08 January 2014

Blog moved

The day after I so confidently announced I would write 100 words a day for 100 days, Blogger broke. At least for me. Even the mobile app wouldn't work (the app is working now, it's how I'm posting this. Look to the previous post to see how the website is behaving). This, combined with people having trouble commenting, plus some general dissatisfaction with Blogger, drove me to transfer my blog to WordPress. You can import all of your posts from an external blog, so I didn't lose any of my history.  Maybe someday I'll find my way back to Blogger, but for now, I'm on WordPress. And I'm keeping up with my 100 for 100 challenge! So come visit me and follow along at owanderingfolk.wordpress.com

30 December 2013

100 in 100

I'm not very good at following up on arbitrary goals I set for myself.  But I'd like to try to get better.  I'd also like to get back in the habit of writing for human consumption (even if it's only one person...hi Mom).  I'm going to try to write at least 100 words here every day for the next 100 days.  According to convertunits.com, 100 days from now is April 9, 2014.
I'm going to follow this self-challenge by its spirit and not by letter of the law - because, the letter kills but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6).  So, if I forget a day, it's not off.  Maybe I'll make it up with 200 words the next day...maybe not.
I'll also write about whatever I feel I can prattle about on that particular day...hold on because this could be a twisty ride.
According to the word count I'm already past 150...maybe this will be easier than I thought!  

15 October 2013


I have been on American soil for one year and two weeks.  The anniversary of my (hopefully semi-)permanent return to the US has stirred up all sorts of desires to dig out my passport, navigate public transportation in a language I don't know, spend extended hours in an airport, and listen to funny accents (funnier than Alabama accents, that is).

I miss traveling, I miss novel experiences, I miss diversity of peoples.  I miss the tension that resolves into satisfaction as one goes from feeling totally displaced to feeling comfortable - going from completely at a loss to being "in the know."  I miss eating ridiculously weird food just so I can say "This one time I ate jellied sheep's brains."  I miss being astonished at the unfamiliar beauty of a landscape.

They call it wanderlust.  I have it.  Bad.

I feel fairly confident that I will not only travel internationally again, but that I'll someday call another country "home" again.  And I not only recognize the value of the time I'm currently spending in the States, I am also thoroughly enjoying it.  And I'm definitely enjoying the fact that the whole country is obsessed with pumpkin for the months of October and November.

So I readjust the load, balancing wanderlust with rootedness, and journey on.

09 August 2013

If you get to North Carolina, you've gone too far

"If you get to North Carolina, you've gone too far."  Those were the final instructions in my mom's landmark-based directions to the secret woodland trail I was determined to find.  I laughed at the caveat, until we missed our first turn and crossed the North Carolina border.  Once we were on the right road, searching for the trailhead, we ended up in North Carolina again.  We turned around in the gravel driveway of a house that bore a sign: "Honk for service"  What kind of service?  You never can tell, with those North Carolinians.
We were headed back to the main road, having all but given up on finding the trail, hidden by years of memory, when the curve of a gravel side road caught my eye and I shouted, "Stop!"

My best friend and her husband were not only patient, but enthusiastic about searching for an unmarked trail I hadn't been to in oh, maybe eight years.  They are two people around whom I feel perfectly at ease being my genuine self, which is always a relief for an introvert.

Over a creek, hidden away in tall weeds, was an opening in the trees.  "This is it!  I think this is really it!" I crowed, and we piled out of the car.  We entered into the trail, enveloped by green and the patient words of the creek.

I'm not sure where the original knowledge of the trail came from, but my grandparents used to take us there in early spring.  We called it the Trillium Trail, partly because it didn't have a name we knew, mostly because the ground was covered in the elegant wildflower and when it bloomed, the forest floor was carpeted with fairy flowers.  On this cool Memorial Day, it was a little late for the trillium, but I had a deep desire to find the place and cement it in my mind as more than just a wispy, flowered memory from childhood.

