Southern Spring & Dear Friends

There is something about a road trip that gets my heart racing.  When I’m having a bad day, thinking about an open highway is the perfect escape.  Growing up, my parents loaded my brothers and I in our minivan and drove us around the country–from Maine to Alabama to national parks out west.

It’s been about a year since I’ve properly traveled.  Last April, I did a month-long trek across Europe on my own.  Upon returning, my bank account was dangerously empty and I’ve been focusing on my librarian career ever since.

Still, it was high time for a road trip.

This past weekend, I took a few days off and made the trek with a friend from Minnesota to Nashville, Tennessee.  Round-trip, we drove 1,500 miles and spent about 24 hours in the car.  Our only mishap was a speeding ticket in Iowa.

The further south we went, the world came alive.  It was as if we pressed fast-forward on Spring.  Grass and flowers emerged, the temperature dropped, and leaves sprouted from trees.  By the time we arrived in Nashville, we had stripped down to t-shirts and shorts for a few days of summery warmth. Continue reading

2016: A Story in Three Parts

As another year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect.

By global standards, 2016 was pretty much a train wreck.  Personally, though, it was a beautiful journey that I will tell in three parts.

INTRODUCTION:

A year ago, I was an unemployed college graduate with no idea of what I wanted to do with myself.  You see, for the majority of my life, my intuition has been my guide.  Until this point, early every major life decision has been guided by instinct.  College?  My gut lead me to the right fit.  Major?  My heart found home in the English Department.  Work at camp in the summers?  It just felt right.

The future, however, holds infinite possibilities and the prospective paths had me absolutely paralyzed.  I had absolutely no idea of anything.  My intuition, the little tug that pulls me in the next direction, had failed.

So, at the beginning of 2016, I felt my heart tugging me back to Europe and, against all logic, I followed. Continue reading

Slowing it Down and Learning to Live

Since arriving in England, not a day has passed that I haven’t examined my surroundings and asked: “Is this really my life?”  The days here feel rich in a way I’ve never before experienced.  It’s almost as if this place is saturated with the essence of what brings life meaning.

Living in a cross-cultural community certainly has its challenges.  We don’t always understand each other–language doesn’t always translate.  Personalities and lifestyle quirks sometimes come into conflict.  Each day, I interact with people from all over the globe: Holland, Australia, Hungary, Brazil, South Africa, Belarus, the list goes on.  Each night, though, I can’t help but give thanks for this colorful collection of people.  Despite all our differences, we share one beautiful thing in common: we are all human.

Daily life here is beautiful.  The majority of our hours are spent in one of two ways: work or study.

With work, there are all kinds of tasks.  Some days, I chop vegetables in the kitchen to help with dinner.  Others, I scrub toilets, pull weeds, or fold towels.  The best days are when I’m assigned to the library–hours are filled entering books into a digital catalog.  Most of the time, work doesn’t seem like work.  The tasks may be menial at times, but they are never difficult.  Plus, the company is always good.

During study time, we gather in the Bake House, curling up by the fire with our books.  I just finished studying direction and calling and am turning my attention to gender studies and women in church.  Mixed in is a healthy dose of Ann Lamott, Dorothy Sayers, Charlotte Bronte, and Shakespeare.  Some days, I sit at one of the desks by the windows.  I listen to recorded lectures, paint, and watch birds playing in the garden.

Life here is slow.  We keep ourselves busy, but also stop and rest.  During lunch, we ask questions and partake in intentional, meaningful conversation.  On our free nights, we enjoy pint (or two) at the local pub.  In the evenings, we often play games.  Once a week, we watch a film and discuss its relevance.  On Mondays, we meditate and pray during a silent lunch featuring beautiful classical music.  Sunday nights are my favorites: we have High Tea, which involves a casual meal followed by reading a novel or play together.

Each day holds at least one precious moment.  Most days have multiple: laughing as you make peanut butter balls in the kitchen, singing hymns together around a piano, soaking in the rare sunlight in the trees as you explore the countryside on one of the local footpaths , holding hands with one of the little girls who live here as you walk home from church.

Processed with VSCOcam with q3 preset
Church Lane, one of my favorite walks.

When you slow down and allow yourself to actually process the beauty of daily life, the riches you discover are breathtaking.  Being away from technology has its downs–I would love to better stay in touch with family and friends back home–but I also love it.  In a way, life here feels like it’s straight out of a Jane Austen novel (which is helped by the fact that I currently live ten minutes from where she wrote and published most of her works).  We delight in the beauty of everyday: going for walks, playing music, making art, reading books that make us think.  Interactions are intentional and meaningful–estranged from technology and the fast-paced normal life, our conversations have more depth.

I wish life here could go on forever.  I’m thankful that, in many ways, my stay is still just beginning: I’m here until the end of March.  But there will come a time when I will have to return to normalcy.  I will have to move away from home and actually get a job.  My time here, though, is in many ways preparing me for then.  Life at L’Abri is in no ways perfect, but it’s a wonderful place to learn how to live.

A Day in Midhurst

Thursdays are days off at L’Abri and we took advantage of our free time to explore the nearby town of Midhurst.  We got there by bus, arriving around one o’clock and spending several hours wandering the picturesque area.

Our first stop was the ruins of Cowdray, which were absolutely stunning!  We learned from the tourist website that, before being destroyed by fire, the site was host to illustrious figures like Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, and Guy Fawkes.  Although we couldn’t enter the ruins due to January being the off-season, we were able to satisfy our wonder and curiosity by exploring the perimeter of the property.

Next, we visited St. Ann’s Hill, which has played host to pagan rituals, an Iron Age fort, and a Norman castle.  We caught glimpses of the surrounding countryside.  The hill itself was capped with a ring of ancient trees and a network of stone ruins.

For the rest of the afternoon, we wandered around Midhurst itself.  It’s a beautiful little town and we marveled at the varying architecture–a conglomeration of medieval, Georgian, Elizabethan, and Victorian.  We wandered into the former school of H.G. Welles, found a small duck pond, and wasted time in a bookshop while waiting for our bus.

I’m not posting much these days, due to the fact that my internet access is limited to days off when I’m able to visit pubs and cafes.  It’s definitely been a challenge being so removed form technology, but it’s also extremely refreshing.  L’Abri is a wonderful place to explore ideas and reflect on life.  In many ways, living here feels like living in another time.  I’ve been having lots of adventures and have been continuing to write!  I spent an evening earlier this week drafting potential blog posts.

Hopefully, more of my reflections and adventures will make it to this space soon.