Warning: This is a long blog with seventeen photographs and only one painted image – a book illustration. The author does not apologize for being verbose. Read it if you dare. Look at the pretty photos if not. =)
I recently read a bit of what C.S. Lewis wrote on miracles. He seemed to think it was rare to see one occur in your lifetime…but I have found life to be quite the opposite. Perhaps my miracles would not meet his specifications, but for me they’re extraordinary events.
Once in a great while I decide to crawl out of my home-body shell and take a trip. This is perhaps my favorite part of not having a 9-5 occupation.
Yes, being an artist requires much self-discipline, long hours into the night finishing some projects as well as a fair amount of angst, accepting whatever may happen to your creations…but when you can take off and explore the world? Ahhhh, this makes an artist’s life full of wonder.
We had always traveled a lot together, as an entire family, but going by myself is just plain different.
I felt “tied-down” for thirty years on my family’s farm in Vermont. We had a large menagerie to keep fed. I planted and tended a large vegetable garden each summer. I was well-connected in voluntary projects in our community – teaching each month in the schools for seven years, organizing a public speaking event annually, etc. etc.
And there were home fires to feed each winter. I grew up cooking on a wood stove. Cinderella and I have at least two things in common – one is we were covered in soot a lot of the time – though my foot would never fit into the glass slipper…
Anyway, my point is, I’ve grown tired of commitments which tie me down. Some said, “I’d always be content to stay on our mountain farm.” Uh, they didn’t have any concept of how many places I hope to see, or of how much I love creating adventures and exploring.
I began with the forests around our home. Picking a direction, with no particular destination in mind, I’d set off into the hundreds of acres of wilderness surrounding us, in all seasons. Once I went over the mountain and down the other side, finding a beautiful secret garden in the deep woods, blooming in Spring. Another time a kestrel buzzed me, screaming a warning for me to leave the site of her nest…I left quickly, got off the trail and wound up finding a deer scull with antlers at my feet. Another time I almost got lost at dusk, in deep snow…
Now that I have gained more courage, I take bigger trips into the great unknown by plane, train, bus and car. I don’t generally go places unless I have at least a couple hundred dollars on hand. The further from home the more you need to get back…I do a lot of praying sometimes. I eat a lot of hard-boiled eggs, apples, carrot and celery sticks and sunflower seeds. I make last-minute decisions and take calculated risks. I plan ahead as much as I can, too.
In late September I left Maine via bus, going home to see my family for two weeks. Vermont’s autumn colors were splendid!
I picked a big bouquet of flowers from the cow pasture to surprise and encourage my sister, who has been a huge support to me for a very long time:
I took my mom to the Draft Animal Power Field days!
We both enjoy training horses and just being around them. Great team of Belgians:
We celebrated a family birthday.
I managed to almost break my neck, injuring myself while trying to get down from hanging off a jungle-gym with my special niece. We took a cool Fire Station tour and the timing was perfect because they got a 911 call and my niece got to see the emergency trucks leave in a big hurry, just as we had completed the tour. We also made a pirate ship, sailor with hat and double-breasted pea coat, flag, helm, and fire out of sticks and construction paper. Oh, and we practiced calligraphy lettering together, and picked apples, too.
Then I left Vermont with an old friend. We traveled by car, talking all the way, to Knoxville, TN. Through a bit of heavy rain in New York:
And under some beautiful dark clouds near Harrisburg, PA, where we spent the night, thanks to Nelya’s relatives’ hospitality.
Nelya is an accomplished photographer. She kindly did a spontaneous photo session with me, because I needed a headshot for a project. I like her work. You can see more of it at Photography by Nelya on Facebook:
Me, after the first day of travel:
We arrived in Knoxville after two days and Nelya kindly waited for my Nashville bus to arrive. This bus station wasn’t the nicest place you’d imagine. It was a creepy section of town.
And the bus ride was quite sad for several reasons. The needs of those riding the bus, most of whom were very poor on many levels, made my own needs look like nothing. I felt broken after hearing the story told by my seatmate, Keith. His older brother, Michael, 28, and a dad to three girls, was ill and dying. Keith had recently lost his job, truck, house, marriage and someone was trying to remove his parental rights. He was only 24-years-old. I was now in country music territory, hearing a tragic yet true story. I wish I could do something to relieve their pain besides pray.
I arrived in Nashville safely and invested the next couple days with my very wonderful host, Sharon. She took me to see the Nashville zoo! I’ve not been to a zoo for a very long time!
Here is a very toothy grin of a live alligator, who floated near the glass window looking quite stuffed – he was so immobilized!
And the cheery peachy-pink flamingos!
Then I attended Storyline Conference for the second time. This was the real miracle. I had debated whether my finances would take me both south and back north, and had waited too long to purchase a “pay what you can afford” ticket. They sold out. Then a friend stepped in and paid for a premium ticket on my behalf. Another dear friend surprised me by giving a financial gift. I was only able to attend because God worked another miracle in my life. I had the distinct feeling He was sending me. I needed to be there.
As I always say, when I need to go somewhere, it happens. Our Father has ways of making it work when I walk by faith.
Someone had asked me why I needed to return to this conference, as I had already gone in May of 2012 in Nashville, on my way home from my sister’s health crisis in Florida. I replied I didn’t need to return, I wanted to return! The Storyline Community is fantastic! A group of others-minded folks who want to give a hand to the hurting, raise up the fallen, and save many lives. I resonate with their goals and values. It’s a very special group of people.
