Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pulled by the Red Thread

Deja vu, acrylic on canvas, 30" x 40"
private collection, Dallas

"An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break." - Ancient Chinese Proverb


I believe this proverb is accurate, at least partially so. I'm not sure the thread is red. After all, it is invisible. And I'm not sure that the thread never breaks. If, for example, in a pinch you grabbed your invisible red thread and used it to floss your teeth, who knows what might happen? Would you meet the periodontist of your dreams? Or would you break your invisible thread, leaving your destiny dangling between your second and third molars? Despite my digression, I'm a believer in this thread. Aren't there people in our lives, people who entered under unlikely circumstances, people whom we can't imagine having never met? People whose lives have become so enmeshed in our own, it's as though their lives help us create our own lives.

Anyone who has known me for any time at all has heard the story of how I won a round-trip plane trip to San Francisco in 1982. That was twenty-eight years ago and I was twenty-eight years old. Imagine that. I was miserable where I was--Tuscaloosa, Alabama--and I read in the paper that Republic Airlines would be giving away round-trip plane tickets--I can't remember the number (50?) to the city chosen by each winner. All you had to do was show up at the airport on the appointed day--Sunday, March 7--fill in a little piece of paper, and drop it in a slot. Winners would be drawn from a box by a Republic employee. As I read the notice, I experienced a little tingle. You're going to win a ticket, a little voice whispered. Then another voice said, Dream on.

The anticipated Sunday arrived. I drove my Ford Pinto (that was the vehicle whose gas tank was prone to exploding in rear-end collisions) to Tuscaloosa Regional Airport. My spirits were high. The dogwood was blossoming. The kudzu was prolific. I rolled down all the windows and turned onto Airport Road. My heart sank. The road was lined with cars. I realized the unsettling truth: I would be vying with half the county's population for a handful of plane tickets. The odds were daunting. I kept driving past car after parked car lining the road. There were several Pintos, one with a crumpled rear end but no signs (thank goodness) of having burst into flames. I just kept driving past all of these cars, in a trance. A sensible person would have parked behind the last car on the highway and run straight to the airport so as not to be late. But I was in a trance. The little voice told me to drive. It told me I was going to win a ticket!

I turned left at the airport and pulled into the tiny lot, wondering how early the fate-kissed occupants of those parking spaces had arrived. Had they camped out overnight? As I approached the entrance, a car parked in the space nearest the entrance began, unbelievably, pulling out. You're going to win a ticket! the little voice said. Dream on, the other voice said.

I pulled into the magically vacated space, walked into the airport, shaking a little, and elbowed my way through the delirious throng to get my name in the box.

I was a little surprised to find my good friend Glenda standing a few feet away, and even more surprised to find her mother Louise standing beside her. Their faces were flushed with hope. I decided to stand with them. After all, it would be fun to be among friends when my name was pulled from the box. You're going to win a ticket!

A guy from the airlines stood at a podium and made a little speech (while everyone's gaze was fixed on the box), then he began drawing names. He pulled 45 names. My name wasn't one of them. Unbelievable.

Dream on, the hateful little voice said.

Name 46 was "LOUISE JONES." Louise Jones?

Glenda and I looked at each other with this shameful little look that said, How DARE she?

Louise made her way to the podium to claim her voucher. She was elated. How DARE she? Four more names were pulled. Glenda's and mine weren't among them. UnBElievable.

The general mood was grim. The crowd began pleading with the Republic guy in unison--"DRAW SOME MORE NAMES. PLEASE. WE WANT MORE NAMES. PLEEEEASE. PLEEEEEEASE. PLEEEEEEEEEEASE."

He relented and waved his palms at us, kind of preacherly, as though he had in his power to bestow blessings on the multitude. (He did.)

"OK, folks! We didn't expect this kind of turnout. FIVE more."

Everyone applauded. I inhaled deeply.

The Republic official began drawing names.

"LEROY SCOGGINS." Redneck clown.

"TANYA CULPEPPER." White trash bitch.

