Trust Issues

St. Francis

St. Francis

If I had a blog, today I would write about the reason I struggle with faith.

While I was doing chores this morning, it occurred to me that it might be useful to give you some insight into the reason I am just now getting on board with the concept of faith and the answer is, in some ways, simple: I have long-standing trust issues with God.

I grew up attending the Episcopal church and was exposed to all the basic tenets of Christianity from an early age. I was taught that God was all-seeing and all-powerful and that the basis of our worship was love for Him and for one another. I was comfortable with that for about seven years or, put more succinctly, until my mother started having migraines.

Mom didn’t just have daily headaches. She had crippling pain that came with nausea and vomiting. It incapacitated her for days at a time and frequently ended in a period of hospitalization, all of which terrified me. I was afraid Mom was going to die from the pain and that the center of my universe would collapse, leaving me alone in a life of unending grief.

A Light in Dark Places

A Light in Dark Places

During that time, I prayed for hours each night but the Mom’s headaches still came. It didn’t take long for my pleas to turn to anger and I raged against God. I challenged His existence, begged him for a sign that He was there, and even cursed His name. I expected lightning to strike me down, but even my fury brought no response.

Table in the Wilderness

Table in the Wilderness

As I matured, I began to look for other paths that might lead me to an understanding of The Divine and I found connections in the tenets of Buddhism, Native American spirituality, and eventually in the nature-based worship of pantheists. I didn’t find a solution to Mom’s pain, but I did find comfort in these other paths, in worship that came more naturally to my wilderness-loving soul.

As a young adult, I made several abortive attempts to return to the Christian faith, once going so far as to pursue a career in the priesthood. A disastrous confluence of events derailed that pursuit and left me feeling betrayed; as much by Christians as by their God, and so I left the church behind. This time, I thought, for good.

The Rose Window

The Rose Window

To say I was surprised when I started having synchronicities with a Christian tone (see my blog The Evidence of Things Not Seen), would be a vast understatement. This time I didn’t see it as a call to go rushing back to the church, but rather as The Divine speaking in one of its many voices; a voice that came just as I found myself in need of the gift of faith.

And so it goes. Each day I remind myself that I can put my worries in the care of The Divine and all will go according to plan. My desire is to integrate the concept of faith into my spirituality, which exists outside any one religion. Ironically, the challenge exists not because I am unfamiliar with Christianity, but because I know it well. It is harder to gain new a perspective on the familiar than it is to start anew. I will have to take to heart the words of Margaret Wheatly, in her work A Simpler Way:

Land Ho

Land Ho

“Healing waters will cover the land, giving birth to new life, burying forever the ancient, rusting machines of my past understandings. And on those waters I will set sail to places I now only imagine. There I will be blessed with new visions and new magic. I will feel once again like a creative contributor to this mysterious world. But for now, I wait. An act of faith. Land ho.”

 

The Evidence of Things Not Seen

If I had a blog, today I would write about my continued experiences with faith.

Although I know it is generally considered bad form to experiment with the nature of faith, the scientist within me can’t help but look for what Hebrews 11:1 describes as “the evidence of things not seen.” A bit oxymoronic perhaps, but my “research” has yielded some surprising results!

By the Sea

By the Sea

My journey into faith has become essential, as my life is about to undergo major change. Dad will be retired from dentistry in two years and we are ready to move on from the rigors of farm life. To that end, we have decided to begin working to sell the farm so we can move to a little house on quiet beach in south Florida.

Naturally, the practical part of moving from the farm is complicated. We have horses, chickens, a duck, and cats that need new homes. We have to prepare the property for showing, which means repairs and refurbishment at the barn, in the pastures, and in the house. I lay awake nights with a zillion scenarios zooming through my head: What if the house sells before we find a new one? What if we can’t find suitable homes for the animals? What if? What if? What if?

