Lett's Set A Spell
In spring 2000, when I was writing a book about reinvention, I took a walk and thought about the chores related to growing up on a farm. I did not like puttin’ in tobacco nor shelling peas nor gathering dried corn, but enjoyed feeding the chickens, pigs, cats and dogs. However, there was something I liked a lot … walking across the road to my Grandpa’s country store. With ears wide open and eyes watching every expression on a person’s face, I experienced the art of story-telling … ranging from juicy gossip and farm updates to tall tales.
As a child listening was never enough for me ... I needed to write down ideas. I remember having deep thoughts and feeling unable to express them adequately to members of a farm family. When I talked to girlfriends at Broadway School about my philosophy of life, they looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. With a tablet and pencil from Grandpa’s country store, I could write my truth on a clean sheet of paper. Here I could dump negative thoughts from my brain as well as discuss positive revelations … here I could compose poems and prose that I prized. I discovered that writing could help me make sense of a culture where I did not seem to fit in and also give me a sense of belonging to a world of creativity.
When people posed at the country store, they became part of my inner canvas where I could memorize their mannerisms and their use of language and paint them on the pages of my journals. I could recall the flowered dress, the plaid shirt, the faded overalls, the worn-out shoes. I rarely spoke a word as I drew each person with strokes of my pencil. Others did not know that I captured their personality on a piece of paper and filed it in my brain.
My mind became a storage cabinet, continuing to gather information, and I could not remove it, even as new data pushed the old to the back. In spring 2000 when I first wrote about Grandpa’s country store, the files opened easily, sentences were recalled, anecdotes flowed. Much to my surprise and my delight, conversations from visits with Grandpa and the folks from Buckhorn and beyond would effortlessly jump on the screen of my computer. As I faxed and e-mailed first drafts of articles to a few friends for feedback, they agreed that this was my mission … to share stories of childhood and a bygone era rather than perfect a manuscript about reinventing ourselves personally and professionally.
The stories were published under a column title “Lett It All Hang Out” that later changed to “Lett’s Set a Spell.” Humble beginnings led to a steady flow of articles for publications and precious relationships with readers and fans and interviews with kinfolks. The rest is history. Within a few months columns, formed a book that was first titled “Set a Spell at Grandpa’s Country Store,” but evolved into “A Timeless Place,” published in November 2000.
For several years my calling was clear, and as columns flowed, other books were published. My avocation became my vocation, and in the meantime, I reinvented myself as a nostalgia author and storyteller. Ironic that while wanting to write about reinvention I did it!
Looking back, I realize that even though I did not appreciate my childhood and others did not understand me I have drawn upon that conflict to share stories and reflections.
What I viewed as challenges has fostered my creativity and led to my success as a writer and speaker.
As I celebrate the 13th anniversary of writing this column I am ready to leave nostalgia in the past and create a different future. I do not know what that means yet, so I wait for the Muse to fill me with ideas that stimulate passion and purpose. I will just do what comes naturally … write because I have something to say.
AlexSandra Lett is a professional speaker and the author of “Natural Living, From Stress to Rest;” “A Timeless Place, Lett’s Set a Spell at the Country Store;” “Timeless Moons, Seasons of the Fields and Matters of the Heart;” “Timeless Recipes and Remedies, Country Cooking, Customs, and Cures;” and “Coming Home to my Country Heart, Timeless Reflections about Work, Family, Health, and Spirit.” Lett can be reached at (919) 258-9299 or LettsSetaSpell@aol.com.