Rising Above the Oooh

I’ve always considered myself someone who likes to travel. I mean, it makes you sound so accomplished.

“What do you like to do?”
“I’m a writer, and a big reader. I also love to travel.”
“Really! Where have you been?”
“I’ve been to Europe,” *shrug*.
“Oooh.”

I live for the Admiring Oooh.

In all seriousness, I really do enjoy travel, not just for the Admiring Oooh. Visiting new places and seeing life done in different ways has always fascinated me. It’s wonderful to think that while you’re at home doing whatever you do, all these people are here, miles and miles away, doing what they do. It doesn’t stop and start when you arrive, it happens simultaneously with your own timeline. And for a moment, you get to step into a story not your own, and watch it, and sometimes even write some of it.

However, as I’ve gotten older (and this is really sad because I’m not even that old), I’ve found that I have to remind myself how much I love traveling, because more often than not it really stresses me out. New places are unfamiliar, full of a million unknowns, and I hate unknowns. Also I have a sensitive stomach that gets ill easily. Also I need to have enough sleep, and who knows if this will happen? Also I sunburn, literally, like hell. Also I am easily dehydrated. Where’s the closest water fountain? I pull away from my house, my place, with all my things in it, and see it looking so forlorn and abandoned, and I want to run back and cancel everything.

(And this is just going to visit my parents.)

I’ve learned that some things are worth hacking through a slew of fears for. I’ve done it before, and I regret it when I don’t. I want to cling to home, to peace, to the familiar, but not always for noble reasons. Often, very often, I cling to these things out of fear, thinking that without them I will no longer be myself. I forget that I am becoming evermore myself because of the times I travel, the times I encounter unknowns, the times I uproot myself now for better roots later. I would rather be that sort of person than to spare my house’s feelings.

I really do want to be the sort of person who travels, and not just for the Admiring Oooh.

 

Don’t forget to visit my Patreon Page for this week’s Workshop Wednesday! Answer my writing questions and I’ll answer yours!

A Tourist

 

Yesterday the Russian and I were tourists.

We had breakfast at a random-but-delicious Greek diner in Nashville, then we went to the Parthenon. I’ve been there before, back when I lived in Tennessee for a few months. So for me, it felt less like touristing than it did being a local and showing a newbie the local sights. This, of course, in inaccurate, but it was nice to pretend.

The Russian isn’t really one for the arts, but he did marry a woman with an English degree, so he’s good at dipping his toes in. We milled around the art gallery under the Parthenon, looked at the collection of paintings based on Tennessee state symbols, and pondered how much of a hole buying two $7500 paintings would put us in. His favorite was a closeup of a ladybug on a leaf. Mine was a detail of juniper berries. Neither of us would compromise, so $15000 in debt it is.

It was a gorgeous warm, sunny day, the kind we probably won’t get in Pennsylvania until our annual February thaw. The place was full of people from everywhere, a mix of languages and dialects.

Hearing the Southern accent still makes me do a double take; I’m so unused to it, and I was even when I lived here. It reminds me that even though I consider Nashville an adopted city, even though I can get around without directions and show my husband the local sights, I still prefer a rugged Pittsburgh accent to a Southern one, a mess of damp hills to a dry plain of flatness, pierogis and sauerkraut to barbecue.

Despite everything, I’m still a tourist.

Workshop Wednesday 11.22.17

Happy Day-Before-Thanksgiving!

The Russian and I are on our way to Nashville for the festivities, but I couldn’t resist sharing my newest idea: Workshop Wednesday (I’m so good at alliteration)!!!

I’m planning to put together a virtual writer’s workshop through my Patreon page, where supporters can view the new fiction I share each week, give me feedback, and share links to their own work, which I’ll give comments on as I can. I’m excited to form a sort of community where we can grow into better writers together.

Interested? Head over to today’s post, and then take a look at my novel-in-progress, which I release chapter-by-chapter each Friday. Let me know what you think, and feel free to share some of your own work! I’d love to see what my readers are working on.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Adventures, Past and Future

I’ve talked a lot about adventures this year. I’ve visited two new states and revisited three. This week I’ll be revisiting another favorite: Tennessee.

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Nashville, to be exact.

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I lived with my cousins in Nashville for several months almost three years ago (!). We had a bunch of adventures together and it’s one of the highlights of my life.

