that I might have had an incarnation as a Marine, because I felt a recruit poster Marine assert himself as I stood ramrod straight.
He returned my salute and said, “See you in forty or fifty years, Alice.”
“’Kay,” I said, and I was still waving at him when he shut the door to his cabin. Forty or fifty years?
I watched my waving arm gradually disappear along with the rest of my body. I became a point of consciousness. Strange thing was that I didn’t feel strange at all, and it didn’t disturb me in the least. I merely found it curious, and it felt as natural as breathing in and out, natural as eating when I was hungry or sleeping when I was tired.
With that in mind, I decided to float slowly down to Amen Corner, enjoying everything along the way. I was determined to take my time, even though this experience taught me time didn’t really exist in a strict sense other than a tool. It was a torturous, and often times, brutal illusion. But somehow, it made sense and felt right.
As I neared the lowest point on the property, christened Amen Corner by Herbert Warren Wind in 1958, I allowed the grounds to soak into my soul rather than before, or when I played on the “real” golf course.
But the magic was always here. Yes, the greens were greener. The browns were browner. The white marble sand traps whiter. The pine trees, minus the Eisenhower Tree, were grander. And finally, the flowers richer, deeper, more vibrant, more fragrant, and thicker. One just had to choose whether or not she let her heart see it.
I was standing on thirteen’s fairway, listening to the melodic trickle of Rae’s Creek, lost in realization, when the breeze died down. Was the breeze ever there, or was it just a prop? I suppose I could have asked if Earth was really a prop, too, but that would just be too much to contemplate. We distracted ourselves from living our lives by trying to figure everything out.
In the stillness, I began to hear tinkling whispers, like hearing a baby’s laugh in a distant part of a big home. It dawned on me that it was the azaleas. I could hear them; no, feel them, now that I allowed myself to listen. Was this the secret of life? Could it be so obvious?
“It just is,” tinkled the baby’s high-pitched giggle. I drew closer to the melodic chorus of blossoms. I then merged with Mother Nature herself. I became her and she became me. We all came from the same place: The same Source. The same Creator. The Same.
It’s unimportant as to the hours, days, weeks, months, or seconds I spent communing with plants. Does it matter? I suppose not. What did I learn? Nothing much, only the secret to life, and the fact that it wasn’t a secret, so much as it was just hidden in plain sight. I was only reminded to emulate what the flowers and animals are telling us daily on Earth. “NOW!”
I do know that I’ve never felt so at peace in my life and couldn’t get enough of that baby’s laugh tickling my soul. It was no accident that Augusta National was once a nursery. Funny thing was that I never felt a matronly instinct in my life. This was mostly due to the fact that I lacked much positive influence from the mother figures in my own life, but I still made the choices and lived the life. I chose not to have children. I wasn’t even sure if I could, much less should have them. What would a child want with a mother like me? Up until now, I felt it a blessing to my professional life. It would help me maintain my pristine size, sans those nasty stretch marks, and leave me unencumbered.
Now, I began to ask, was it really a blessing? Alas, it just was, or is, or will be.
Also on my increasing list of revelations while reliving and revisiting my burning bush was how we’re weighed down by the three R’s my Reiki Master taught me about as she droned through the class that was the catalyst that apparently led me here: resentment, rejection, and regret are true life-fuckers. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. You’ll be guaranteed to choke.
These realizations gently began to pull me away from the enchanted flowers. It was difficult to leave the womb, but not excruciating. I had an open invitation to return, and part of me would never leave, and never left. There was no sense of urgency, but I knew my time here was coming to an end. Most souls currently incarnated couldn’t, or wouldn’t, come here, and even if they did make it here, they probably wouldn’t remember it. Would I remember it? For this third eye-opening experience, I’ll spend a lifetime in gratitude.
I bid my friends in Amen Corner a warm farewell and set out to float around the property for one final glimpse of glory. Glorious it was, but it wasn’t my time to be here and, therefore, it was my time to go, at a leisurely pace, of course.
After one final inspection of the Augusta National in the sky, including a shag bag of balls on “my” driving range, I was drawn to the Champions Locker Room. Oh my, the memories
I made in that place. I was a popular girl around there. I’m merely stating facts of this in
hindsight and am no longer proud of my exploits.
I was pulled, no, compelled, to go to the showers. As I neared there, the compulsion became stronger. This must be what it’s like as one approached the precipice of Niagara Falls. The sound was deafening, yet soothing, all at once. Initially, the showers appeared as a large blooming lotus. It was as inviting to me as if I was a worker bee robbing it of pollen to produce nectar. A thousand petals began to drop away as a warm, bright light, brighter than a thousand combined suns, yet gentle and beckoning, balmed my soul. My body reappeared, transparent at first, then opaque, and finally solidified as I walked in. I could feel my own weight return.