In an effort to retain our sanity, Mom and I made a pact to put a moratorium on negative thinking and really let The Divine guide us through the tangled mass of the days ahead. So far, it appears that faith in a higher power is not just a myth.

Best Friends Rain (L) and Skeeter (R)

Best Friends
Rain (L) and Skeeter (R)

The first “OMG moment” came when I contacted the friend from whom I had purchased my horse, Rain, in 2012. She didn’t even hesitate before agreeing to take Rain and Rain’s buddy, Skeeter, under her wing. Better still, we didn’t have to worry about getting the mares out to Virginia, because Lindsay is coming through Missouri in a few weeks and was more than happy to pick the girls up on her way home.

Next, we contacted two people about the sale of the three Arabian horses we own and now they have new homes to go to as well. As with the paint horses, the people who wanted the Arabs are genuine, down-to-earth horse lovers who will give our herd a loving home.

Sawyer

Sawyer

A few days later, I made the difficult decision to list my house cats for adoption. Regardless of where we settle, our new home will be smaller and with my Labrador, Gus, in tow, two cats would be too much. I put my request on Facebook and within two hours heard from one of my closest friends. Micheline and I have been friends since we were five years old and I couldn’t imagine a better owner for my favored felines.

Then Micheline told me not only did she want Sawyer and Claudia, but she would take  my entire flock of chickens and my Runner Duck, Ferdinand!

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Ferdie has been my only duck since the rest of the flock was killed by a roving pack of coyotes in 2011. At his new home, not only will he have other ducks for company, but Runner Ducks at that! Talk about an abundance of miracles!

Now for the icing on the cake: Yesterday, when I sat down to write this blog, I looked up the Scripture that describes faith as, “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This is found in Hebrews, chapter 11. It may not sound like much, but the number 11 is of great significance to me. Whenever 11’s appear in my life, transition for the better is at hand.

Finally, one more bit of “OMG” happened when I sat down to watch an episode of The West Wing. I popped in the DVD and the third episode on the disc was titled, “The Evidence of Things Not Seen.” I think I am on to something here.

The Divine

If I had a blog, today I would write about the reason I don’t refer to The Divine as “God.”

My Altar

My Altar

I am not an atheist. I believe more than ever that behind the thin veneer of our mortal lives exists a divine power; a creator of life and guiding light for those who choose a spiritual path. To Christians this is God, to Muslims it is Allah. Buddhists look to the wisdom of The Buddha and Hindus look to Brahman and his lesser deities. Native Americans worship The Great Spirit (who has different incarnations and names in different tribes) and Pagans worship an entire pantheon, reminiscent of ancient Greece and Rome, that is overseen by both God and Goddess. Who do I worship? That’s an excellent question.

Throughout my life, I have explored many of the world’s “Great Religions” and some smaller sects as well. I have given communion in the Episcopal church, spoken with Navajo Grandmothers, been brought to my knees by the holy drums of the Lakota pow-wow, called The Goddess to my forest altar, and meditated in the way of Buddhist monks. From each experience I have gleaned wisdom, solace, and perspective on my spiritual life and so, I cannot claim one path as the only one for me. When I pray, sometimes I hear the voice of Lakota holy man Black Elk, sometimes I feel the gentle touch of Mother Earth, and yes, sometimes I hear the voice of the Christian God, but I believe they are all different aspects of the same being, one which I can only describe as “The Divine,” “The Powers That Be,” or my “Higher Power.”

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

This Being, the spirit that flung the galaxies into space,  planted the living seeds that became the inhabitants of planet Earth, and begat our spiritual yearning is one being. One being with many names, many faces, and many voices, each tuned to ring true in the hearts and minds of a thousands of different cultures. Call it what you will, but I believe that those of us who are seeking spiritual wisdom are all worshiping the same great power. In the end, the name by which we call our god is much less important than the belief in a great and benevolent power that watches over us day and night.

Reading the Signs

If I had a blog, today I would write about the new journey I have embarked upon.

