I just got back from a trip to New England (Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, to be specific).

Dover Friends Meeting.

It was an intense few weeks with work leading up to the trip and a little crazy actually getting out the door. We had just hosted a play on tour from England–in a town about two hours away from Fayetteville, had a board meeting at Quaker House (the locations rotate), gotten the newsletter out, made presentations at the Piedmont Friends Fellowship and Yearly Meeting’s Spring Retreat, and, just days before I left town, finally gotten our kitchen floor repaired. Thank you to all the people who donated funds to help with this necessary work and who donated a new refrigerator! Because the House is still fully working even in my absence, I needed to put things back together before I left. It was a late night with an early morning following.

Kitchen floor in need of repair from water damage.
New kitchen floor and donated fridge!









But, I made it. We made it (I met up with my daughter and son-in-law for parts of the trip). We made it to the not-unheard-of-April-sleet-and-ice-weather in New England from the fully-into-spring-70-degree-days in North Carolina. Luckily, we had checked the forecast and were prepared, and we had some well-timed coincidences.

Red Sox v Orioles. Score Red Sox 3, Orioles 1.

For example, I drove down from Maine to Boston to help my daughter and son-in-law with luggage so they could walk the Freedom Trail Tour before driving them to our next destination. They were running late, walking in the freezing rain and wild gusts of wind (same day as the Boston Marathon, if you saw those weather reports). I just happened to drive down the same one-way street in the same direction and recognized them in all their bundling. I could not pick them up there at that second (city traffic), but, amazingly, found a loading zone just around the corner that I was able to pull into without raising anyone’s ire while they caught up with me. We were still late getting them to the starting point of the tour, but my son-in-law looked out the window and wondered aloud, “Do you think that’s them?” pointing at three separate groups of poncho-clad people. They jumped out of the car and randomly picked the correct tour group that had them listed. The two history buffs were off on their tour.

Next, we visited two of my brothers and their families. It has been approximately 12 years since we have seen them and, therefore, had actually not yet met some of the newer family members.

There was lacrosse;

inflation of an indoor bouncy house while sitting in the middle of it;

baseball (Maine spring weather stops no one);

games of Foosball, Connect Four, and Apples to Apples; hair gel applied to match the visiting cousin-in-law’s style; and good food at every turn.

One of our final adventures was to buy a delicious “medium” (half-filled paper cup) of hot chocolate sold by a young guy in the parking lot of the art studios that neighbor my high-school-days home. Price: $1.00.

I returned to North Carolina about 12 hours earlier than I originally planned, and was very pleased with that decision for traveling arrangements. After that adjustment had already been implemented, I found out that the Quaker House web site was in urgent need of my focused attention. So, that timing worked out, too.

Hopefully, it will not be another decade before returning to Maine.

Rebar took on a little mentee at his sitter’s house while we were away.



My Perfect Labyrinth

Have you ever had a time when you just felt in sync with where and what you should be doing? Last weekend was wonderful that way. Don’t get me wrong, it was also exhausting. But, sometimes, the two things can coexist.

We had a board meeting on Saturday for Quaker House. I had worked hard and had two extra reports that represented significant effort and had, likewise, required quite a bit of attention to detail. I stayed up late the night before to make the house more accommodating to the dog sitter spending some time here and left early in the morning for the two-hour drive. The board meeting went well. I am always amazed by the dedication of our board members.

I got to my hotel room, let my daughter know I was out of the board meeting and to text me when I could come over, and them promptly crashed, full out, in the bed, under the covers. When my daughter texted, I went over to her place to spend a few hours catching up with her and my son-in-law. I love spending time with them. Amazing, crazy, motivated kids who keep me on my toes intellectually with their insights into their world and their open hearts.

Sunday, I got to go to Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business and to Worship with Spring Friends. I have not worshiped with them since August and I have missed them! During the business meeting, a local cat was wandering around in the snow and was welcomed in to share our breakfast, warmth, and discussions.

Cat acting as assistant recording clerk.

Finally, before beginning the two-hour drive back to Fayettteville, I had seen the pleasant forecast and brought a change of clothes so that I could visit the Shallow Ford Trail again. I have not found my perfect trail in Fayetteville, and I was really missing Shallow Ford. Two people warned me, “It’ll be muddy and wet.” “It’s okay. I brought my muddy and wet shoes.” The second I stepped onto the foot bridge over a tiny creek that begins the trail and heard the gurgling of the water over bits of ice and rocks, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

Shallow Ford, like many trails through wooded areas, winds back and forth and round and about. It goes uphill and downhill. Sometimes, there are trees that have come down and have not been cleared away, yet.

We have mindfulness classes at Quaker House and, the first Thursday of the month, Holy Trinity opens their beautiful labyrinth to the public. That labyrinth is peaceful and serene. It makes up the floor of the sanctuary, is lit by votive candles artistically placed around it, and you can hear the trickling water of the baptismal font. It leaves nothing to be desired in beauty and in inviting a clear mind.

I have also walked an outdoor labyrinth at Stony Point Center in New York. It is simpler, but makes up for that simpleness by being outside.

I have been trying to love labyrinths, to confine my feet to their intricate patterns. But, now I finally realize, my perfect labyrinth is laid out in the winding trails through wooded areas along rivers and tributaries, up hills and down slopes, over rocks and around occasionally fallen trees. My perfect labyrinth is of the more wild variety.


Recent Standoff Involving Veteran

[Originally posted on the Quaker House blog by me, cross-posted here.]

A tragic standoff with police and death of the barricaded individual occurred a few days ago in North Carolina. More details were released in a Fayetteville Observer article, today.

A few things stand out in the article:

  • The veteran who barricaded himself and shot at police, Kevin Battaglia, was described as a “good soldier who lost his way after he left the Army” and that “his demons were catching up to him.”
  • He was apparently diagnosed with PTSD and was frustrated by his experience with the VA Hospital.
  • “He turned to an extreme grasp of faith to where that was the only thing he was concerned with.”
  • Photographs he posted showed “a Bible on top of a bulletproof vest and an American flag draped on the rifle.”

Was Kevin Battaglia suffering from moral injury in addition to or rather than PTSD? They have overlapping symptoms, and his turn to religion may have been an attempt to deal with any moral injury components.

The photos highlight a concerning trend — the militarization and patriotism/nationalism-alignment of religion that we sometimes see. We are quick to notice when it happens in non-Christian religions, but do we recognize this in Christian expressions of religion?

Regardless, a “good soldier,” (ie, I imagine a good person, who was also described as intelligent) suffered mental anguish and eventually died a tragic death that appears to have had components of suicide-by-cop. Our soldiers–our family members and friends–are being wounded by their experiences of war. Sometimes these wounds are invisible, but terribly deep and exacting.

Can we work toward peace? Can we do more to help veterans when they return?

One of his friends is mentioned as having reached out to Kevin recently. His friend also regrets not having done more. We thank him for reaching out to Kevin, and our hearts go out to him and all the friends and family who are now left with wounds of their own to heal.