FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n[1]

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

IMG_20181124_123913910-1.jpg

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

The words Thank you for your service are powerful words, and when they are used to thank a service man or woman or veteran for their service and sacrifice for our country, they never fall on deaf ears.  I just wish there were stronger words to offer them.

Today is Memorial Day 2019.  It is a day to honor our fallen soldiers, but every day is a good day to honor our veterans as well.  It is also known as Decoration Day, in honor also of our loved ones who have passed.  I don’t normally post on Monday evenings, but I have been away for a week of vacation at one of our shining seas, and I feel compelled to write.  Having seen parts of our country that I never have, my mind has been expanded.  And, once the human mind has been expanded, one should do all they can to keep it that way.

Our trip took us to the southeastern United States, a part of the country rich with history; ripe with insight to offer anyone who opens their mind to it.  We toured an antebellum mansion, taking in its grandeur and learning of its history from the knowledgeable tour guide.  We took the driving tour of several others around this relatively small historic town.

IMG_20190521_110646453_HDR.jpg

The beauty of these mansions could not be denied.  What was apparently denied, or at least not overtly acknowledged in the tour, was the travesty of the extreme racial injustice perpetrated in the name of slavery that allowed these wealthy landowners to amass incredible wealth, affording them this lifestyle.

As I age, I am increasingly grateful for the liberty in all its forms I am privileged to enjoy.  I have never known anything but complete freedom to do as I please.

It’s a free country,” was a phrase I recall hearing from other children, and using it as a child, not really having a clue what it really meant at its deepest level.  It was used as defense when we needed to justify an action that another child may not have liked.

It is indeed a free country, and for that, we have our military—past and present—to thank.

“Thank you for your service,” I am offering to anyone who did, or currently does defend our country, no matter what position they held/hold in the military.  I am so grateful.  I wish I had stronger words.

**********

I spent much of my highway time on the trip in the back seat of the car while my husband drove and our youngest son rode shotgun.  I set up camp back there with books, magazines, my Kindle, a pillow and blanket, as well as colored pencils and markers to go with the color book, and a giant bag of road trip snacks.  With these essentials in my little nest, my life on the road was good.  My sisters were the only thing I wanted to bring, but couldn’t.  Somewhere along the way,  I sent them this picture:

img_20190520_121100441.jpg

At the last moment before I left home, I grabbed a book I had only just started, but put aside for whatever reason, probably to read the other dozen or so I had already started before that one.  Something told me to grab it, so I did.

img_20190527_194059449.jpg

My firstborn shares my love of sociology, and he had this book as required reading for one of his classes.   I had heard of it, so when I saw it in his stack, I borrowed it.

Like traveling to a new place, some books have the power to expand the mind.  This one did for me.  I once heard that we should not say we are going to read a book; rather, we are going to visit a book.

This was a wonderful visit, with some of the material making me focus more strongly on the power of kinship that our United States—or any country’s—military has on its members.  The feelings of belonging, responsibility and contribution to the country usually overpower the feelings of fear, self-centeredness or apathy, thus forging the bonds of concern, care and allegiance most soldiers have toward each other, as well as toward their country.

One point in the book—as I understand it—is that many soldiers actually miss combat when they return home.  These strong bonds are not felt in the civilian life, and they feel alone and misunderstood among their families and society as a whole.

The power of the group cannot be denied.  This is the essence of the study of sociology, which is probably why this book appealed to me.  I didn’t fully realize the power of the military group.  I will likely never realize the sacrifices they made for me, and for all of us in this free country.

Another awareness I took away from the book is that while the thank you for your service is the right thing to say, we should also strive to find more ways for veterans to contribute in the work force, because most of them continue to feel the strong need to make a difference for the group.

Humans are like that, especially in times of crisis.  We bond together as a whole to get through hardships and crises, then go back to our own relatively solitary existence.  Unfortunately, there is a dire need, but as an affirmation of the good that exists in the human soul, many people in the Midwest are joining forces and helping each other through the flooding that is currently devasting much of my state of Kansas, and much of Missouri and Oklahoma as well.  This was taken out the car window on the way home Sunday south of Tulsa:

img_20190526_110054043.jpg

img_20190526_110018581.jpg

The mighty Mississippi was flooding as well.

img_20190521_174457771_hdr.jpg

Getting through hard times with the help of friends and even strangers keeps my faith in humanity going, even in my darkest days.  Speaking for myself, I leaned on my immediate family when we lost our parents, but the outpouring of love and support I felt from friends, and even people I didn’t know got me through.  May anyone who has been devastated by the flooding feel this love and support as well.