Some trails have a solid feel, acceptable and approved places for human and nature to interact.  Ah, admire the wildflower.  Listen the birds.  Isn't nature a splendid thing for us to observe and enjoy?  Other trails, you feel as though you have stepped into a world quietly ignorant of you, a location out of time, not growing for our admiration but for the purity of its own existence.  You, the hiker, feel partly an intruder, partly a silent integration into the patient life cycle of the tangled woods.  Your words hang in the air when you speak them, then are hurriedly lost in the muffle of the trees.

It is those places that keep me going back to the woods.

Our discovery of a tiny spring house, green all over with moss, leaning permanently, confirmed that this was the place we sought.  I have a picture of my grandmother and my great aunt, in their older years but ever playful, pretending to hold up the leaning structure.  The spring house grows out of the hillside, over a tributary, as if it has always been there.  Looking up the hillside, we noticed one trillium variety still blooming: wine-colored petals hanging under a three-leaf umbrella.  I wanted to take pictures, because I always want to have pictures, but for all my wanting to have pictures I never can seem to remember to bring my camera.

We passed an older fellow who gave us a friendly greeting.  He seemed to know the trail personally.

The trail ended in a hot meadow at a turn of the creek.  We waded in the very, very cold water.  A trip to the mountains is not really complete until you stick some part of yourself in an icy creek.  We swung around on an old knotted rope but decided we didn't really want to get wet past our knees.  We headed back to the car and ate a picnic lunch by the water.  More people passed us.  It didn't feel so much like a secret anymore.

Back in the car, warm and sticky, we made our way back to the slightly flatter parts of Georgia.  I slept most of the way, tired and content.  Later we had a Memorial Day dinner with Katie's parents.

I hold this day in my memory as a reminder that days of simple and pure enjoyment exist, respites for us in a rocky life.  On that day, the sun shines, we laugh, we marvel at the tangled beauty of a Cherokee rose, we get mosquito bites, we sit quietly by the water.  The world had not yet turned sepia.  Everything is fresh and green and innocent.  

04 June 2013

About Judy

My sister and I were blessed to know and have all four of our grandparents into adulthood.  We were the only grandchildren on one side and two of three on the other, so grandparently affection was overabundant for us and our cousin.  They doted, and we loved them all.

There were four of them.  This is about the last one.  I couldn't manage to speak at her funeral last Saturday, although there was a lot I wanted to say.  So instead I am doing something I'm much better at: writing in silence.

The three of us called her Judy, and I'm not sure why.  That was her name (short for Judith), and my sister, being the oldest, made the decision to call her that.  It worked out ok, though; it rolls off the tongue like other pet grandma names - Granny, Mimi, Nana - but it's unconventional, like her.  She later claimed she wished we called her GrandmaMA.  She was dramatic.

Judy and Daddy Earl (a good Southern name for a grandpa) lived 5 minutes away from us until I was in highschool and my sister was in college, when we moved to a neighboring town.  Consequently, they had a huge hand in raising us.  We were always at their house, being taught, nurtured, scolded, fed, and doing chores.  They built their house when my sister was a baby.  It was weird - it had honey-blond wood floors and ceilings, 20-foot-tall windows on the south wall, a fireplace of stacked stone they had personally dug up in the yard of their stony, wooded 20 mountain acres, and a swimming pool in the living room.  I kid you not.    It was always full of light.  It always smelled like delicious bread or oil paints.  She had a tinny-sounding piano that I played every time I was over.

Judy was a city girl from Atlanta.  She studied art at UGA until her friends introduced her to a boy from a farm in South Georgia.  She quit school and married him.  It was the 1950s.  Her parents didn't like him at first, because he was country, but she told them it was a "non-issue".  She was going to marry him.  I know this because, in the last few months of her dementia, she announced to me she was quitting school and getting married and there was nothing I could do about it - it was a non-issue.  Later, her parents loved him, like most people did.

She was quite naturally a teacher, and she had three eager granddaugthers to whom she constantly imparted both skills and strong opinions.  Like,

How to make French bread
How to paint a shadow
Never to wear white after labor day
The name of every plant that grows in the North Georgia woods
The best way to listen to music in the house is as loud as possible...while your husband is in the garden

She would praise you with one breath and criticize the way you did something the next.  Small things were a big deal, whether it was how the phrase of an aria crescendoed poignantly or how so-and-so did such-and-such and she just could not believe that.  She liked to have parties.  Dinner parties with friends or pool parties for grandchildren & friends.  She believed strongly in being socially tactful, which balanced nicely with her husband's introversion and bluntness.  Also, your shoes and your purse should never clash.  That was a piece of advice I never could manage to retain.