Almost Home

Almost Home

Lately, the Powers-That-Be have been sending me lots of signs regarding my need for faith. I know I’ve touched on this before, because faith in a higher power has always eluded me, but these days, I am taking a new tack on this ancient conundrum based on the events of a day-trip I took with my mom.

When Mom and I travel, more often than not, we listen to Southern Gospel music. That may sound like an odd choice for a neo-Pagan, but oddly enough, hymns have always been a meaningful part of my life. Mom, you see, is a wonderful singer and when I was a child, she lulled me to sleep with the verses of “Abide With Me,” “The Ninety and Nine,” and a thousand other songs she learned growing up in the Baptist church. I still love the messages of peace and rest that are carried in those melodies and it makes me yearn for a life of surety, founded on complete trust in a Divine Power greater than myself.  If only I could bring myself to believe such a thing…

The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

This was the topic of discussion as Mom and I drove along last Tuesday and along the way, we concluded that faith is something you develop through practice. That means you have to start at the bottom, with only a sense of the end goal in mind, and practice until you grow into the habit of faith.

We were quite pleased with our perspective and were singing along with the Gaither Vocal Band when as semi passed us. On the back of the truck was a sticker that simply said, “FAITH.” Beneath it was the scripture reference: Philippians 4:4-9. I looked up the passage when I got home and it says:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

To be honest, I have never looked up a Scripture pasted on the back of a truck before, but this one was clearly speaking to the new direction Mom and I were contemplating, but there was more to come.

Later that evening, I was perusing Facebook and the site for my favorite TV show, The West Wing, posted a meme where the Chief-of-Staff tells the President, “Act as if ye have faith and faith shall be given unto you. In other words, fake it ’til you make it.” It may not be a Bible verse, but God was speaking just the same.

 

Signs Along the Way

Signs Along the Way

So here I am: A middle-aged Pagan living her life as if she trusts The Divine to take care of everything. It is a strange feeling, quite foreign to a cynic like myself, but I am willing to take this road into the unknown and see where it leads. I will heed the signs and let my Higher Power show me the way.

Sauntering Towards the Holy Land

If I had a blog, today I would write about my autumn idyll.

White Iron Lake - Ely, MN

White Iron Lake – Ely, MN

I love the morning after an autumnal storm. The thunder and lightning passed with the darkness and daybreak brings calm. The dark skies that troubled my dreams are breaking into soft piles of white, gold, and magenta that run with the freshening wind, leaving blue sky in their wake.

Mom at Rookie Pond - Ely, MN

Mom at Rookie Pond – Ely, MN

I have seen a hundred mornings like this in the North Country, when the first breath of Canadian air rushes south to bring the first breath of autumn to a summer-weary land. As the clouds part, the dark water of the lakes begins to come to life and sparkle with blue. The wind carries only a few sounds now: The chirp of crickets, the call of blue jays and the raspy voice of ravens in search of food. The mellow sun is warm on my back, but as it dips beneath the clouds, I am glad to have a fleece jacket in my day-pack.

Diamond Drops

Diamond Drops

Today, I am a thousand miles south of “Up North,” writing away with doors and windows flung open to welcome the chill in the air. The mellow light has come too, and my desk is dappled with golden light.

Quiet Time

Quiet Time

When I got up this morning, my first thought was, “Oh wow! I can go for a walk and clean at the barn, and start my fall photo essay…” But once I finished chores, I was overcome with a sense of peace so luxurious I was called to sit and write and listen to the blue jays and crows calling in my woods. “This is not a work-day,” my soul assured me. “This is a day to revel.” And so I have.

 

The Holy Land

The Holy Land

Days like this make it clear what Thoreau experienced on Walden when he wrote, “And so we saunter towards the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever it has done, and shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn. ”

So may it be.

 

 

Epiphany

If I had a blog, today I would write about an epiphany named Gus.