A thought occurred to me and was confirmed by a cigar-breath whisper from Pappy that this was what it was like being born. It truly felt like I was going into the birth canal. Amazing, yet not surprising, it was my essence that recalled birth. I would find that being born was an event that was a larger shock to the system than dying, an event I experienced more times than I could, or should, count. However, I wasn’t alone, was never alone, for even a split second of life, or death, or birth. I was supported by unconditional love each and every time.
Given this second chance, I pledged to myself that I would live in the now. I rediscovered what I loved about the game when I first started playing as a child with Pappy. Until that child blossomed into a lady, I couldn’t put it succinctly into words, much less into my golf swing that is apparently my fingerprint on the world. Much like life, golf is unique in the fact that it’s the only game in which you are ultimately playing against yourself. When I use the heart within my chest to play for the love of the game and what it can teach me, there’s no wrong; it just is.
* The above account of a Near Death Experience is by no means indicative of what one can typically expect. Results of golf shots to the chest may vary.
“Wintertime Stew” I'll never quit trying to get published. I actually wrote this short story first, then formed my novel around it.
Those who know me know that I am seasonal in my sensuous taste for food. Corona in the winter is as much a no-no for me as white shoes after Labor Day is for the ladies. College football just wouldn’t be the same in the spring, although I’d vote for it year around.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 was on the money by saying, “To everything there is a season.” Oyster stew highlights this wisdom. There is a time and place for everything or, in this case, every meal. The thought of one of my favorite dishes always sends me into a reverie regarding the most halcyon day that I had the pleasure of living. That’s saying something considering my good fortune to live in a region ruled by the tide clock.
First rule of thumb when making oyster stew, is to avoid eating oysters in months without an R. Personally, I can’t touch them until the weather is cool enough for my favorite gray sweatshirt. The second rule, buy local seafood. Frogmore, South Carolina oysters are the best and local lore suggests a man that goes by the mononym of Roc is the ace of the Lowcountry marsh at oyster gathering.
Preparing my oysters for the stew pot is more sacrament than burden. I handle each oyster to ensure it is shell free, wash it, and place this bivalve bloom in a strainer. Some people save the natural brine the oysters live in for a fuller flavor; however, I’m neither here nor there on the brine. But really, what could it hurt to have a little sweet salty taste in your stew pot? Yes, all this is time-consuming, but when that dinner bell rings, the last thing you want to do is crunch down on a hard shell while enjoying this creamy goodness.
I understand that not everyone can get on board with the consumption of raw oysters, but I feel it’s part of the preparation process to sample one. Granted, I’m likely to blast through two dozen oysters in the “preparation process” to ensure consistency of taste throughout the batch. Take a Saltine, put a large oyster on top, add a little salt and glop on my homemade cocktail sauce. (I’m still on the fence about releasing my cocktail sauce recipe.) Just writing about this palate’s wet dream has triggered a sluice of saliva in anticipation of ecstasy.
With the bulk of the prep-work done, it was time to take a break from making the stew. My back was weary from bending over the sink and my eyes yearned for scenery. I double-checked to make sure those succulent stunners were iced down, and then bundled up for a short golf cart ride to the beach. Once you cross Fripp Island’s half-mile long bridge, bikes or golf carts become the main mode of transportation. The introvert within me finds a place of respite during Fripp’s short, but solitary winter, the way an extrovert feeds on a sea of humanity. Fripp feels untouched by man’s tinkering in the wintertime. Don’t get me wrong, the summertime with sand and sun, girl-watching, and Corona drinking on a folding chair is inspirational. But if push comes to shove, I’ll take the toboggan, gloves, and a Maker’s Mark on wheels to brace against the cold any day.
The winter of 2004 was my first full winter living on Fripp. This time of year, the fog can become so thick, you can hear the ocean speaking its bass tones from miles away. On this particular day, the fog’s density necessitated stretching my legs to the water’s edge to confirm that the Atlantic was still there. After taking my soul stroll, I made my way up to the widow’s watch of an unfinished oceanfront home nearby to get a better feel for Mother Nature’s foggy embrace. The sound sticks in my memory more than anything else I can recall about that day. Even though the ocean was relatively calm, one could hear every splish, splash, and wave crash. Nursing my bourbon, I realized I was living the most peaceful day I had ever experienced on Fripp Island, possibly my whole life. Even now, nearly a dozen years later, this day comes to mind when someone asks me to tell them about the winters in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
After an hour, the numbness of my face and fingers, my arid drink, and most important of all, the oysters, were calling. On the slow golf cart ride home, I noted that the air appeared as if I was snorkeling in the very stew I was to create.
The following ingredients are required to complete the oyster stew:
--Half a stick of butter.
--Ketchup. (This is the secret ingredient.)
--1 can of evaporated milk, or even some heavy cream, for thickness sake.
--Quart of whole milk.
