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Mourning & Muscle Shoals


I’ve lived a charmed life.

I’m glad I still claim that belief despite the past five years which have consisted of lots of mourning and loss and just massive change. I don’t want to wallow anymore, so I’m not rehashing it here. I lived it. I survived it. And now I’m ready to focus on the future.

You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day, you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun, and you close your eyes… and lean your head back… and you realize, you’re ok. — Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough

The Shift in the Shoals

I found myself in all places at the Muscle Shoals Tourism Center one day, trying to figure out what on earth this bizarre — yet oddly fabulous — place I’ve found myself in offers.

If anyone had ever told me that I’d end up living where I do, I would have called them a liar. I realized that I had been defining my return to the south as a boring and temporary care-giving stop on a much more exciting path back to the city. They say that God laughs when humans make plans though. Funny how God planted this self-proclaimed city slicker in a one-stop-light town, literally.

The joke was clearly on me.

To my pleasant surprise, my eyes opened, my perspective changed and my excitement (kind of) return when I learned of the magic Muscle Shoals offers during that one quick detour that day.

The Movie

If you haven’t seen the Muscle Shoals movie yet, you really should (see trailer below). Especially if you like music. It’s dubbed the small town with the big sound (the Muscle Shoals Sound, that is), a sound that originated mainly from a group of session musicians called ‘The Swampers’.

At different points in time on this planet, there are certain places where there is a feel of energy. — Jimmy Cliff

These renowned musicians obviously felt that energy when recording here: Rolling Stones. Aretha Franklin. Bono. Percy Sledge. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Alicia Keys. Steve Winwood. Wilson Pickett. Gregg Allman. Boz Skaggs. Paul Simon. Bob Dylan. Staple Singers. Rod Stewart. Joe Cocker. Leon Russell. Glenn Frey. Willie Nelson. Carlos Santana. John Prine. Joan Baez. Bob Seger. Linda Ronstadt. Bobby Womack. Cat Stevens. Jimmy Buffett. Cher.

Wow. Just wow.

So, it appears God has placed me in Rock ‘n Roll heaven. I think I like it.

Music, like art, has always moved my soul. The Peace Palace is about 45 minutes from Muscle Shoals, an hour and a half from the home of the blues (my hometown, Memphis), and about 2 hours from the country capital of Nashville (my birthplace).

I like to imagine music’s in my blood.

I have a gut feeling that ‘getting my life back’ includes filling my soul up with music. My comeback cocktail is going to hit the spot: a splash of rhythm, a bit of blues, a shot of country with some rock ‘n roll on top. All shook up and rearin’ to go. I’m going to down it.

I’ve always walked to the beat of my own drum, but maybe it’s time to start stirring to the beat of others.

More Than Music

Frank Lloyd Wright's The Rosenbaum House

The quad cities (Muscle Shoals, Florence, Sheffield and Tuscumbia) have more than music to offer.  Helen Keller grew up at Ivy Green, her birthplace in Tuscumbia. The father of the blues, W.C. Handy, has his birthplace, museum and library in Florence. Who knew: we’re even touched by royalty reality. Cynthia Bailey (the model from the reality TV series The Real Housewives of Atlanta) grew up in Tuscumbia. Now that’s some trivia.

Frank Lloyd Wright has his stamp here too.  Architecture critic Peter Blake wrote in 1960 that “during the 1930s, Wright built four structures of a beauty unexcelled in America before or since.” Three of those are Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax Administrative Building, and Taliesin West. The fourth was the Rosenbaum House.


Treasure Hunts

Muscle Shoals Stone Revival Necklace retouchedLast but not least, there’s the shopping. Not really. The shopping isn’t that great, to be honest. Maybe there are a few retail treasures to be found. One thing I have noticed about the area is that you can easily stumble upon a lot of great, hidden treasures.

On one recent excursion, I stumbled upon a row of antique stores which just might be one good resource for my Revival Collection. I’ve always loved antique shopping in order to dig through the mostly plastic jewelry for that unique piece worth reviving.

I discovered this ‘Muscle Shoals Stone Revival’ necklace in one of those shops and fell in love instantly. It reminded me of GrandmaTookey in all the wonderful ways. This bold, heavy necklace is even prettier in person. The pastel colors are beyond gorgeous and I imagine wearing it another time or two before I officially upload it to the Revival Collection (It’s uploaded now…you can view it here).

That’s about it for now. Go watch that movie.  It won’t disappoint. Seriously. I can’t recommend it enough.

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