***********

I saw this sight on my porch first thing this morning:

img_20190527_071231561.jpg

It was as if the live bird was telling the ceramic bird he had the power to simply fly away, so why not just take off?  “Why are you just sitting there like that when you can fly wherever you want to?” it seemed to say.

It reminded me of the picture I took outside our fourth-floor hotel window on the second leg of our trip in Natchez, Mississippi.  The mighty Mississippi River is in the background, with the bridge from Louisiana pictured.

IMG_20190521_195813966.jpg

The metaphor of the bird on the wire under the United States flag silhouetted against the beautiful sunset struck me so profoundly, and still does.

In this historic town where slavery once was the order of the day, freedom should carry a more direct meaning for all of us.  Thanks to the sacrifices of our military, we all can fly away almost as easily as the bird on the wire, or the bird on my porch.

Too many of us—myself included at times—remain enslaved only by our own thoughts and fears, thus paralyzing us from taking off and finding the freedom we yearn for.  We are like the ceramic bird, sitting there frozen.

May the sacrifices of our soldiers and veterans be the voice that reminds you that it is indeed a free country, and you do have more power to fly than you may think.

To all veterans and to current members of our military,  THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.   I wish I had stronger words.

IMG_20190523_165058242.jpg

 The shining sea at Gulf Shores, Alabama

* Sebastian Junger, Tribe:  On Homecoming and Belonging.  Copyright 2016.  Hachette Book Group, New York, New York.

Available online and in bookstores as well–I highly recommend visiting this book.

 

 

 

SEA LEVEL TO 9494

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

SEA LEVEL TO 9494

Suzanne and I live at 1,227 feet above sea level in our small city.  Since I live north of the city, and I am eye-level with the tops of the water towers in town from my front porch, I am probably a few hundred feet higher than that.  Gail lives at 2,858 feet, perhaps a bit higher because she lives on a hill in her small town.

My first post detailed our adventures at sea level on the beach.  The subsequent posts detailing our travels took place at 9,494 feet in Cripple Creek, Colorado.

IMG_20181006_105037196.jpg

While on this trip several years ago, we traveled up nearby Pike’s Peak by cog train to an elevation of 14, 114 feet.  Technically, we were higher than that at cruising altitude around 35,000 feet on our flights to and from the beach.  But that doesn’t really count.

These travels are anticipated before, enjoyed during, and savored in their memories.  But, like all events in life we enjoy, they are typically here and gone.

I work hard to enjoy life at my daily altitude as much as I enjoy it at each end of the altitude spectrum we travel to.  But that is hard.

I find myself eagerly anticipating the arrival of each trip, and savoring those memories after each trip.  During the trip, I want time to stand still.  I want to languish in the minutes and hours without them passing by so quickly.  Without them being over so quickly when we find ourselves back at home again.

Back at home, where the meat and potatoes of life are served up daily, where Real Life dwells in our day-to-day rounds.  Where we live with our families.  Where the minutes and the days may tick by slowly, but the months and years whizz by quickly.

Back at home, on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons and everything else in between that constitutes life.  Because, as we all know too well, time away is a respite, a sabbatical from the work of life.

***********

Another Colorado trip has been here, and is gone already.  We eagerly awaited it—as we always do, languished in the moments there, and we are now relishing the memories—once again.  If my calculations are right, this marks the twentieth time we have gone west, young women. 

There was a point in my life a few years ago when the pull of the mountains—and the beach too—were a mystery to me.  Like the full moon, I am drawn to the mountains instinctively; the deepest part of me is pulled by some invisible but undeniable force to travel there.

I decided upon a single word that describes this force that draws me to all three:  energy.  The mountains, the beach and the full moon have a living spirit about them, one that draws not just me and my sisters, but humans in general toward them.  Which would explain the high real estate prices in such places.  People with good money pay their good money to live in or near the mountains, and/or near the water.  And most of us cannot deny the beauty of the full moon, even though we can’t purchase real estate there—yet.

So, we go.  And we go again.  And again.  And we come home again.

***********

If I could characterize our latest trip in one word, relative to our other mountain getaway weekends, it would be this:  subdued. 

Perhaps it was the delayed departure—one month after our usual Labor Day jaunt.  However, we frequently talked about taking a later trip to enjoy the change of color in the mountains, so we relished this new schedule.   Perhaps it was the touch of altitude sickness one of us experienced—or both, that made this trip a bit more laid-back than normal.

