My name is Mary Brooks Tyler. As I write to you, I find myself sitting still and staring at a tiny little sliver of a map of Alcorn County in 1895. The county and state lines have indeed since shifted a bit here and there, no doubt, but I find myself looking in wonder at a little community located ‘almost near bout, over by,’ as we would say, right where the farm is located today. The name of the community is Gift. I sit quietly looking at the map of Gift and I listen. That’s what I do. Listen. That’s all I know to do. Be still and listen. Be still and know. Is this farm ‘my farm’ that I have envisioned for as long as I can remember? I will learn by being open.
Sometimes the listening is not so still and quiet. Sometimes, Spirit has to tumble me about first until I get to the still and quiet part.
Last fall, I received my first of a small series of emails concerning your gift of land in Mississippi. I received the emails, I’m sure, because my friends here on the West Coast know of my dream of having a farm. My first and initial and immediate and original reaction was high and mighty resistance. I speak not lightly. But now, I laugh, I always laugh at the places within myself that seem to want to hug the dark and keep tight and sightless to the overt, blaring trumpets of Spirit. The very trumpets, mind you, I have prayed for. Surely, I say to Spirit, you don’t mean these trumpets? Resistance is a loud and decidedly direct indicator of light and gift for me. I find the jewel is always in the resistance. I know this to be true. Yet, weeks passed as I pushed the emails aside.
Until they woke me up.
I have spent years invoking ‘my farm,’ my land, the Mellow Yellow, named for the Love of God that will create its very essence—peace and light (and the music that will stream out through the kitchen windows). The Mellow Yellow is a place of wonder and art and writing and healing and divine love, oh, and chickens. Maybe a cow and a horse. And wonderful gardens. I have drawn the Mellow Yellow farm on paper for years. I have written about it endlessly. I have talked as if it existed already. And, as I believe all things, all potentials, do exist in the Now time of God, the Mellow Yellow does indeed exist, merely waiting for manifestation…I have said, out loud, mind you, “I will know where my farm is when Spirit tells me. And where Spirit tells me to go, I will go and I will feed the chickens, till the soil, and hold the land as it wants to be held, giving life and love to All the farm draws to Her and from Her.”’ I’ve said this out loud, mind you. So, when the opportunity was emailed to me several times last Fall for a farm in Mississippi, I laughed quite heartily, out loud, mind you, and said a big, “Yeah, right! In Mississippi!”
Resistance was born like a fat throbbing corn on my left middle toe, getting larger every day, until I could not walk unless I emailed Nancy Thurston to say, “Okay, surely you don’t want me, but I have some names to give you.” Then I spoke with Nancy over the phone and she said after talking to me that she was leaving ‘me’ on the list. “Dear me, dear me,” I said to myself, “God is surely busy.” That’s when the paradox began to turn and twist like a red hot rocket flying through space. Be open to this gift in whatever form the gift comes through this opportunity, I said to myself, “This is not random, no, it is not.” I did, also, notice two things about my conversation with Nancy. I did not give Nancy any names, and two, I noticed that I talked to Nancy at length about how much I loved Mississippi, her people, and the spirit of the land …
I love Mississippi. I love the people. I love the land. Mississippi is beautiful, but its culture is not welcoming to one of conscience, to say the very least. And the fact is, a large part of my resistance was that I was not always safe in Mississippi. My first full breath into the larger world, my new feeling of freedom and acceptance of my true self the past three years was also my resistance. And, as I opened the past weeks to hearing Spirit, I have heard ‘Fear not.’
I know to love the Mystery of God, to open to creation, one must say Yes to the All, not needing to know the Why. The Why is the unfolding of the journey itself. I followed the
voice of God in my leaving Mississippi and I will follow the voice of God to my farm wherever that farm already exists…
You see, I do love Mississippi. She is my Heart. I love her people. I love the owls. I love the tree frogs. I love the coyote. (Even the one that killed my cat, hmm.) I love the mix of deep cultures in the dark fertile soil. I love the dark fertile soil and red dirt banks. I love the music that was born of both her play and her pain. I love the spirit that moves and breathes in the bodies and souls of people who have known little of the outside world’s wonder and treasure. I love Miss Willie Mae Franklin, an African-American elder, who taught me to love blue glass in my front yard. She was the influence of most all my art. I love my very first students I taught years ago in my little hometown, and who, when I return for a visit, all still holler at me by my ex-husband’s name, who’s had two wives since me. I don’t care, they love me. I love to walk Mississippi’s dirt as far as I can walk and turn to see nothing but trees and grass and cows looking at me like they can truly figure out who I am and what I want. I truly, truly love to be in the presence of the deep spirit of people who have known the darkest pain and who can turn that pain into song and love of self and family. When God told me to leave three years ago, and as I have prayed for my farm, I have told God I did not know how I would live without the presence of such people in my life.
I’ve been witness, and sometimes victim, to many things in Mississippi. For one, the Mississippi court system’s thick ways of perpetuating violence. I’ve stood beside my best friend, who is the most beautifully powerful African-American woman you’d ever want to know, as she taught me to be an advocate for the rights of women and children in harm’s way. This time she came to my side. It was my own. In the midst of a five year battle to protect my granddaughter from a violently abusive father, she stood through every moment, each trial, shoring up five generations of the women in my family. One day, I said to her, “When this is all over, we’ll have a party.” She looked me right in the face, with a smile, and replied, “Babydoll, this is the party.”