Tuesday, September 8, 2015

a SERENE place to BE

When I first came to Serenbe, I didn't know what to expect. Coming down the long gravel road, passing pasture, horses, and cattle, I was certain I was lost. Finally, we rounded the bend and found Selborne Lane, sidewalk, and a coffee shop. I had a thirty minute meeting with Brian Clowdus, director of the resident theater company, Serenbe Playhouse. We instantly hit it off. He had no idea I had driven three hours from my hometown just to meet with him about a possible unpaid internship. Desperate is an understatement. I longed to move close to Atlanta and once again thrive in a cultural environment where I could succeed in theater, and hopefully build a career. After the meeting, I found Jon wandering the streets we would someday call our home. Together, hand in hand, we ventured for the first time into the Serenbe woods - walking amongst trees I now call my friends...

As fate would have it, my unpaid internship skyrocketed into a paid internship, and then into a full time position within a short amount of time. Jon and I made a temporary move to this strange little land called Serenbe - meaning to "serenely be." I began to get recognition in the Atlanta theater scene for my work at the Playhouse and Jon worked on videography and took a part time job at the Serenbe general store, Fern's Market. Together, we established and presented the Serenbe Institute with our idea for a film festival in the community. We produced and directed our first short film, Picture Show, became friends with many wonderful neighbors, and finally, we landed a sweet apartment right here in Serenbe. Our future seemed to be taking shape.

Now if you know me and if you know this blog, you know that future imploded with a cancer diagnosis in early 2013. Quickly, I realized my job was taking up too much of my time and the pressures of working behind the scenes at a non-profit began making me unhappy. We turned all the work we had done on the film festival over to the board we had established, and quickly our time here in Serenbe seemed to be running thin. At a glance, I don't have too much in common with my neighbors, or at least that's the way it often feels. Honestly, I moved from my mother's single wide trailer in the middle of the woods to one of Atlanta's most elite, wealthiest neighborhoods. How in God's name did that happen? I don't rightfully know. We worked our butts off, scrimped, scratched, clawed, bargained, and saved everything we ever had and it happened. We were happy here, but I felt that when I left my job, I should leave the community too. By quitting, I knew I was letting many people I aimed to please down. It was a terribly hard decision to make and it came with a great deal of frustration, humiliation, and heart break. However, our getting here was not just your run of the mill, fish out of water, good luck story. I truly do believe our being in Serenbe was supposed to happen, divine intervention if you will, and it was going to be really hard to leave.

We had decided to move - because as a co-worker and former friend loved to remind me, how could we possibly afford to live here if I didn't work here? It wasn't until the diagnosis of lung cancer that Serenbe showed her true, true, beautiful colors. Neighbors have always been kind to me and Jon, that's just the way people are here - they genuinely care for one another. In celebration and in hardships, people come together here in a way I've never experienced before. After spending several weeks in Jon's hometown out West, processing our situation, we returned to Serenbe into wide open, welcoming arms. The Interfaith group organized a prayer walk for us in the labyrinth - one of my favorite spots to sit alone or with Jon. Support flooded in from every corner of Serenbe. I may have no longer had my job here, but what I gained was so much more. Thankfully, we stayed for a while longer. Since, that support has strengthened as we receive donations, prayers, love, light, well wishes, support, hugs, smiles, dinners and so much more from our dear neighbors. With us, they celebrate our triumphs and surround us when we experience defeat. So many of my neighbors tell me they are learning from my bravery. I can't help but cringe with modesty. What I want to tell them is that I am the one learning a great lesson from them - in humanity, civility, and compassion - in how human beings should treat each other on a basic, innate level. No, they don't always say the right things, but who does in this type of situation, I know I surely don't. But what impresses me most about our neighbors, when it comes to us and in other situations, is their longing for true community. And what amazes me is how much they have taught me about family. Not the family you are born with, but the one you create along the way. From my neighbors in Serenbe, I have learned one of the greatest lessons of all - how to love and move through life as a family, a tribe - holding each other up, and never letting go.

Serenbe is a beautiful place to live and I can't imagine us living anywhere else, especially at this time in our life. Jon and I both grew up in the country, but we love and need to be near a city, so Serenbe really is a perfect location. After a terrible scare just before our wedding, we were forced to look outside of Serenbe for a place to live. The thought was frightening. As fate would have it, and with the help of wonderful friends and neighbors who wanted to keep us near, we found a second little home in the community of Serenbe. This home is my happy place, our little hideaway from the world. I can walk out my back door and dissolve into the woods. I can walk my dog on a foggy morning and at the very moment when my burdens seem so heavy I can't take another step, two baby deer run out before me just beyond my grasp and bring a smile to my face. Serenbe is a place of many things. When I came here, it meant success and status. Now, I tell out of town travelers that it can be whatever you want it to be. Your social calendar can be packed to the day or you can become virtually reclusive and never see another soul. You can build a business here or just find tranquility and escape from the chaos of the city. One thing is for sure, you will meet some of the best people that exist on this planet. For Jon and me, Serenbe is a place we can focus on our love. It is healing, hope, and happily, it is home.

Here is a beautiful video Jon filmed for the Serenbe Development. I love seeing Serenbe through his lens, through his eyes. Take a look:

JON'S "Welcome to Serenbe" VIDEO! <--- CLICK THERE

Production of Alice in Wonderland during my first Serenbe summer.

Fern's Market became a second home & family for us! 

Backyard during the Fall!


Favorite place.

Traveling photographer and wonderful soul, Minette Hand, captured us one quiet Sunday evening in the labyrinth. 

With Love, 

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