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Harriet Ling, LMBT


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205 Lloyd St., Suite 203
Carrboro, NC  27510

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Perfect Timing

The frozen sunshine of an ice-covered dandelion perfectly portrayed the signature whiplash of North Carolina winters. Two slippery steps beyond this unexpected splash of color, I turned around to honor (and photograph) Nature’s tiny gift.

I’ve often joked with my kids that God hates daffodils, because they always seem to bloom too early, their glory almost always cut short by snow or ice.  A tease, like the January robins, that maybe the worst of winter is over already.  But this is the first time I’ve seen a dandelion this early, and I found my attention returning to it for days afterward.

My first thought was, “Bad timing.”  We all know that timing is everything, and it seemed that Nature had ejaculated prematurely.  It was surprising, yet comforting, to think that even plants can make mistakes.  But this little flower haunted me for some reason, as if there was a bigger message waiting to thaw.

Two days later, when the ice had all melted and the sun (and inevitable mud) had returned, it came to me.  This dandelion seized the moment that felt right to it, regardless of what anybody else thought.  It bloomed without any thought of what might happen, or of the predicted ice storm.  It did what it had to do, it became itself, when the time was right for Its Own Self.  No excuses.  That tiny flower brought a big message.  “It’s your life.  Just live it.  Do what you have to do, whatever that is.  Take a deep breath and dive in.  No need to explain anything to anyone.”

Yes, timing is everything.  And there’s no time like now to be Who You Are.  Go ahead.  Bloom.  I dare you.


It's About Love

Inspiration comes from the most unexpected places.  I don’t support war, I don’t own a gun, I got behind my kids to help make it clear to the general public that schools can’t make the ASVAB mandatory...  On the other hand, I enjoy shooting guns at targets, and even went dove hunting “successfully” in my younger days.  I’m a damn good shot, a skill that perhaps I inherited from my father, who could toss a dime into the air and shoot it with a BB gun.  I fully embraced the benefits my sons received from their passionate paintball adventures - camaraderie, strategizing skills, male bonding, physical activity, self-confidence, bruises to show off, responsible behavior with a weapon...

And, my heart truly goes out to veterans of war.  They were there because they believed in something so much that they’d die for it.  Or they were there because it was their best chance at an education or a career.  Or they were there because it’s just what is done in their families.  Whatever the reasons, they have made unimaginable sacrifices.  I can’t begin to comprehend what they must live with, in their bodies and in their minds.  They need to be nurtured, healed, loved, because they are our fellow humans.  That is reason enough for me. 

Last year I began working with a nearby horse trainer who earned my complete respect with our very first session.  His quiet ways, his endless patience, his deep understanding put the horse at ease and convinced him to trust, which was the key to our amazingly speedy progress.

A few months into our friendship, Jim began his annual work with two wild mustangs in preparation for the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition to be held in Clemson, SC.  Since the competition was going to be “only” 300 miles away, Jim decided to ride his mustangs, after only three months of training, all the way there.  And he decided to use this journey to raise awareness and money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

The news began to spread, and from the first moment of the ride, photographs began to show up on Facebook.  Many of us were obsessed, waiting for the next picture or bit of news, hour by hour.  We all wanted to be out there with him, and we were all cheering him on from home, from work, from many far away places.  Imagining Jim out there alone with his two mustangs was magical, frightening, exhilarating, and most of all, inspiring.

A day or two into the ride, I was talking with an old friend on the phone about it, and said that somebody needed to be collecting these photographs to make a montage, set to some perfect song, after it was over.  My friend said, “I have to go.  I’ve got a song to write.”  And write it he did.  The next morning there was an email received at 3:38 a.m., that asked, "Is this what you had in mind?"  And “It’s About Love”, by Brian Hilligoss, was born.

When Brian told his friend and business partner the story, the friend was floored that nobody was there filming and photographing the whole process.  So he packed up his gear and drove down from Chicago to document the last several days of the ride.  Fred Blurton had never heard of Jim Thomas, and vice versa, but Jim welcomed Fred and so did everyone who opened their homes to the trainer and the horses.  Fred captured some amazing footage and photos, and headed back to Illinois.  The story continues to unfold, interest has remained high, and yesterday Fred posted his video of Brian’s song and Jim’s journey.

Jim did not set out to inspire strangers from a thousand miles away.  He set out to support a cause he believes in, a cause that I too believe in, now that I know.  I’m still a peace-loving earth-muffin cowgirl, but this story, this song, builds bridges between people who may not otherwise have ever connected.  How could I not be inspired?  It’s definitely about love.


