A Little Help

Last Tuesday, I walked out into the humid heat already pressing down on the world to take Rebar out for his morning walk* and stopped dead in my tracks, my mind racing to begin problem solving. The dogwood was down.

I loved that dogwood.

I didn’t have time for a tree removal project.

My car was blocked in the driveway further down (luckily not under the tree, even if it was small).

No one has time for unplanned developments. But, really, I did not have time. I had just gotten back from Iowa where I had led a five-day workshop (9:00 am – 11:45 am all five days). I was leaving the next day for the next yearly meeting’s annual sessions where Quaker House also had a significant role on Saturday. And . . . there was to be a wedding at Quaker House while I was gone–a very small wedding, but a special day, nonetheless.

My racing problem-solving brain noted branches resting on wires and, thus, the need to not touch, just yet. Did we have a chainsaw in the garage, here? No. I didn’t remember seeing one–but friendly neighbors were just passing for their walk. Rebar and I asked them if they had a chainsaw? No, but they suggested neighbors they thought would be willing to help with that. I called the utility company and texted the neighbor across the street. Once the utility company cleared the tree for safety, Neighbor Across the Street would not only bring chainsaw, but would gladly help clear the tree. And, he did.

My gratitude for his assistance was maximum even without an additional development. We hire a lady to come by and give the House a good cleaning once a month, except she had not been here in over a month because of a family crisis of her own.


So, I did my best to clean as much as I could before I absolutely had to leave on Wednesday. I also bought a tiny boquet of five colorful roses. I wanted the couple to feel welcomed and that I celebrated this event with them even though I was not there. It was all I could do, but I hoped they would see the little colorful clump as a smile from me.

Along with all of this, a family member sustained a serious injury and had surgery Tuesday morning. There was nothing I could do for them in New England except worry and grieve for the pain and trauma while never stopping for a second in the work I had to get done.

On arrival to University of North Carolina – Wilmington, I just couldn’t keep going any long and collapsed into bed earlier than I have in as long as I can remember . . . after making the bed because dorm living, you know. (I am not complaining. They were very nice apartment-style dorms.)

Back before all of this, when I had originally confirmed Quaker House could be the wedding venue, I knew I would be gone, and I knew that I would want someone I trusted to make sure unknown un-wedding-like things had not happened in or at the house in my absence. Luckily, a Friend readily agreed when I asked her. Luckily, because it gave me a tiny bit of peace of mind when I could not be there myself. Luckily, because she was a lifesaver when, indeed, there was an issue that had popped out. The next day, I got a text from the bride thanking me, telling me it was magical.

When I walked back in the door from Wilmington, I saw the most beautiful flower arrangements that the House-Checking Friend had contributed. I am sure they were loved by the wedding party, but, at that moment, I think I must have loved those flowers more than they might have. It has been a long 18+** days, and seeing those flowers gave me an immediate sense of respite.


A little help from my friends.


* If you look closely in the first photo, you can see Rebar (tied) up at the House.

** I had already had several trips before this 18-day run.



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.