"BETTY SUE CULPEPPER." For God's sake, who rigged this anyway?

"REVEREND CECIL GRIMES." You have GOT to be kidding.

"GLENDA JONES." Glenda Jones??? How DARE she?

Glenda beamed and elbowed her way to the podium, an athletic little spring in her step. HOW? DARE? SHE?

The crowd moaned. There were tears in people's eyes. There were tears in my eyes.

"OK! OK!" shouted the Republic official. "ONE MORE. But NO MORE after that. Do we all understand??"

The crowd cheered.

The Republic official's hand moved very slowly over the box. He let it hover in a holding pattern. He felt like he was at the Academy Awards. I inhaled deeply. I closed my eyes. I felt like I was at the Academy Awards.

"SAN BELL."

You've won a ticket! the little voice shouted.

A month later Glenda and Louise and I boarded a plane to San Francisco. Technically we boarded a plane in Tuscaloosa, which headed a few miles west, touched down at The Golden Triangle Regional Airport in Mississippi, then turned around to fly east to Atlanta, where another plane took us to Denver, where we boarded another one for Las Vegas, where we had an overnight layover, complete with free accommodations and a complimentary meal in a casino, and a few quarters for the slots, before we caught a flight to San Francisco. The tickets were free, not efficient.

Me, Glenda, and Louise. April 1982.

Just outside the edge of the photo is the invisible red thread. I felt it tugging at my ankle as I climbed the stairs to the plane. In San Francisco the tug was more insistent. Although my friends and I had only a week to explore that city, I knew I would return. Less than three months later I packed my bags and returned for good. I brought no furniture. (I'd sold that to finance my move.) Just some clothing and a few linens, what I could squash into two large suitcases. My mother drove me to the airport. She was wistful and probably a little frightened, but she knew about the red thread somehow, and I knew she knew. The thread pulled me with urgency and I knew that somehow all would work out. It did.

My destiny wasn't in my hands alone. There were other people too, who held the other end of the thread, sitting on the top of a hill in San Francisco, as I boarded the plane. Soon I would be climbing into the air, looking down as the red clay fields of Alabama disappeared beneath the clouds, and an invisible red thread pulled me higher, 31,000 feet into the air, across miles of crops and forests and desert, across the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains...to San Francisco...where those who held my destiny's thread had been waiting for me...

How they knew to pull the thread at that exact moment, especially given they were yet to be born, is a mystery, an exquisite mystery...but I believe it had something to do with this one, who held a thread too...


114 comments:

C.M. Jackson said...

San

what an amazing story! I am certain that red thread will continue waving its way connecting you to new people, experiences and places--I am certain that the next time Mr. Jackson and I find our way back to Santa Fe--we will be walking into your gallery to say hello! Best-C

San said...

C.M., I'm impressed you made your way through the story, given its length. But I'll be even more impressed when you wander back to Santa Fe.

paula said...

chills.....another great one and i like your painting, i'm in to red lately...it shouts JOY!

San said...

Thank you, Paula. There is something about red, isn't there? This story's been on my mind a lot of late, probably ever since I realized I'm now twice as old as when the incident occurred. And it's just kept on tugging at me.

Mary Ellen said...

I love this story - it's inspiring me to think of the threads that have pulled me along too. (And great photos!)

aims said...

What a fabulous story San! It is almost like a fairytale where wishes do come true!

What spirit and what belief you are endowed with.

Never - ever - lose it.

Poetic Artist said...

That is a wonderful story..I lived in Tuscaloosa, Al for several years. Sorry to say I did not like it. I have a little north of it now is Huntsville, AL. I wish that little red thread would pull me your way.

ArtistUnplugged said...

Wow, that is one incredible story!!!!! Hahaha, I live in Alabama and my son is attending THE school in Tuscaloosa, but I would never live there. Amazing story, were you born in my state too? The thread, very long, beautiful painting.

~Babs said...

OMG
I LOVE this post!
And the painting!
San,,,I am completely taken with both!
(love the pics too!)

murat11 said...

