R. S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Wednesday Photo: 4/23/14

2014-04-05 15.40.12

The Wild Violets Are Spectacular This Year
Heard County, Georgia – 5 April 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Friday Photo: 4/18/14


LaGrange, Georgia – 30 March 2014

This pillow’s story-in-photos appeared here on 14 February 2013 as Roadside Valentine.

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Wednesday Photo: 4/16/14

2014-04-05 15.34.38

Dirty Water Tastes Best
Heard County, Georgia – 5 April 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Redbud in bloom

2014-04-05 16.03.28

Heard County, Georgia – 5 April 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

A fierce traveler

At 2:30 yesterday morning, I stopped at a Waffle House in Pell City, Alabama, on my way back from the John Prine show in Birmingham. The restaurant was fairly crowded for the middle of the night, but not packed. I enjoyed my meal, checked my phone messages, watched the goings-on in the busy parking lot, and rested a little before the last half of my journey home.

Now and then, though, I got that eerie feeling of someone’s eyes on me. In the reflection of the window next to my booth, I saw a man seated at the counter, his head turned around nearly 180 degrees, staring very intently at me.

At first, I thought he was just exhausted and had perhaps forgotten his manners. God knows I’ve done that when sleep-deprived. So I glanced in that general direction, over his head, and he turned back around. Ah, yes. That made sense. The guy was just tired.

Three minutes later, I felt eyes on me again. Same thing: I glanced over, caught the server’s attention. The guy turned back around and minded his own business for a while. Rinse and repeat several more times.

If I reminded him of someone—or if he found me attractive—then perhaps he should have walked over and introduced himself. But no.

It was late.
I was alone.
I was far from home.
And I was not frightened.
I was furious.

I set down my burger, turned in the man’s direction, and locked eyes with him very, very pointedly—the kind of stare that reads, “Turn around, dipshit, before I open your jugular vein right here in front of God and everybody.” I held his eyes for about five seconds, narrowing mine. His glassy stare finally changed to a weak smile and acknowledgment of my humanity.

I did not smile back.
I kept staring.
He paid his bill, got up, and left.

Now, if you’re about to comment that “Oh, you’re just so beautiful, and he was captivated by your looks” or “He couldn’t help it, you’re good-looking” or “Why didn’t you have a man along to protect you?” or “Why didn’t you do ________” or “[insert other empty, unthinking platitude here],” DON’T. Instead, go to the nearest bridge and throw yourself off of it, because our society’s already got enough problems with people like you making excuses for predatory behavior.

This update, unlike most of what I post, is not an open discussion. I am talking about a matter of basic human decency here. So read carefully. Take in what I have to say. It is that important.

No one is here simply for someone else’s gratification. No one is an inanimate object. No one is a thing that’s unaffected by how others treat it.

Like everyone else, I am free to move about as I please. I refuse to have my movement limited because of what others could possibly do. Yes, I am a petite woman. So fucking what? I am human. I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to have my world and life circumscribed because of what someone else (particularly a man) might or might not do to me. No, I don’t give half a raving shit what that man’s problem was. There are some things a person is simply not supposed to do. Staring intently at strangers is one of those things.

Again: If you don’t like what I’ve said, move along. Period.


© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

An awkward blessing

Although it sometimes causes me heartache, I’m grateful to be shy, reserved, awkward, and worried. I’m grateful to be enthusiastic, fearlessly creative, eager to contribute, a little wacky. I’m grateful that I’m apt to do or say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I’m grateful to be supportive, loyal, and encouraging in spite of the tremendous cynicism that surrounds us.

Plenty of people, of course, would find all this wrapped up in one person to be a tragedy—a cause for deep, enduring shame. For years, I did, too. Now, in my forties, I’m beginning to understand the blessings of this natural quirkiness.

Being me means being highly sensitive. As a writer, I recognize and value this gift: the ability and willingness to experience strong emotions, to be unafraid of my feelings, to identify deeply with others’ fears and hopes, joys and pains, wishes and failures. Even though my emotions sometimes overwhelm me, my closeness to them reminds me what it means to be human…what it means to be fully, completely alive.

I know many sophisticated, urbane people. I admire them. But I never have been and never will be one of them. Not that I haven’t tried. For a long time, I hated myself for never fitting into that crowd. I hated myself for being essentially openhearted and goofy, for my comfort in showing and saying how I feel. Much later, I realized that those jaded, worldly people instead tremble with fear at the thought of genuine human connection.

Once, I envied these folks. Now, I feel awful for them. As I once did, they too hold themselves to a false standard of behavior that doesn’t match who they really are. They wear the mask of their inauthentic selves because they believe that’s what they have to do for others to accept them. On some level, most unconsciously recognize that this lie leaves them strangely empty and unsatisfied.

Everywhere I go, I meet them. I extend to them kindness and patience. And I say a little prayer that one day, they’ll shuck off those masks, allow themselves to feel, and finally start living.

But sometimes, despite all this, I’m still afraid to show others my true self. What if they don’t like me? What if they reject me? What if my contributions to the conversation or community aren’t welcome? What if I’m weird, unacceptable, unworthy, unlovable?

No matter. I’ve learned (and relearn all the time) that everyone feels this way. We’re all terrified that others won’t love us as we are. In that spirit, holding back who I am helps no one. If others don’t care to include me in their circle, that’s all right. I can’t control that. I can control only myself. It hurts when I discover that others find me too unconventional for their tastes. But I’m willing to risk the hurt, to risk looking like a fool, because the rewards are priceless for every one of us.

I’m grateful not to have lost my emotional edge over the years. I’m grateful to be me—awkwardness, eagerness, and all.


© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Throwback Thursday: 4/10/14


Rock Mills, Alabama – August 1977

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Wednesday Photo: 4/9/14

2014-02-07 16.18.56

At the Car Wash, Yeah
LaGrange, Georgia – 7 February 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


At water’s edge, my Fisher King, you stand
flightless, crippled. Slender faithful guard
of fen, of heart, of glorious
sooty blushing riotous raiment—
crumpled, bruised, proud.

Your birthright: motionless swift grace.
Your feathers: hopeless sacred spikes.
Your offering: flawless imperfect blessing.

Demolished and whole,
fractured and healed,
shattered and safe—O great God,
that every hurt could mend,
that you could fly.

Fly from me, beautiful broken one.
Take my breath with you.


© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Wednesday Photo: 4/2/14

2014-02-07 11.58.26

Black, White, Blue, & Yellow
LaGrange, Georgia – 7 February 2014

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Not an April Fool’s prank


Dear Students and Colleagues:

Your kindness and generosity bring me to tears. Thank you for granting me a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I’m doing something right. Thank you for honoring me with this year’s Stanley Parkman Excellence in Tutoring Award.


Photo courtesy of Sean Jepson

Blog post text © R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

After returning from a literary conference

When I left for Oxford, forsythia and daffodils bloomed in yards and ditches. Four days later, yellow bells nodded into green, shriveled into tan. Purple redbud fuzz held fast against the tail-end of the storm. March winds shredded spring to tatters, blew olive-brown backwaters choppy and cold.

Is this the place I left?
Are you sure?
Because I am not.

In Mississippi, I could not shake the strange floating feeling. No drugs or booze here, oh no—with nearly no filter between mind and mouth, years ago I gave up substances for presence. Was it how my beloved friends suddenly surrounded me? How we workshopped and brainstormed and channeled the next ghost or twelve? How my companions’ poetry sent my eyes and hands skyward in a rush that nearly made me speak in glorious tongues? How I knew that even the strangers sitting beside me were as fiercely devoted to our craft as I am? How we all swore, silently and aloud, never to separate ourselves from bearing witness to this good green earth and all it holds?

I went home to Mississippi.
It loves me.
I went home to Georgia.
It loves me.

Love and fear and friends bind me to this place, fix my feet solidly to this patch of earth. Love and fear and friends call me to shape words, to tear them apart and sew them together, to push them and myself out into the world, to tell and tell and tell again.

Is that it?
Are you sure?
Because I am.


© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Vows for a breaking heart

Sometimes, my heart is so full that I cannot speak of love and loss and the broken things of the world without rending it in two. Everything wants out at once. For many reasons, I cannot always let this happen when it needs to.

No matter.
It happens anyway.
And I make do, make sense, as best I can.

In trembling fear and faith, I wait for image and emotion to coalesce, then return. Body and soul, I am bound to the full, roaring, abiding silence:

Go where you have to go.
Do what you have to do.
When you come back, I will be here.
When you are ready, I will find the words.


© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)



Wednesday Photo: 3/26/14

2014-02-07 15.35.41-1

It’s Times Like This When I Really Miss My Truck
Troup County, Georgia – 7 February 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

“Them days is gone, gone…”


“Serve you right to suffer, serve you right to be alone
Because you’re still living in days done past and gone…”

John Lee Hooker reached out, called my name, still won’t let me go.
Serves me right.

Gas station sales display, Anniston, Alabama
14 March 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Damn good.

A few weeks ago, two musician friends stopped by for a visit, guitars in hand. I’ve known Tommy and Bubba for thirteen years, since my community theatre days. I’ve heard them play music, in private and in public, at least fifty times. At least forty of those fifty times, they’ve invited me to sing with them. I’ve always turned them down—too busy, too inexperienced, too self-conscious, too frightened.

The fifty-first time was the charm.

In four hours, we played country classics, folk standards, and a healthy serving of what some people call “Americana.” Tommy and Bubba switched lead vocal duties every few numbers, with my voice backing theirs. For the last song of the evening, Tommy and I duetted on John Prine’s “In Spite of Ourselves.”

The final notes of a delightful evening faded. Bubba, a man who speaks almost exclusively through song, turned to me as if to whisper juicy gossip. “I knew it!”

Tommy nodded. “That was good, Rach. Seriously. That was damn good.”

I can’t wait to sing again.


© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Wednesday Photo: 3/19/14

2014-02-07 15.32.14-1

…And Then What?
Troup County, Georgia – 7 February 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


2014-03-16 21.51.41

Yes, It Is…
LaGrange, Georgia – 16 March 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Throwback Thursday: 3/13/14


Of the four years I worked as a professional actor, I spent perhaps two-and-a-half getting passed over for even small parts in smaller productions. Much of that time I found myself in deep despair, wondering whether I had made a mistake in following my creative calling. At the very end, however, I was blessed with some strong, interesting roles.

Chelsea McKinnon, Diane Wagner, and Tal Harris liked what they saw in that sensitive, quirky, yet intense late twenty-something anti-ingenue. These three incredible talents granted me opportunities—and offered me friendship—for which I will be grateful until I draw my last breath.

Photo by Tricia McCannon
Atlanta, Georgia – December 2000

Wednesday Photo: 3/12/14


One of my graduate school professors asked recently, “What are the colors of the South?” The question fascinated me, and I set out for some answers. This rusted shop roof and gray sky—today’s Wednesday Photo—spoke rather eloquently.

I’ll explain further in a few weeks. Big website changes on the way.

Rusted Shop Roof with Chain Link and Barbed Wire
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 February 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

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