Extraordinary Road Trip: Treasures

I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I drove most of 950 miles in 29.5 hours with four people I had just met–all for a critical 10 or 15 minutes and an important hour and a half following afterwards.

I have slept a lot today. I was so tired when I got in last night, but knew I had to eat something. I sat on the edge of my bed to eat my yogurt so that I could simply set it down when I was done and close my eyes. I slept about 9 hours then. I got up, got Rebar, and later ended up sleeping again for several hours in two nap sessions.

There are things I want to remember about this trip. One lesson I have learned from years of journaling is that things that you think you will never forget–you forget, despite the fact that you have the clearest memory of other random events. But, most of this experience is really not my story. I was just part of a road trip. Therefore, I have been struggling with framing and preserving these memories. This is my attempt. I will make a couple of posts about things that were significant to me, and you will know that they were part of the Extraordinary Road Trip.

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We were on our way back home. The only reason I know this (timelines are already blurring) is because it was daylight. We drove down through the night. The people I was traveling with were very kind and warm, but a great deal of the conversation was in a language I do not, yet, understand. As I was thinking about this later, it was clear to me that a decision had to be made. Everyone in the car was fluent in these two languages except me and the elderly matriarch, and we each spoke the opposite language. One of us would be left out of the conversation, without translation, no matter which language was used. Given the relationships and the reason for our trip and the overall context, it was correct and appropriate that most of the time, the conversation was not in my language. I would vaguely listen for tone to gauge the emotional level in the car, and I was always proud of myself when I recognized words (I am trying to learn the language, among others). I guess it is not surprising, at my level, that the words I most often recognized were numbers and “Monday.” But, lots of conversation exhausts me and I was focused on driving new roads, so I was frequently existing in my own Venn-type parallel universe that had a bit of important overlap.

I tell you all this because I think it heightened my tendency to follow my own usual patterns with less self-consciousness than I might have otherwise felt in a car full of people I had just met. There were times when I was just in my own zone until they would reach out and invite me into the shaded overlapping area of our Venn Universes.

We were in one those sections of long road trips where you travel secondary roads to get from one major highway to another. We were in a long line of cars on an off-ramp, with approximately seven vehicles in front of me and I could not see the end of the line of vehicles behind me. This was a really long traffic light, and I casually observed an elderly man, with a grey beard, worn clothes, and a cardboard sign that read “Traveling Vet.” I usually just go with my gut in situations like this, but more often than not, if I have some cash, I share a little. I noticed that no one in the cars in front of me was offering anything and I was recalling that I did, indeed, have some ones in my wallet. Absentmindedly, I reached for my wallet-smartphone combination that was providing the GPS directions, and pulled out a dollar bill while I rolled down the car window.

All of sudden the background hum of the conversation in the language I did not understand stopped and there was a chorus of “Kindra, here” as everyone was handing their own contributions up to me to pass out the window. I am fairly certain that, at that point, my traveling companions in the middle and passenger side of the back seat could not even see the intended recipient of the money they were offering. Simultaneously, the white truck in front of me was holding out its offering to the man. After Traveling Vet gratefully recieved our little collection from my hand, he continued up behind my car with a purpose in his step that let me know someone in the cars behind me was also holding out their hand.

And then, everything resumed back the way it had been, without missing a beat.

And, I marveled and was grateful to be traveling with them.

 

Fleeing into the Hills

I had to have a break. It was not a question and it really could not wait any longer. It had been a busy summer followed by Quaker House’s 50th Anniversary Commemoration (a year in the planning) with an overlay of other work stresses.

I should have taken the break a week earlier, but I did not because of insistence that some administrative things be done right then. And, that was it. After that, I simply sat down, found an airbnb, booked it, and let the board know I would be taking vacation in a few days. Just knowing I had it scheduled helped immensely.

So, off to Marion, North Carolina, I went with a lovely stop at my daughter’s along the way. As I pulled up to the cabin sitting along a creek, four or five little dogs and one medium dog all came out to welcome me. It was quite the little party. I kept Rebar in the car for the time being since we all did not know each other just yet. Later, Shilah, the medium dog, who actually lives across the creek, came to hang out with us.

