Travel is our opportunity to wade out from the rushing stream of daily life and lay down on the soft grass on the bank. Rest your head, close your eyes, let the sunlight filter red through your eyelids as the insects whir in the distance and the babble of the water fades to background noise.
I love the birth of small routines when away from home for a number of days. The walk from my hotel in Spain to get my daily morning coffee. The propping of my pillows each night in Mexico to sit and read and be able to gaze up and out upon the city spread below our epic windows. This week while at my Quaker yearly meeting in Greensboro, my favorite time of day has become skipping one session after lunch in order to have some time in quiet solitude. I can’t bear to spend the entirety of the day inside when the weather has been unexpectedly glorious–a rare reprieve from the oppressive tyranny of Southern summer is not to be ignored. The campus grounds are lush with green and shade and pleasing simply to gaze upon. I take brief walks down the college pathways–I’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere of campuses, the saturation of expectant knowledge, the vibrancy of the young souls gathered. Even when they are not physically present, I enjoy the aura that permeates.
My habit each day has been to squirrel away two cookies from the lunch buffet, grab a cup of sweet tea, and venture forth to seek a quiet corner to read, write, or stare into space while enjoying the creamy breeze. Today I lucked out with a vacant front porch on one of the residence halls. It is everything Southern: grand columns, a row of rocking chairs, a porch swing upon which I now recline. Yesterday it was full up with those chattering in conversation so I went on past in my preference for solitude. I took a rocking chair on a small plaza in front of the student library. After sitting a minute, I was charmed to discover that I could overhear through the nearby walls a piano practice session. We’ve been pleased to share the campus with a summer gathering of music students. As I later rose to leave, I lingered to eavesdrop a minute outside one of the windows.
The last day of a retreat is always bittersweet as the blissful balm of isolation from the cares of the world threatens its imminent removal. We were granted a bit of magic our final night as a handful of us gathered on a porch with a low fiddler serenading our quiet conversation. The trees hummed along with their life within; a peek of stars up above the leafy roof reminded me of what I miss by being a city-dweller. Long we lingered, reluctant to release the bonds of camaraderie.
It’s pure glory out. Just enough sun dappling us through the pines, just enough breeze to soothe, music just loud enough to not overwhelm, just enough company to be pleased yet not burdened, just enough bitter in the beer to savor the smooth.
Sunday in the South and all is well and fine and just enough.
Last week I headed down to Wilmington with my youngest daughter–I’d had such a hankering to go down and finally we had a day warm enough to allow for walking around. Every time I cross the bridge over the Cape Fear River and see Wilmy glistening and beckoning in the sun, my soul heaves a sigh–it is such a beautiful little city and my love for it has never diminished.
First on our agenda was to return to my former neighborhood and poke around. The railings on the front porch of my house had been changed, but I was happy to see the house well-cared for and tended. We walked over to my favorite cemetery and enjoyed the history and headstone names and Spanish moss dripping before heading downtown.
How much changes in a mere nine months! We drove by what had been an empty lot on one of the sketchier streets I used to pass along on the nineteen block walk from my house to the riverfront; now a gas station was under construction. I was pleased by that, but dismayed to discover that one of my favorite downtown eateries had shut down. I have fond memories of appetizers and fine beer while perched out on their miniature two-person balconies overlooking the water, the sun beating down on us as we ate. Today the water is being chopped by the still brisk spring wind. I’m watching the small boats fight it, the passengers’ heads damn near snapped off their bobble necks as the boats slam down off of each crest.
I’m melancholy that the restaurant is gone and ponder how life moves on with or without us. Even as I sit here and write, the world exists in Málaga, in Lisbon, in Panama City without my eyes to witness. Each world that I inhabited for a brief time continues in my absence.
A dear friend sent this article to me, I absolutely loved it! Hope you do too.
I feel like a flake when “pondering scenarios for my life” since seemingly moment to moment they flip and they flop, they vacillate and shimmer upon the road ahead. Maybe not because I don’t know what I want but because I want everything, I am greedy for life. I want to live all the lives, be all the incarnations of myself. I don’t want to deny any facet of my authenticity but instead want to embrace and cherish each crazy version. After throwing off the yoke of censorship and falseness from my life, I feel compelled to avoid shutting off dreams and skirting paths, even though in reality they perhaps conflict or deviate wildly. One self cries out for the isolation and seclusion of the countryside, skies full to bursting with nighttime stars. Another self longs to return to living in a historic district, full of neighborhood coffee shops and jasmine walks. In other moments all I want in life is loft living with the never-ceasing buzz and thrum of being smack dab in the middle of it all. Each one in turn is shoved aside by the gal who doesn’t want to be troubled with moving yet again and who adores the perfect tiny apartment and the screen porch looking out upon the pines.
I love these days that just unfold. Some responsibility lifted, some fulfilled…some ignored. The driving force of this day is the velvet glass of merlot, the glorious sun beating down on me and a feeling of quiet holiness. The dove crying in the woods, the rustle of the breeze through the pine tops, the subtle whisper of spring creeping in.