Tag Archives: Tennessee

In Memoriam…

Fifteen years ago… has it really been 15? The world lost a bright spirit, but I suspect he might linger and visit…

Danny Potter was a monumental person. I do not say that metaphorically. I mean it. He was, in his health, 6’4″ and weighed quite a few hundred pounds. The double-headed dragon torque that he always wore around his wrist was loose on my bicep, and I speculate I could have worn it as a collar torque. But the biggest part of Danny was the heart.

Danny never met a stranger. He was a beloved brother, uncle, son, and friend. He had an unmeasurable intellect that he fed on a constant diet of literature and history. However, he devoted his time and his care to work with those at the very opposite end of that spectrum at the Green Valley institute for intellectually disabled. And they loved him (and he them) as much as we all did.

Danny was a poet and a druidic scholar in the true sense of the word. He was the teller of stories and a great listener who absorbed information like a sponge. He remained always curious. He was a great lover of history, especially of the Appalachian and Northeast Tennessee area where he lived and grew. He was a proud member of Clan Colquhoun (no, it’s not pronounced precisely as it looks… it’s Cul-hoon). He celebrated his Scottish heritage and founded a Celtic Festival that ran for many years with displays, music, and historical reenactment. Danny did much (if not all) of the work himself, signing on vendors, displays, and musical acts. (After his passing, it took a committee to do what he did single-handedly for so long).

Danny’s house was quite literally filled with books. They filled the den from floor to ceiling all around the room. Many evenings, I sat on couch or floor (depending on the number of us visiting) talking about topics that could range from archeology to zoology and all points in between, but mostly… tales of the mystical and fantastic and stories of the hills. Danny loved this season. He saw Samhain in the old Celtic sense of a new year and a thin veil and a time of marvelous opportunity.

Danny had a way of pulling people together. He could find something beautiful or valuable in every soul he touched. Recently his nephew and I were talking about how Danny’s web continues, even 15 years later, to draw us together and remind us of the connections we share. It seems that he will always been nudging me in the shoulder to keep that web spinning and shining.

He was gone too soon. At only 50 years, the world lost his physical presence. However, Danny never expected us to grieve him. He expected us to celebrate. In 2003, Danny left this plane, the time as close to midnight October 31-November 1 as could be determined. At his memorial service, his wishes were read.  He told all of us not to grieve the body that he was ready to leave and had served it’s purpose. He reminded us that he might visit from time to time, and he asked that at this time of year, we  put out two fingers of Scotch as a rememberance…. “Remember, I have very large fingers.”

And thus, my post, these 15 years later… Every year, my husband and I place two fingers of Scotch out on the back porch before midnight on Halloween… for Danny… It is always gone in the morning.

I will always miss my friend, but I like to think that I do my best to live as he would have wanted me to do, making connections, seeing beauty in each day and each soul that enters that web that Danny continues to spin for me. I see him in the people who loved and continue to love him. I hear him remind me to look around me for that which is good and true, and to always stay curious…

In memory of Danny Potter, 1953-2003.

2016, goodbye and thanks for all the… well…

What can I say? As most of the denizens of the interwebs would indicate, the last year has been a bit troublesome, dare I say positively devastating in so many ways to so many, many people.

The thing is, it hasn’t been as directly disastrous to myself as it has been to others and a significant blow to famous personae and individuals who have some importance to us for the images and contributions they have made to us as a society. The number of celebrities and creative personalities who have departed this mortal coil has been astounding. I have tried to look at it objectively. I really have. I suspected it was a perception thing. An article in Snopes.com actually questioned whether it really as the deadliest year for celebrities stating that the overall “notable death” count wasn’t so high (of course that article was written with a good 3 days still available to the reapers to do their worst). The Guardian indicated that it was social media that made 2016 seem so very harsh to our beloved celebrities. Time magazine indicated that it wasn’t so much the number but the caliber of individuals… That sounds like a feasible theory. It must be that it was just a matter of my generation, right? In any given year there are probably as many deaths of well-known or dearly loved public figures as have hit us in 2016, right?