Plus, the conference last year had really helped give me some perspective. I had completed my “backstory,” noticing I had even more positive turns than the negative ones (of which my mind so often liked to remind me)…and about nine or ten months ago, when I couldn’t seem to let go of my negative thoughts about traumatic events occurring in just the last seven or eight years, I’d listed all those difficult events on the left-hand side of a page and found a redeeming value for each of them. Then I had had peace. I could set them aside and focus on the positive changes these events were helping to bring in my life.
I signed up to attend a blogger’s breakfast and a comedy improv workshop the day before the conference began. Thinking about the comedy workshop scared me. Not much scares me. This did. But it was actually a really fun ice-breaker! It reminded me a LOT of when our family used to invite students from the local university up to our home. We’d push back the chairs off our livingroom rug and play all sort of games…I’ve not laughed as much for a long time!
The conference began. I took copious notes. The main thing I now keep hearing is when Don Miller was going over Joseph from Genesis’ timeline. Joseph’s story is my favorite in all of scripture. Don told us emphatically, “God has NO PROBLEM making your life one of GREAT PAIN” (gist). Yes, I know all about this. I have learned SO MUCH through pain and suffering. My character and understanding have been transformed over many years of physical and emotional pain. Overly-determined people can be very slow at learning life lessons. I’ve been one of those, always trying to make things work out…and that’s God’s job.
I spoke to the ladies of Thistle Farm, sharing my own homelessness with them. I told them how I met my deceased street-artist friend in NYC and how she changed my perspective on many things. Penny, who had lived under a bridge for ten years, blessed me – she told me I would one day have my own home. I received this gratefully.
The music of Stephen Moakler, who sang, “I’d rather make a livin’ bein’ myself, than to make a killin’ bein’ someone else” was super. My thoughts exactly. His songs, I’m a Riser and Humble Operations keep coming to my mind. Wonderful lyrics!!! This photo was of my favorite concert – three singer-songwriters – of the three musical nights that weekend:
I enjoyed seeing many of the forty-odd people who had been in the Tripp Crosby improv workshop during the pre-conference day. It seemed like we had known each other a long time. I met many very generous-hearted people. This was why I traveled here – for the people. People who would encourage and inspire me.
The second day we had some small group assignments. I went to my “rhino” team room and met several other enthusiastic participants, who shared their dreams for helping others with our group. Three of us stayed back to pray together. One was a father who spoke through tears, thanking God for bringing him and his three children to the Conference. After I prayed we waited for this man’s 19-year-old son to speak. I wasn’t sure he would. After some silence he did pray, and as he did he expressed a profound change he’d experienced in that short time. He said he “didn’t know where he would be” had he not attended these two Storyline Conference days. We had discussed what direction he was headed and after some blankness and indecision, he had some great ideas come to him about what he’d like to do in the future…I too experience times of great blankness in looking toward the future – and so, I will work on my conference homework.
If you have time and funds, I highly recommend this Conference! Pay what you can afford tickets are available for upcoming San Diego Storyline Conference: http://storylineblog.com/conferences/
I didn’t expect to say “hi” to Don Miller, the lines were long and I’d met him last time. I forgot to tell him how much Storyline has helped me, but did get a photo with him after the final evening. He must have been mighty tired from meeting so many people, yet as friendly as always:
There was only time to give two watercolor lessons. Here Sharon is, drying a layer of her mountain painting the night before I left:
Without Sharon and her husband’s help in not only hosting and feeding me, but also in taking me into the city each morning and out in the evening, this entire trip would not have been feasible! I’m so grateful for their kindness and generosity!
And the real fun began, travel-wise. I had planned to see some Nashville friends and go north in a week. How was yet up-in-the-air. But my stopping place in NJ was not available the next week, my funds were low and a craigslist ride suddenly opened up. I made some logistics calls, prayed, changed my plans and packed.
It was a risk, yes. I knew almost nothing besides a man’s first name and that he was taking two other women with him. Gas split four ways is cheaper than two ways and it would be faster and more comfortable than the bus. And so, I met a new friend – someone who speaks six languages. I kept him awake for the next fifteen hours by singing, telling stories, asking him questions, and giving him Celtic Sea Salt…we arrived in NYC safely around 6 AM, Wednesday, Oct. 15th!
Woozy, I got some sleep. And the next day I saw three old friends – all who had helped me survive during my street-artist days of 2009-2010. Special people – Italian, African, and Afghan.
NYC skyline on Thursday, Oct. 16th, from New Jersey:
These NYC photos were taken due to my super cool upper level, huge front seat view above the pavement!
City people, and shadows on detailed old buildings…
It was a long bus ride back to Boston and on to “the desolate coast of Maine.” The last leg was the hardest because it was crowded and a tired little boy was screaming…
It was thirty-four hours going to Nashville. And about twenty-seven to return home. That’s seven bus rides, one subway, and five car rides…I arrived with $20 remaining to give my aunt for gas when she picked me up. Travel by shoestring, but the string held! Praise the LORD. The entire trip cost $307 for traveling expenses. Not bad, stopping on Vermont, Nashville & NYC!
What I call an adventure =)
Thank you to all who enabled me to set off, continue and take this neat, helpful, growth adventure!
Having my new children’s book Gos’s Big Dreams printed is my current objective. Make Way for Goslings! Gos and Gaby are ready, except the cover. This is where Gos desires to be a Writer:
And filling out Storyline Conference homework assignments. I need to find some ways to get through winter here…should the path of life direct to stay here. My painting classes begin again tomorrow.
So, my painting and traveling friends, I wish you all a blessed week!
Yours in going where the Spirit leads,
“Anywhere with Yashua I can safely go”
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. ~ Psalm 121:8