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Stephen Geez

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A Sight for Sore Eyes
By Stephen Geez
Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rated "G" by the Author.

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An essay of places and special memories...

Picture this:

It's a country scene, a spectacular day, and before you stands an old-fashioned Tuscany-red grist mill, a long wall fronting the cool waters of a mill pond, its glassy surface rippled by a flotilla of languorous mill ducks, the shot framed by copses of regal, well . . . let's call them mill trees.

It's a postcard, a jigsaw puzzle, a brochure . . . it's Hurricane Mills-pronounced "hair-a-kin" if you want to sound like one of the locals. It's this serene and idyllic scene that Aunt Jean Buchanan has long enjoyed gazing upon, but there's more there than meets the eye.

Jean has long been a fixture working at the Loretta Lynn Ranch, a picturesque vacation destination in Middle-Tennessee with campground, museum, the Butcher Holler homestead, Hurricane Creek canoeing and fishing, horseback riding, the antebellum plantation home shared by Loretta and her late husband, Mooney, the old mill house in the picture, and so much more.

Jean has been part of Loretta's team for-well, let's just say more than a few years. (Sometimes doing the math can be very impolite.) She likes to count herself among the Lynn family's friends, even having once lived with daughter Cissie Lynn for a while to help with Loretta's grandkids.

Jean loves this beautiful scenery and the myriad people who come from across the country and around the world to visit, so you can imagine our concern when she had to take an extended break from her time at the ranch. See, Jean began to suffer from an unusual vision problem, something about macular holes developing in both eyes, and suddenly she found herself nearly blind, unable to see her way around the world she knows and loves.

The notes she used to send me every few days stopped, no more cheerful cards saying, "We had 40,000 for Motocross this week-my ears are still ringing!" or one of her favorites: "Loretta is in town this week, doing a concert Saturday night-it'll be so nice to see her again."

Aunt Jean even had to hold off reading my latest book, and she couldn't make her regular visits to my website to smile over my latest postings, maybe sending one with a message to a friend or two. Any writer knows that no matter how many eventually read your work, sometimes you find yourself staring at the keys thinking about saying something just for those few "fans" who matter the most.

Like Aunt Jean.

Jean agreed to undergo double surgeries. She knew the risks, on one hand possibly losing all her sight if the operations failed, on the other hand knowing she'd likely go blind anyway for trying to pretend nothing was wrong.

Luckily, the procedures seemed to go well, but for a time afterward she lived in a world of shadows and blurs. Still, she found herself recalling vivid images from a lifetime well lived: her children's first steps, crude drawings posted proudly on refrigerator doors, the fruits of successful gardens drooping heavily on the vines, the mail carrier bringing words from those who care. And she recalled the scenes of heartbreak, her niece and nephew taken too soon, friends facing challenges too great for any one body to endure, the dreams of those she loves accommodating the harsh realities of everyday life against the shifting backdrops of small-town life.

And she remembered the slow, wrenching loss of her husband, our beloved Uncle Van.

But even amid these heartbreaking visions she found images of truth, the contrasts of light against dark, and what she could see most clearly again was Uncle Van's gentle smile as he held his grandbabies tenderly, his face aglow, his heart soaring.

It was in those shadows and blurs of recovery that Aunt Jean dared face her own uncertain future. She looked ahead, best as she could see, and discovered that those grandsons of hers still could use an extra pair of eyes to watch over them, and the profusion of flowers arrayed across her porches and walkways still needed her tending, and the creek bank she always liked to stroll still waited with promises of birds to dance mid-air while hungry fish break the water's surface in search of fleeting willowflies, and her nephew still waited patiently for another of those notes-"Made some new friends today, and Loretta's back in town again"-those notes she always ended with the simplest of words, sometimes difficult to read, their meaning always clear as day: "We love you."

And the surgeries did succeed, giving Jean back her sight, at least for a time, a gift her latest note describes as "something we take for granted."

But, you know what? I don't think she ever takes anything for granted. See, Aunt Jean has always found immeasurable appreciation for that one small corner of the world she shares.

She doesn't work at the Loretta Lynn Ranch because she needs to, but rather because there she sees a vision of what we can all behold-if we're willing to look close. Even then, I believe she can see just a little bit more.

For it's in those moments, even when few are close by, that she can still see all those myriad faces from around the world; and though Mooney is passed on she can still see him in the legacy he left behind; and even when Loretta is off on a tour Aunt Jean can see the Lynn young'ns pursuing their own busy careers.

Even now, Jean can stand before that mill house and see the Lynn family there, generations sharing a wonderful bit of Middle-Tennessee with those willing to make the journey . . .

And sharing it, too, with friends, old and young, even those who stop by from just up the road.

So picture this: it's a country scene, a spectacular day, and before you stands a magnificent old-fashioned Tuscany-red grist mill, the cool waters rippled by a flotilla of languorous mill ducks who somehow seem simply to belong there.

And maybe Aunt Jean is nearby, maybe off to the side, or maybe she's finally decided to retire and spend a bit more time looking after those boisterous grandsons of hers playing in the yard, or tending the profusion of magnificent flowers that line her porches and walkways, each an image committed forever to memory.

But like Loretta Lynn and her family, no matter how many generations come and go, a part of Aunt Jean Buchanan can always be found there at Hurricane Mills.

You might spot her if you're willing to learn the secret she carries deep in her heart:

Even in the darkest times, you can always remember the light, and you can always find another way to behold the most exquisite of scenes.

The trick lies in remembering also to picture those you love, the people who shared it with you.

Look close!

And remember: there's always more than meets the eye.

       Web Site: Stephen Geez

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Reviewed by Donna Chandler 11/21/2011
A beautiful story and a loving tribute to Jane. It's so very true, there IS always more than meets the eye.


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