--Texas Pete to taste.
--Salt and pepper to taste.
--An adventurous dash of Worcestershire sauce.
--Brine juice. (Optional)
Salt, pepper, and sauté in butter the surviving oysters of your “preparation process.” Stay with them and keep the heat low and slow so they don’t get rubbery. I take this opportunity to sample a few sautéed oysters. You know, just to make certain of their quality.
After about five minutes or so, pour in the can of evaporated milk and the quart of whole milk. Cook the stew with the heat on low. The slower you bring the temperature up, the better. A couple of years ago, I tried this on a new stove and scorched the whole affair after turning my back for only a few minutes. Pretend you’re watching a small child. The thought of that curdled milk still inspires my gag reflex.
While bringing up the stew heat, add seasoning heat with the ketchup, Texas Pete, and pepper. The ketchup combined with the pepper will actually give more bite than you’d think, so add a little at a time and use the Texas Pete sparingly. (If you make the mistake of adding too much spice, just add more milk.) Notice no specific amounts of ingredients were listed. I cook intuitively, just as I felt that day’s glory on a gut level. Upon this treasured task’s completion, I serve my stew with six olives (don’t know why, but it must be six) and oyster crackers.
Two utopian basins left me warm and lethargic. I was far too sleepy for so early in the evening. What I needed was another dose of wet cold or I may just have fallen asleep to Wheel of Fortune like my grandfather. What better way to stir the senses than another golf cart expedition? Though I’ve been coming to Fripp Island my entire life and living here since 2003, I never tire of a couple of drinks and a golf cart ride. I turned off the stove and covered up the stew pot. I felt compelled to take a slow ride around Porpoise Road to see the fog and as much as I could of Fripp Inlet. To my surprise and delight, neither the adjacent Hunting Island State Park nor Fripp’s bridge was visible. This pearl of the Atlantic felt and even appeared to be a world of its own that February day. The day grew colder as the hidden sun waned, so I didn’t linger long. After all, I had pot of fresh oyster stew beckoning me to a warm tidal home.
“Soul Mate, Toll Mate?” is something I hope will be published in time for V-day. Read the unedited version while you can.
Each February 14, do you dread V-Day like the Germans dreaded D-Day or do you overdo as a means of overcompensating like that fella with the M6? Or worse, did V-Day become more like VD-day because your soul mate left you with the present that just keeps on giving?
Okay, my attempt at humor there was just to grab your attention. I am sending Reiki best wishes with all sincerity that my opening paragraph didn’t hit too hard below the belt. However, I suspect that the opening paragraph did much worse and hit ya right in that heart chakra.
Whether the scars are from 2015 or 1975 make little difference. Matters of the heart have the potential to take us to highs inconceivable to our younger selves and consequently they have the potential to take us to lows we pack away where we think no one will see. They eventually manifest everything from night terrors to heart attacks to mistrust and doubt of even our own judgment.
“But he/she was/is my soul mate,” is the typical refrain we often use to justify putting the blinders on to all sorts of poor and destructive behavior. Let’s talk about the term soul mate. I personally believe it’s an overused term, but that’s neither here, nor there. I also believe that even our enemies and frienemies can be our soul mates. I am going to base this next assumption on the fact that reincarnation actually exists. I uncover past lives all the time in my work, so I know what I know. In between lives we contract with other souls to be everything from the “best” thing that ever happened to you to the “worst” thing. In the end, it really comes down to learning and growth from one another. (For a more in depth look at lives in between lives, check out any and all of Michael Newton’s books on the subject.)
Sometimes it’s the Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News and sometimes it’s the s*** tsunami of love brought to you by your own insistence at clinging to what’s clearly not for your highest and best. Sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the sea pigeon and sometimes you’re the statue. You get what I’m flinging out? Maybe not, but we get so caught up in emotion despite even our own suspicions that we’re as delusional as our gal pal that has a dbag for a boyfriend. She insists that he’s just a friend. “Sex is more than just a notion,” to quote my friend and favorite Reiki Master, but that’s fodder for another article.
Soul mates need to be thought of as a hawk sees the earth. Given the objective bird’s eye view of our life that the metaphor (or animal totem depending on your slant) of a hawk provides, soul mates need to be thought of as anybody that provides us an opportunity for growth. This can include that special pet you have or had in your life. I loved The Wedding Planner, but life isn’t some Rom Com, much as we may desire it. It’s not supposed to be, otherwise it’d all be a story-book ending.
The good news is we all have free will. We all have the ability to write our own story-book so make a valiant effort to author life rather than plagiarize it during this Valentine’s day season. There’s a lot of love out there to be had if we’ll only open ourselves up to it.
Soul Mate, Toll Mate?
Sutty's Favorite Quotes
"Nature doesn't hurry, yet everything is accomplished."
"Re-examine all you've been told. Dismiss what insults your soul."