Very beautiful story and, of course, I love the painting. That red is the red of red.

Hilary said...

What a lovely story. Who knew that Fate was woven with a red thread...

Lori Skoog said...

Hey San! I believe in that thread too. There are so many connections we have. Great story and good to read one of your posts...it has been awhile. Hope all is well.

Shrinky said...

Thank goodness you listened to that inner voice, and believed in it enough, despite all the odds, to it follow through. What a beautiful tale of courage, hope and destiny San, I believe virtually anything is possible, if you can only follow your heart (or, as in this case, where the red thread is tugging you)!

ellen abbott said...

What a wonderful story. Isn't it great when we give into those intuitions instead of denying them?

Maggie May said...

That was a remarkable story and I liked the fact that they kept pulling out more names.
You did deserve it!

Nuts in May

lime said...

that is an amazing story alright. just too many things aligning perfectly to call it coincidence.

jsd said...

I believe there are pivot moments in our lives and that we can feel them coming, and when the moment then arrives in full you have what amounts to two choices: how it is or how it can be.

I hope for myself that I continue to have the courage to follow the how it can be thread.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Carol said...

I love that the invisible thread takes us all exactly where we need to go next. It's all so amazing and miraculous!

How fun to look back on your wonderful journey along the thread.

And I especially like your line, "...it's as though their lives help us create our own lives." Yes!

Daryl said...

I miss you when you dont post and then I miss you all the more after you do. What a super post.

Raven said...

You are such a good story teller. I believe in the red thread (or blue or...) too. I don't' think it does get broken even when it gets so frayed that it's barely a thread anymore, I think it remains part of the tapestry of who we are.

I also think it's great that you listened to your little voice (the positive one). I think faith often creates for us when we allow it to. In any case, it's a happy story and I'm glad you got that ticket that changed your life, glad the internet and blogosphere create threads of their own to connect us to people we would otherwise never meet.

sukipoet said...

i love this story. I think at the moment i am being pulled by a red thread its just i dont know where to.

SandyCarlson said...

What a wonderful story. Wow, wow, wow. I believe that proverb tells a truth you illustrate so beautifully here.

Maggie Neale said...

That was fun to come upon. You have quite a way with words and putting them into stories. Thanks San.

Maggie Neale said...

That was fun to come upon. You have quite a way with words and putting them into stories. Thanks San.

Flannery said...

That's a beautiful story Mom. I didn't know how close you were to not getting a ticket! I'm so, so glad you did.

San said...

Mary Ellen, I'll bet you have some pretty interesting threads.

San said...

Aims, you are too kind. But I do love your fairy tale take on the story. It kind of fits at that.

San said...

Poetic Artist--I'm struggling to remember your actual name--sorry--Huntsville is a great place. Any place is a great place when it's good for us.

San said...

Thank you, Unplugged Artist. I'm glad you like the painting.

Yes, I was born in the Heart of Dixie. I too attended THE school. Roll Tide.

San said...

Babs, reading your words gets my day off to a sweet start. Thanks much.

San said...

Paschal, even though this one doesn't feature "your" orange tones, I'm glad you like the "red of red." That does say it.

San said...

Hilary, maybe the color is secondary. It's where the two ends of the string are attached that matters. Then again, you knew that. : )

San said...

Lori, yes, all is well, just busy. Somehow I knew you were a believer in the thread.

San said...

Shrinky, you know all about the courage and feeling the tug. Thank you for your own encouragement.

San said...

You are so right, Ellen. It's too easy to deny the intuitions, even the important ones. Correction. Especially the important ones.

San said...

Maggie, thank you. I believe I did deserve it, at that time. I know I needed it anyway. It felt like "a sign." And I need those from time to time.

San said...

Michele, "alignment" is a good word here. Thank you for that.

San said...

JS, the "how it can be thread"--you are following it and it takes guts. You inspire.

San said...

Carol, it's beautiful to allow our lives to be woven with the right other lives, isn't it?

San said...