After Nashville, my cousin Ian and I went on a two-week adventure to Europe with some of his friends. Ian and I have always been pretty close, and it was tons of fun to explore the Old World together.

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The Alps, Austria
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Erfurt, Germany
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Florence, Italy
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Salzburg, Austria

Funny thing is, the reason I’m returning to Nashville this time is for Ian’s wedding. And his wife-to-be, Julia, was also on that Europe trip. The three of us hung out a lot. We walked the streets of Florence, toured a medieval synagogue in Nuremburg, and had a sparkling New Year’s Eve dinner in Salzburg. And although I never told them, the whole time I was thinking, “it would be awesome if these two got together.” And now they really are, and I feel like a great matchmaker, even though I really had nothing to do with it.

It’s funny how adventures come full circle; you go off somewhere with the faith that it’ll change your life, and then you go on to the next adventure, never realizing that your life really has changed until you come back to the beginning and everything’s different. God seems to work in circles sometimes, bringing you back to where you started and making you laugh because you’re a new creation now.

This week is the revisitation of an adventure for me, but it’s the beginning of an adventure for my cousin. It’s a beautiful, terrible, exhilarating, frightening, clever, insane journey. And it’s going to be awesome.

Congratulations, Ian and Julia!

 

The Beginning of Adventures

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It’s not really the beginning of all the adventures. We’ve already been to El Paso. It was hot, and pleasant, and you could see Mexico right over the poor excuse for a river. It was lovely.

Tomorrow we begin the long-term adventure to Arizona, to the desert where we’ll be spending the next two months. In the many times I’ve been to this lovely state, it’s always been summer, which I think is probably the worst time to go.

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And yet, it’s not really that bad at all. It’s beautiful. Just a different kind of beautiful than my own beloved state. I’ve been drinking in all the greenery here, hoping it’ll tide me over, a little nervous of leaving the protective hills and peaceful trees for the always open landscape and wide open sky of the desert.

There aren’t many clouds out there. You can’t get your bearings or mark time by the passage of giant masses of water vapor. In El Paso at an open air mall I looked up to see a patch of sky bordered by buildings all around me, and I was bewildered. All that was up there was blue, no framing trees or hills or clouds. I felt lost and disoriented for a moment.

There have been many times I’ve felt so bewildered, for reasons besides the sky. This past year–one year of marriage, yay!–has been bewildering in many ways (not because of marriage, okay. That part’s been great). I’ll look up from all that’s going on and try to get my bearings on the clouds and trees in my life, and when I don’t see them I become disoriented (and also really crabby). I’ve had to realize that my bearings do not come from the fickle sky or the changeable landscape, no matter how decent or reliable they might sometimes be. My bearings must instead come from the earth, the Rock I stand upon.

All other ground is sinking sand, which I realize is the desert, but that’s beside the point.

Springtime Travel

Time seems thinner in the spring.
I mean, each year is a layer
and usually the layers are too thick,
too heavy to push aside and revisit.
But in the springtime —
in the euphoria of sunshine
every past soul has seen,
of a fresh breeze
every past soul has smelt,
of tender sprouts
every past soul has touched
— the layers begin to melt a little,
run together, overlap,
and I enjoy the season in solidarity
with every other generation.
We smile and walk down dusty lanes
together in the rediscovered sunlight.

Our Coming Adventures

Over a month ago I shared that we were making tentative plans for some big adventures. Well, we’ve decided to take the leap and spend most of the summer in a new place:

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(photos all by me :) )

We’ll be visiting the great state of Arizona for 2-3 months! We plan to stay with Alex’s grandparents near Phoenix, helping them out and getting to know them better. Alex and I have been to Arizona several times together and separately, and it’s one of our favorite states. Alex wants to move there. I’m a little more skeptical.

It was a little scary to decide to run off West when we still have a house and jobs here in PA. I like structure and I was rather set on our plan to stay near school over the summer. But this was an opportunity that shot up suddenly, and we’ve noticed that when this happens it’s usually something we need to take advantage of. We won’t have very many years of utter flexibility, so we decided to enjoy where the wind takes us while we’re still light enough to be swept along.

It will be a busy summer. We have three weddings to attend in three different states, none of which are Arizona. We’ll get to see a lot of new airports. But we’re looking forward to going on those adventures together, to discovering new people and places and learning more about ourselves in the process. We are fully confident that God is leading us in a new and exciting direction, and that we can trust in His provision as we do something slightly crazy.