The cabin combined diminutive rustic charm that nestled into the surrounding trees and creek outside with elegant expansive art inside.

 

 

I had arrived at the cabin Sunday evening. Monday morning I ran to the local grocery store to outfit myself for the next few days. That afternoon there was a thunderstorm. I set my camping chair just inside the open front door as the rain poured down from the sky, and moved back out to the porch once the storm passed.

I knew I needed to mentally rest, and I was doing that, sitting on the teeny tiny perfect porch, as the creek babbled by, sometimes reading, sometimes just quietly sitting. I also revisited what I thought my priorities were. I found them to be the same as what I thought they had been, but also knew I would have to make further changes in the whole work-life dynamic to reflect those priorities. I was determined, but not yet feeling rejuvenated.

It was not until Tuesday morning that Rebar and I headed out to Roaring Fork Falls. One of my favorite things about trails that meander towards flowing water is noting when I can start hearing the sounds of the water as I get closer, the increase in volume as I come upon the source, and then, as I leave, the recession of that rushing and the reemergence of the relaxed forest sounds.

As Rebar and I were walking back down the trail, I stopped still for a moment to watch a ittle bird* flitting from branch to branch and tree to tree. At that moment, the leaves at the tops of the encircling trees all let me listen in on their gentle conversations and greeting for several sustained minutes.

That hike up to the falls and back was the one thing that did the most to reconnect all the parts of my personality to each other and to rekindle my commitment to the things I want out of this life. Trails like these are truly my labyrinths

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roaring Fork Falls.

 

Rebar patiently waits while I climb out on the overhanging rocks a bit.

 

I originally took this photo trying to capture the steep, rocky, rooted climb in the background. But, when I saw the actual photo, I just loved how the roots of the tree in the foreground cradled and protected the rock at the base of its trunk.

 

 

 

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*    I tried to look up the little bird when I got back. To me, it looked like a very small chik-a-dee with just a touch of bright orange-red under its wings. The closest I have found so far is a chestnut backed chik-a-dee coloring variation, but apparently that has the wrong habitat (Pacific Northwest).

Restful Seeking

One of the plenary speakers at Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association’s annual sessions (of Quakers) in 2017 was Tara Doyle, a professor of Bhuddist Studies at Emory University. Paraphrasing from memory, one of the things she said was that when she attended her first Quaker Meeting, as the people settled into open (silent) worship, her mind immediately responded, “I recognize this” from her years of practicing Buddhist meditation. She went on to explain that the main difference she found between the two practices was that Quakers engage in “expectant waiting upon the Lord” while in Buddhist meditation, practitioners just be, with no expectations.

There is a local dharma group. I know two of the people who participate in it, and I have wanted to check it out, but never had followed up on that desire, mainly because it is on Monday evenings and we are not quite finished with counseling here at Quaker House at that time on Mondays. I do not do the counseling, but nonetheless, that is the reason I have never gone. I went this past Monday (three days ago). It was the reverse of Prof. Doyle’s experience. Coming from a practice of Quaker worship, my mind immediately said, “I recognize this,” and I settled into the silence easily.

But, there was a difference. This time, I was not waiting and working to hear the voice of God in my heart and mind. The result was that I was not using mental and emotional energy trying to “be in tune with the Spirit.” I had not realized there was a use of (a minimal amount of) energy before in maintaining my intent to be listening. Yet, I might have been more in tune. (I had no great (or small) revelations.)

My own daily personal worship time is important to me. Over the last few days, although I have still engaged in study from a sacred text before my prayer and silent worship, I have not been so expectant or trying to be “in tune.” It has only been a few days, but I am beginning to think that this might be a graceful way of seeking after God, for me. I do the work before I enter into worship: in my study, in how I try to live the rest of the day all the time, and in opening the time with prayer. But, then, these last few days, I rest (still conscious!).

I will see how it goes. It is always a journey, with many course corrections along the way.

“. . . learn from me . . . and you will find rest for your souls . . . for my burden is Light.”

(Matthew 11:29-30, capitalization of “Light” added by me)