Dead Sheep

It’s been said that a fence that won’t hold water won’t hold sheep, and mine had sprung a leak.  The six sheep residing in my pasture had gone missing.  Suddenly understanding the plight of Bo Peep, I made phone calls and hiked about the woods in search of the lost flock.  I located half of them in a neighbor’s pasture and enticed them with food to follow me the mile or so back home.  Upon our arrival, I discovered two of the remaining fugitives back inside the fence, and was immediately relieved, yet worried about the one lone missing sheep.  Sure enough, as I was mending the fence, the call came from a neighbor that my lost ewe was dead in his field.

I grabbed my wheelbarrow and set out down the hill to retrieve the lifeless sheep, the apparent victim of a dog attack. Traveling down this particular long, steep hill with a wheelbarrow was a bit of a challenge, and I was not looking forward to my return trip.  I reached the fifty-pound carcass, lifted it into the wheelbarrow, and began the uphill push.  At about the halfway point, it occurred to me that a boyfriend sure would be nice right about now.  When one did not magically appear, I continued my journey to the top of the hill, across the gravel lane, through my yard and into the horse pasture.  The back gate of the pasture opened into the woods, where I hoped to find a suitable place to give the deceased a proper burial in spite of the concrete-like state of the ground.  Beyond the back gate, I continued to push, pull, sweat and pant, over fallen logs, through the creek, up and down a few smaller hills, searching for an appropriate spot.  The voice in my head finally insisted, “Just dump the damn sheep!”  I eventually discovered a ready-made sheep-sized hole at the base of a fallen tree and transformed it into a grave, carefully covering the body with leaves and branches, and left with a prayer for the dearly departed.

On my way home, I became aware of parallels between this experience and my life.  How many years had I traveled bearing the burdens of my past, my metaphorical dead sheep?  I realized it was way past time to let go of resentment, anger, bitterness, fear...  All the baggage I’d held onto for much too long.

That evening, I lit a candle, set the Kate Wolf song “Unfinished Life” on repeat, and burned the pages of my journal, one by one.  Letting go of my past.  Consciously deciding to move forward and stop clinging to what had nothing left to contribute to my unfinished life.

As another year comes to a close, I’m reminded again to consider what I need to let go of, what is weighing me down and holding me back, what is working against my forward movement.  It’s time once again to dump the dead sheep.


Harriet D. Ling



Praying for a Bit of Peace


One Big Love

Since 1982, the West Virginia Turnpike has often been my own personal Trail of Tears, and this past Sunday was no exception.  I was traveling home to North Carolina after attending the memorial service of an old friend in Chillicothe, Ohio, spending much of the seven-hour drive reflecting on the connections made during the nineteen years I’d lived there. 

I first drove up that stretch of road thirty years ago to attend class at The Recording Workshop and discover the world of music production.  Eight months later I moved to Chillicothe and joined the Workshop family.  Most of us were transplants, migrating to this remote factory town to work at a unique little world-class school of audio engineering.  All of us, from the office staff to the instructors and techs, shared a passion for the making of music and a genuine excitement over each others’ successful ventures, and we spent our twenties as each others’ families, working together, playing together, taking care of each other, playing pranks on each other, going on the road together...  “The formative years.”  We had a bond unlike anything I’ve experienced since, and much of last Saturday was spent talking about just that with others who had come back to celebrate the life of Jim McKell.

Many of us had stayed in touch via phone calls, email, facebook, facetime, texting, skype, occasional cards, the grapevine... until now, when we needed the real thing.  The actual touching.  So we traveled hundreds of miles from our various current states, and we filled the church, the cemetery, the Cross Keys, our glasses and our hearts. We spent all day hugging each other, hugging hello, goodbye, glad to see you; we hugged to give and get comfort, we hugged just because it’s been too long.  We gathered to remember a life, because our memories are what’s left of him. 

But it turned out not to be just about one friend’s leaving, but about hugging away all the years of life we’ve endured.  We’re all survivors, until we’re not.  We’ve survived jobs, no jobs, parties, moves, marriages, divorces, our parents, our children, cancer, heart attacks...  We all survive until we don’t any more.  And then we still survive through those who remember us.

 As much as we mourn the loss of a kind and gentle and well-loved friend, as mad as we are at him for leaving too soon, here’s hoping we will recognize and honor this reminder to focus our time and energy not on resisting death, but on embracing life.  And embracing each other while we can.

Godspeed, Jim.


Harriet Ling  

12/12/12 (testing, testing)