Daryl, I've missed you too. Much.

San said...

Raven, yes, the blogosphere provides threads aplenty, doesn't it. I'm so glad a thread pulled us together.

San said...

Well, Suki, just keep paying attention to the direction of the tug. You'll get there. Have faith.

San said...

Sandy, thank you. I'm sure you've experienced such things yourself.

San said...

Maggie, I enjoy your visits here so much. Thank you.

San said...

Flan, I didn't know you weren't aware of how on the edge the whole thing was. I'm glad you're glad!

bennie said...

San,
How do we explain the thread? As you say it's a mystery and a wonderful one at that--as most mysteries are. I feel so fortunate that the thread found it's way to me, to us. Our children are a miracle and so are you. Love you everyday.

Oakley said...

Hey mom, that was really incredible. Publish your book, damnit! Really, though, I didn't know the details of this story, especially that there was such a "down-to-the-wire" qualtiy to it.

meg wolff said...

p.s. I agree with Oakley, publish your book! I trust that you will when the time is right.

Akelamalu said...

Amazing story San. :)

andrea said...

You truly have a way with a story. Mesmerizing!

Celebration of Life said...

I love this "Red Thread" story! I am privelaged to be attached to your red thread. :o)

Anna said...

Oh San you are so precious. Your stories are breathtaking and true, I think I read it with one breath, lol, okay more than 10, lol. BTW yeah if the thread is invisible, then how can you know its red, lol, but then in Chinese red is good. Oh and before I go, I had the same feeling once one I pull out free ticket in the department store and won some gold plated butterfly - hey better than nothing. Funny I always remember those feelings. PS thanks for your visit to my story blob, your comments are always appreciated.

Anna :)

jbkrost said...

love the painting...
but the story is a great one, spun like the great southern writer of days gone by,William Faullkner or Pat Conroy, San Fran. Is my favorite city, Did I say I love the painting

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

I know this red thread business. Loved your story...flights,the 'big move' and all that has been created from the red thread...Pulling in your dreams even better than you could have imagined! Good looking little ones!

Cathy Flinn said...

San, it is not surprising that you and I are firm believers in the red thread, given how I feel I've known you for far longer than we have really known each other. ;) Your story reminds me of a gift that my son-in-law gave me when he lived in China several years ago. He gave me a jade figurine named yi ming jing ren on a red thread that I could wear around my neck. Loosely translated, it means "one voice hear people" and the story is that at one point in our life we will do something amazing that everyone will take notice of, like the story of your red thread. Thanks so much for sharing.

Kim said...

San, the threads you weave are amazing. I love the story, I love the lesson and I love the painting (lucky owners)! Like you, I do believe in the thread which pulls us and we have to trust it! Sometimes there are lessons to learn or lessons to teach, then at other times there are just good times to be had! I have a feeling this one brings all of that together!

Thank you so much for sharing this very special trip through your life!

Doris said...

Beautiful story, San. I have missed reading you. :-)

Peace - D

Tammie Lee said...

I love your painting, the colors and movement. And the proverb is something I have felt, experienced. Wonderful post San.

Lynette said...

What a wonderful and happy story, thanks for sharing this San! I love your painting too; what delicious colors and textures!

San said...

Bennie, I love you every day too, even on the days when I'm feeling unraveled.

San said...

Oakley, "down-to-the-wire" says it. And thank you so much for your encouragement. Coming from one who has just been recognized by the Academy of American Poets--that's quite a compliment.

San said...

Meg, you know the real meaning of "alive." You are so much more in touch with your red thread than most.

San said...

Oh Meg, how kind of you to ditto Oakley's comment. Thank you!

San said...

Akelamalu, thanks for reading.

San said...

Andrea, "mesmerizing" is such a wonderful word. You have a way with a blog comment.

San said...

Jo, the privilege is mine, friend.

San said...

Anna, a gold plated butterfly sounds like a SIGN from the universe. I couldn't imagine anyone more deserving of such a lovely sign either.

San said...