But it isn’t just that. The notoriety is a factor, but there really has been a significant number of people lost this year, and not merely those with enough celebrity to garner the mourning of the whole world. Many were taken before their time. Another article I read recently wants to lay the blame entirely at the feet of drugs and alcohol use/abuse. Interesting theory, and yes, I’m sure those elements played their part for some of the dearly departed. However that doesn’t come close to explaining all. Age, accidents, assaults, and disease also made contributions. None of which diminishes the loss of some brilliant people. In an era when more and more people are pushing the century mark due to the advances of science and health, we saw people dying in what might now be considered middle years. These stars of the Hollywood firmament (had to throw in the Singing in the Rain quote for Debbie), the musical performers, the notable spokes people, scientists, journalists, and others were often a huge part of my more formative and somewhat memorable years. We all hate losing our icons, even those with nice long lives, but the ones we lost in this past year were a bit too close to my age… some significantly younger, and that’s hitting a bit too close. Speaking of close… On top of all these losses in the public sphere, the world around me has been on fire… quite literally because for those in the southern states know that we were on fire for quite some time with loss of life and of much property, nothing unfamiliar to those who have suffered in the wildfires of our western states. And I suppose that is my point in a way… We lose a devastating number of people every year. We lose people dear to us, dear to those around us, people who serve and protect, those who have dedicated their lives in one way or another to serve others. That is really the point, isn’t it? Or is it?

For whatever reason, this year has appeared to hit us all, collectively,  with the representatives of things we cherished. We’ve lost idols, icons, crushes, and heroes. That doesn’t diminish the losses that we suffer every day and every year of those in our personal spheres and the unsung and so often faceless heroes that contribute our society and the world by their service, freely given with knowledge of the risk. I think it brings it into more focus. The public figures and celebrities that we lost this year were beacons and provided joy, beauty, and even a sense of hope to each of us (including those who give their lives and service without fanfare). I think that is what is possibly the devastating impact of the public losses we’ve suffered in 2016. They are merely a fraction of the whole, but they’ve taken people we held onto as superlatives and ideals (though some portrayed masterful villains as well), people who used their gifts to transport us to other lands and times, people who used their influence to keep us informed or to push for change… 2016 took our examples and left us struggling to wonder if we mere mortals can make a difference?

But that brings me to something else about this year that those of us still breathing are watching through the end…

There were some decent things that happened in 2016. Focusing on just the losses and negatives is like “watering the weeds…[instead of] watering the flowers and paying attention” according to the founder of Ziva Meditation, Emily Fletcher. I know, you don’t believe me, but it did. I remember times where I laughed, I had times of elation, I heard my loved ones laugh and cheer and be glad. I performed a wedding to join two of my dearest friends. I saw growth and pleasure and happiness. I watched people stand up for each other. I saw people who not a week before had been at each others’ throats with political differences set all that aside to make sure that victims of the fires had food, shelter, and clothing. I spent time with friends. I saw friends accomplish goals and dearest wishes. I even accomplished some of my own goals, believe it or not.

I don’t want my memories of this year to be overwhelmed by the horrible that has happened this year. With all the positive and beautiful, I’ve also seen some incredibly ugly things that have occurred (not the least of which was the way that I saw people treat each other this year… face to face AND virtually).

If I have a hope for the new year, it is that perhaps we can focus more on ourselves…no, wait, it isn’t that sort of focus. I think it is time that we stop blaming an external locus of control for all our ills. It is time to stop blaming each other for something lacking in our own lives. We need to stop the cycle and believe in change for ourselves. I am sincerely hoping that we all examine our own actions and the repercussions. It’s important to realize that all our actions have consequences, and that we all have a choice in how we respond. I know that there are things that happen in this world over which we have zero control, but we always have a choice in how we respond (physically, mentally, emotionally). I want this coming year to be one in which we choose our responses wisely. I would like to see all of us respond rather than react and take a moment to  consider the longer term impact of action.

This year, it has been difficult for me to see over the top of this incredibly large amount of @#$% that has accumulated. That being said, I’m still here… I’m still breathing… I’m still employed and serving in to the best of my abilities (minimal as they may be). These are all things for which I am grateful.

We face a new year. A clean slate to make a new difference. I ask that all of us let go of the negative. I hope that we all can focus forward and stop trying to drive without facing forward but merely staying focused on the rear view. In fact, there is a pretty decent article that can give you some good ideas for how to do just that, focus on positives, on Greatist.com. I hope for the New Year that we can grieve our losses, let go our disappointments, and that we move into 2017 with a focus on building our progress towards a better year. Happy New Year! Goodbye 2016.