You wouldn’t know it from our usual stop in Limon,

IMG_20181004_114733089.jpg

Bear claws were always Gail’s favorite…

Or the great lengths that our newly-acquired friends go to in order to be in our group,

img_20181005_131743118_top.jpg

Or the cult followers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show waiting in line with us to see the show at the local theater.  We hadn’t yet seen it, and we had no idea what we were in for…

IMG_20181005_184209149.jpg

Perhaps the most surprising, unplanned event was the fortuitous, purely-by-chance meeting of our former hometown farm neighbors on Bennett Avenue.

IMG_20181005_150751891.jpg

Gail and I used to babysit the young man on the right.  He now protects and serves our country.  Thank you for your service, Paul.

***********

You may know the subdued nature of our trip by the beautiful aspens as they turn their glorious golden color, as they do every fall.  We welcomed this beautiful sight, having never traveled here in October before.

img_20181007_091432864.jpg

 

Their seasonal slow-down perhaps helped set the tone for our relaxed weekend.  Perhaps we, too, shed some temporary coverings—internally, of course.  The daytime temperatures were relatively balmy, but the evening and night-time temperatures were flirting with the freezing mark, so we put on extra layers on the outside.

You may know it by the mountains in their fall grandeur lined in the brilliant golden of the aspens, their fresh air and their majesty against the bright blue sky have a way of opening up one’s mind and soul, which is not a bad thing.  Instead of reaching out as much as we normally do, perhaps we reached inward.

img_20181007_090822137_top.jpg

John Denver sings Rocky Mountain High to us every trip, so you wouldn’t know it by that..

IMG_20181007_090409156.jpg

I signed up for the 1,000 feet below adventure at this local attraction with my family many years ago.  Gail and Suzanne have yet to sign up for it.  I went to the gift shop by myself; I needed a souvenir with this awesome name on it.

img_20181007_090044942.jpg

 

***********

In my profession as a speech therapist, we distinguish between receptive and expressive language.   Expressive language is that which we put forth, typically in our speech.  Essentially, it is what we express.

Receptive language is that which we take in from others, typically by listening.  It is what we receive.

Typically, my posts about our travels detail and expand upon our expressions, that which we put forth.  Typically, we have plenty of interactions with others; an abundance of connections and expressions made.  This trip was no different.

Besides the family from our home and our history pictured above, Gail and Suzanne connected with four people who pulled up in a car with Kansas plates outside our hotel.  It was a Veteran’s tag, so the home county was not on the plate.

The family pictured above lived about two miles—as the crow flies—south of our farm.  One gentleman in the car grew up about three miles north of our farm.

Small world.

************

 

Sometimes, like on this trip, doing nothing special is really something special.  Sometimes, like on this trip, traveling without a plan is the most liberating form of vacationing.  Sometimes, our structured lives at home and at work spill over into our vacations, making us feel as if we must have a plan.

On vacation and in life in general, I often seem to do better without a plan.  Gail and Suzanne travel that way, too.  There is a long-standing joke between us about going to Colorado without a plan.  Perhaps that is why we get along so well.

Perhaps that is why I can safely say this trip was one more of reception vs. expression.  We let it all in.

The beauty of the aspens along with the change of seasons in the cool mountain temperatures was a refreshing new sight for us.

img_20181004_185134606.jpg

I received a little bit of jack from this machine, but I’m pretty sure I put forth more than that all told. 

img_20181005_202044145.jpg

This is a common sight along “The Strip” of Cripple Creek.  Gamblers and tourists come and go at all hours.  Like us, they keep coming back for more. 

IMG_20181005_184422413.jpg

“The Strip” is relatively subdued; I was obviously able to stand at the top of the hill without interruption from traffic to take this picture.

IMG_20181005_183652385.jpg

***********

Two weeks ago this evening we returned home.  This morning, I took these beautiful roses outside.  They were waiting for us upon our arrival to our usual bed-and-breakfast/hotel; the proprietors do back flips to ensure we know how much they enjoy our stay.  Gail and Suzanne took their share, and the rest came home with me.  As with all their gestures of appreciation, we received them well.

IMG_20181021_091340288.jpg

Like the trip, however, they are temporary.  The memory of this gesture, as well as all the new memories we made will remain.  Until next time, we will languish in those memories, and anticipate future ones.

Every day in between, however, we will attempt to enjoy the moments here at our own altitudes, our own longitudes.  Because here at home is where Real Life is lived.

img_20181021_183409482.jpg

My front porch view of the tops of the water towers and small buildings of our small city.  The front porch of my home, where I live a pretty good real life.

33817.jpeg

Our trip was so subdued, in fact, that we forgot to take a group shot.  We had a family event today, so we snapped this one just a few hours before this post.  We make it work wherever we find ourselves together.