JB, thank you so much for visiting here and bestowing such gracious words. I have to swing by your place...

San said...

Mary Ann, you would know about the red thread, wouldn't you? You who shares Picasso's birthday. :)

San said...

Kim, I especially like your acknowledgment that sometimes there are "just good times to be had." I'm glad you've been enjoying many of those of late.

And I always enjoy your visits here and your thoughtful reflections.

San said...

Doris, I've missed your visits, but you have certainly had more than your share of reasons not to be blog-hopping.

Peace to you, friend.

San said...

Thank you, Tammie. I respect your eye and your compliment means a lot to me.

I should have known you've felt the red thread. It shows in your own work.

San said...

Lynette, you are always so supportive and gracious. Thank you very much, Enchanted Tree Lady.

Dave King said...

That's a great story and brilliantly told, as all your commenters will attest. I must say, though, that I'm not sure about that red thread. I love the idea of it - I'll be a doubter, not a disbeliever.

San said...

Dave, a little doubt makes for a spicier mix. Thank you for adding that ingredient.

old pajamas said...

San,

"Deja vu" fabulous. Thank you for visiting. Keep working.....pajamas

San said...

Hey pajamas. Good to see you here.

Sparkling Red said...

I believe, I believe, I believe in the red thread. I've felt tangled in the web all my life.

Sparkling Red said...

I believe in the red thread. I have felt tangled in its web my whole life.

San said...

Spark, I believe you believe. Thanks for visiting.

San said...

Spark, ditto.

:)

Star said...

That's a lovely story San. Looking forward to hearing more of it soon.
Blessings, Star

Sandi McBride said...

What a joy to read...what fun and how lovely of you to share it... I giggled like a loon...your talent not only lies in your wonderful painting fingers, my friend! And I think the thread may very well be red shot through with gold...
hugs
Sandi

Jingle said...

Nice to see you today,
I feel you warm heart and kind spirits...

As for awards, I give so many,
please feel free to take what you want from there...
thanks a ton.
Happy Mother's Day!

Cynthia Pittmann said...

Thanks for coming over and leaving a comment at Oasis, San. I can relate to your story. When I was a teen, I made a black velvet painting-remember when that was in style? Along with the bright glow in the dark paint, I placed natural objects-shells and stones-to make an island setting. I looked at the crescent moon and palm trees, I thought, I'm going to live on an island some day. Since that time, I've lived on two islands- one in California, which technically may not be an island but once was...Coronado (near San Diego) and now Puerto Rico. I still think of that pre-teen dream (or insight) and realize I was headed to a place like Puerto Rico.
I think the red thread is that color because red is the color of celebration and joy in most Asian cultures. I like the idea that we are connected with joy...it's woven into the tapestry of creation.
Beautiful painting!

Lee said...

Wow San! That's such a cool story. Red threads huh? You seem so in touch with yours that I'm amazed. I really don't know that I've ever felt mine tugging. Any ideas on how to feel it?

I'm sorry it took me so long to get around to reading this. I've been in cave mode when at home for the past month because I was working 12 hours a day and had absolutely no time for anything other than work and sleep. I'd get home at 10 PM and try to head straight for bed to face the next day. I think you have another post I need to back read too. I'll try to catch up on that later.

In the meantime, Happy Mother's Day! Hope you and the kids do something wonderfully fun!

Hugs,
Lee

Carol said...

San.....This has got to be one of my FAVORITE posts of all I have read on the internet! It is perfectly written....straight from the heart...and includes a whole lot of the things I truly believe in!!

Here's to that Red Thread in each of our lives....that follows us through our journey here on earth....straight into the other side!!!

Carol

Just Be Real said...

Hi San. Thank you for dropping by my blog the other day. I certainly remember you from before. Blessings dear one.

San said...

And it's lovely to see you here, Star. Thank you for visiting.

San said...

Sandi, so that was you I heard giggling. Music to my ears, friend.

San said...

Jingle, you are too generous. Thank you!

San said...