I can't block out how her personality began to change, first slowly, then dramatically after my grandfather died.  How her world got smaller and smaller as her dementia got worse.  I hate dementia.  In a way I lost her, one of my best friends, three years ago.  But now I'm given the chance to grieve.  A formerly central pattern of my life is gone.  A person who I loved, who shaped me, is not coming back, and she no longer lingers in a hazy state of confusion.  Praise God.

There is a time for everything under heaven.

22 May 2013

Checking things off

Presenting the results of the completion (ish) of my D.C. bucket list!

We have...

The National Zoo

The National Arboretum (I have an unusual affection for trees)

It would appear that columns are grown, not built

A repeat of an old favorite, the Air and Space Museum on the Mall

Annapolis, home of the US Naval Academy, on a very cool and somewhat rainy day

Featured but not pictured:

The National Museum of the Marine Corps
      - volunteering there was a veteran of the battle of Iwo Jima.  We chatted, and I learned he taught music at Stanford University for years.  "Go to the museum website  and look up my name," he told visitors, "Frank Matthews - they have a lot of old pictures of me in the war and my story.  I don't like to look at all those pictures.  It's depressing - I was so much better looking back then."

Not checked off the list:
A return to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum

What remains most important to me, though, is not the places that I visited, but the fact that I got to see them (most of them) with my parents.  After having spent a year in another country, getting ready to move 800 miles away, not knowing in which direction the next few years will take me - it was really lovely to spend time with my parents, enjoying our shared interests together (nature, history, being nerdy, etc).  I think we're all pretty confident it's time for me to move out, though!

Now there is a new list - Things I Must Do Today Before I Leave Tomorrow.

11 May 2013

You and you only, first in my heart

You have been partly privy to it.  You've seen the reflection of changes in my life.  How experiences - gifts from God - have shaped, redirected my life.

You can recap if you like:

Ok, I'm ready!  Except, I'm not...
Rewind: Israel
Israel Rewind Part 2
Hobbits, Koreans, and Courage
Middle East, Episode II

Over the last couple years, my desire to serve long-term for God's Kingdom has been growing, gradually but steadily overcoming my desires to do anything else.  When I got back from Wales, I had a swell plan: get a nice job with my nice degrees, make money for a couple years, then go.  Except, I was having a really hard time finding a job.  And my heart wasn't into it.  And the thought of doing the 9-to-5 for two years while my true desires were elsewhere was seriously depressing.

You see, I was approaching it wrong.  I thought 1) I need to be a " financially responsible and respectable individual" before I can be a crazy missionary, 2) I need to get my house in order before I give it to God, 3) Work is separate from mission.  I still wanted to go....I was just, well, sidetracked.

A few months ago I had the honor of fellowshipping (it's a word, ok?) with a leader of the Chinese house-church movement.  If you know what Back to Jerusalem is, you've probably heard of him.  A few of my closest friends and I got to have dinner and spend quality with him.  At the end of the night he put his hands on us and prayed for us.  This man, who has suffered for Jesus like the apostles, who laughs and emanates the Spirit, prayed for us.  Prayed for our service to the Kingdom, on the mission field.

And I thought, what am I doing?  If I feel God calling me, why am I still frittering away my life on "man's empty praise"?  It's time to be obedient.

When he walked the earth, Jesus didn't call only people with respectable jobs, people who had it all together, and he didn't call people to follow him part-time.  He called people out of their respectable jobs, he called people without jobs, he called people with menial or really terrible jobs, and he said, "Leave it all and follow me."  He called people to give up their old lives and live a new one entirely for him.  He still does that.

God has blessed me with the opportunity to get hands-on training in a city that I love with people that I love while doing a job that I love.  So that's what I'm going to do.  I'm moving to Alabama in June to start all this.  As a big dreamer, I do a lot of talking about the things that I'm going to do.  It's time to stop talking and start doing.