And anyway, it’s the closest Alex will let me get to being a gypsy.

 

Everything is Beautiful

With the arrival of March, we enter “Still Winter”, a season known to the rest of the world as “Spring”, and one of the most depressing parts of the year in Western PA. The weather is a yo-yo. You can literally wear shorts one day and a parka the next (this week was like that).

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I used to hate this time of year. Every warm day made me incredibly giddy, but with every temperature drop my hopes were dashed. More than once I’ve trekked through snow on the way to church Easter morning, snow boots paired with a floral dress.

Last year I focused on just getting through winter to better days, and this year I tried to love it while it was here. And I’ve realized after everything that I actually absolutely love Still Winter.

There’s something about the the trees so bare and the grass and brush so many different shades of brown, all waiting for something to happen, that gives you this sense of incredible hope. The tops of the trees are thick with tiny buds, which will burst out in a week if we have a good stretch of warm days. And time seems thinner; I feel the accumulated hope of many years and generations all coming together with the spring.

Everywhere I look I see something beautiful. It’s usually very mundane things, like a house or a bush or a rock and some snow. But I can’t help it. My eyes get pulled in and I can’t stop staring and feasting on the beauty. There are things I think are so beautiful and I can’t explain why.

This weekend starts Spring Break. While Alex will be spending it in sunny South Carolina with his sports team, I will be in sunny Oil City, PA. It’ll be nice to catch up with family and friends, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate (I lied. It’s not that sunny).

My town is a forgotten one, a place that used to be great and isn’t, and I think that sense of failure and hopelessness is unconsciously imprinted onto everyone’s mind. Facebook has a meme page for Oil City, with some referring to it as the Elephant Graveyard from The Lion King. Lovely stuff.

But there is beauty there, too. There are tree-covered hills healed from decades of abuse, majestic brick buildings and painted gingerbread houses built by old millionaires. There are good people who need hope, who need to look at things and be captivated by beauty without understanding why.

So that’s what I’ll be thinking about this spring break and Still Winter. I hope I run into others who think about it too. And I think that practicing that kind of focus can do some amazing things. I’ll have to try and see.

 

 

Adventures

I’ve always liked traveling. When I was young my family drove all over the South and Midwest, staying with family and visiting historical sites along the way (we were homeschooled so we had to make it educational). We visited Chicago, the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Nashville, and Orlando. I fell in love with St. Augustine (the city, not the man).

We’d always travel down South in the winter, halfway into February when we were most sick of snow. The balmy temperatures and the fresh, floral scent in the air meant a kind of freedom. We weren’t stuck in snow drifts. We were on an adventure.

Somewhere along the way I lost a little of my love for adventure. It’s been replaced by an annoyingly grown-up need for security and planning. Sometimes I wish I could drop everything and be a gypsy, but then I remember I have a job and a house and an education (and anyway, my husband says no).

But it looks like there will be a return of adventure for us in the months ahead. Opportunities have come our way and although it’s a little terrifying to take them, we realize that we must. Everything that needs to work out will.

So stay tuned for our adventures, and go on a few of your own while you’re at it. :)

Curiosities: Ink Bottle

In class we’ve talked about a “cabinet of curiosities” – a collection of interesting artifacts that shows who a person is by the stuff that they have. In a writing sense, your cabinet is your mind and all the thoughts, ideas, and stories you’ve collected. I have a few “curiosities” in real life too, or at least things I think are unusual and very telling of my personality. So from time to time I’d like to offer little poemlets, little snatches of my “cabinet”. I got the idea from one of my classmates, and I think it’s quite fun. Enjoy!

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Ink Bottle

There’s a glass bottle on my desk, only three inches tall, and filled with black ink.

Schwarze Kalligraphie Tinte, the label says.

I bought the bottle at Wartburg Castle near Eisenach.

It came with a black-handled dip pen and three delightful metal nibs.

It was a bright day with a January chill,

and I was overjoyed to see the different colors of Kalligraphie Tinte

in the glass box of the gift shop.

The first time I wrote with the pen my left pinky got soaked with ink,

as often happens to a lefty.

The bottle has a cork stamped with a black seal. It all looks very official.

The bottle is half empty, and if I want to keep writing I’ll need to buy more ink.

But it will never be Schwarze Kalligraphie Tinte, and that’s a shame.