Cynthia, yes, what better thing to connect us than joy? How cool that you set your islander intention through art--love it!

San said...

Thanks for the Mother's Day wishes, Lee. We did have a lovely day.

I knew you were working a lot of long hours and I hope you're going to have some down time to recoup.

Wish I had some red thread awareness tips. But I don't really.

San said...

Carol, yours is an exquisite compliment. Thank you!

I can tell the red thread has tugged you many times. Lovely.

San said...

JBR, you haven't been around here lately either. So nice to see you.

layers said...

Quite a story-- I am always convinced my name "won't" be drawn for anything-- perhaps you do need to have that POSITIVE belief- and I do believe in 'threads' in life connecting us to each other at different times-- when needed.

San said...

Donna, I have plenty of those pessimistic moments too, but it's the magical ones that keep me going.

Kate said...

Oh, I have tears in my eyes, not because of your wonderful story(sorry), but I have a very deep affection for the bird on the tail of the aircraft...Herman. You see, years ago I flew as a flight attendant with Herman following me on every flight. Glad I came to your blog from Randy's Santa Fe post. A trip to the past. Come visit my blog, too

(http://visualstpaul.blogspot.com/

My other one for Santa Fe is temporarily closed 'til I return for another vacation in July when I'm housesitting for a friend.

http://mysantafe-kate.blogspot.com/

Tell me where your gallery is located and I'll come by (my gmail is listed on my profile).

San said...

Kate, I remember you well. You served us breakfast on the red eye from Vegas.

I'll email the information to you.

Angela Recada said...

Fabulous painting - I adore those reds and blues! And I love that quote, too.

I am firmly convinced that if something is meant to happen, it will happen. Your story gave me goosebumps.

San said...

Angela, we all need the goosebumps factor from time to time.

Thank you for visiting and leaving such a lovely comment.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

What a great story. A red thread - leading to adventure and a life.

Sorry to hear you were miserable in Tuscaloosa. That's where my youngest has chosen to go to school. But speaking of red threads - I had kept in touch with an old neighbor from 17 years ago. She teaches there and helped convince him to go. A thread to connect my son to us as he begins his adventure.

Enjoyed this.

La Petite Gallery said...

Holly cow! you have so many comments, i hope you are still reading them..LOL yvonne

San said...

Julianne, a person can be miserable anywhere, if that place isn't the right place for them.

Glad to hear there's a red thread connecting you there.

San said...

Yvonne, I love comments and read every one. Thank you for visiting.

Sunshine said...

San, very nice story! i enjoy reading every word .. will wait for another post.. hope everything is well with you !

Love
Sunshine

San said...

Sunshine, it's been a while. Great to see you!

Who you callin' housewife? said...

Well, it seems I am writing the 110th comment. I'm not sure how you ever read all of these.

I felt a pull of excitement reading your story. A feeling of change somehow worked its way into my body.

I am not a prize winner. If there were 1999 plane tickets to be awarded and I was the 2000th person at the airport, I would be the single person leaving without a ticket.

I do know the feeling of the pull of the red thread. 12 years ago when my husband and I first tried to have a baby, and the first three months went by with no success, I was not disappointed. I felt the pull of the red thread. The red thread lead to China four years later when we arrived to adopt our daughter.

Actually, I think I got a prize after all!

Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

San said...

I ain't callin' you housewife. I'm marveling at your red thread story and I absolutely love that you felt change working its way into your very body as you read my red thread story.

I'm callin' you sensitive and wise.

becky said...

What a great proverb... & and an amazing story!
I'm waiting to see where my little red thread will pull me next!

Casdok said...

Wow amazing story!

JafaBrit's Art said...

wow what a story, a beautiful story!

We had a ford pinto too, bright orange, our first car in america :) Nice to visit and catch up and see your beautiful work.

Bibi said...

Hello! Daryl sent me to your blog, since I posted something on my blog which made her think of your fabulous art, and indeed, it does! Here's the link.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog, I had not noticed alifewithaview.blogspot.com previously in my searches!
Carry on the superb work!