My Owain

My Owain

It has been a long year. In the fall of 2014, we said farewell to our beloved border collie, Owain, and his cousin, Hank the yellow lab. Both dogs were fourteen years old, but that only deepens the grief and sense of loss.

Emma

Emma

During the winter, we lost both of our Great Pyrenees: Bree and her sister Emma. They had been with us a decade and with their passing, our world was, for the first time in many, many years, empty of dogs.

Augustus the Wise

Augustus the Wise

With Mom and Dad now in their seventies, I decided it was my turn to step to the plate and keep our canine tradition going. To that end, I bought a yellow lab puppy in March of this year. I named him Augustus (Gus for short) and was suddenly in the midst of full-time parenting.

Gus is an amazing dog. He is handsome, kind, and loves everyone he meets, but little did I know that behind this Woman’s-Best-Friend facade lurked a great challenge: Facing off with an Alpha Dog.

A Dog With Attitude

A Dog With Attitude

I’ve known a lot of dogs in my time, but I have to say, I have never met a canine as completely self-confident as Gus. He fears nothing and bows to no one. Those are good qualities in a lot of ways, but they are a nightmare for the human who has to gear up and assert herself as the Alpha member of the pack.

I am good with animals. I can make friends with almost any creature, including snakes and box turtles, but it turns out, I am not the domineering kind. I want to be friends with my animals, not assert dominance. I tried this tack with Gus and in two months, he was running the show. No matter how loud I spoke, how firmly I asserted the word, “No!”, or how many times I scolded Gus for stealing (clothes, trash, pork chops), I was failing miserably. Gus was happy as a clam, but it was like sharing my home with a young hyena. Something had to give.

In desperation, I reached out to the breeder from whom I got Gus. She’s raised labs for years and I trusted her insights into my predicament. At first, I was totally on board with her suggestions: Loom over Gus, speak loudly and firmly, have him wear a leash in the house so I could catch him more easily. I was even ok with the idea of neutering him a little early. Some days I wanted to do it with my bare hands, so that was ok. Then the hammer dropped. “You also need to start using an electric collar on him,” the breeder said.

My heart stopped for a moment. Use a shock collar? How could I ever do that to an animal? I told the breeder I’d think about that one and though I ordered the collar the next day, it sat in its box for almost a month – until the day Gus tried to eat a baby rabbit.

Baby Rabbit

Baby Rabbit

It was sheer good luck that I stepped into the yard when I did. Gus and the baby bunny were both still as statues, waiting for someone to make a move. I crept up close then launched between the two of them and grabbed for the bunny. I missed, but Gus didn’t. The rabbit yelled and Gus dropped it in surprise. That gave me time to swoop in and gather the bunny to my chest. I got Gus inside the house, did a quick check of baby (thank goodness he wasn’t hurt), then stood in the yard and cried like an infant myself. The madness had to stop. I had to find a way to be in charge of the “Gus Situation” and the collar seemed to be the only bullet left in my gun.

The next day, I reluctantly strapped on the collar and took Gus into the yard. As luck would have it, the baby bunny appeared again and as Gus launched his attack, so did I. The collar was set on level 2 (out of a possible 100 levels), but even at that, one zap was all it took. Gus stopped in his tracks, ran to me for comfort, and started eyeing little critters with suspicion. Gus’ collar also vibrates and after the initial incident, I only had to use the shocker once more before I switched to vibrate and it has been all sunshine and roses from there. Miracles do exists and, boy, do they come in some unlikely packages.

Mom & Gus

Mom & Gus

The Collar has changed our lives. Within a week, Gus was no longer stealing anything, he quit jumping on guests, and has become the gentleman I knew was hiding behind Gus’ inner hyena. I’ve tested the vibration on myself and it isn’t the least bit painful, just annoying and distracting, so I can proceed with Gus’ training in a state of guilt-free bliss. It is Nirvana.

The real test of Gus’ progress came last weekend when my brother’s in-laws came for a visit. One vibe from the collar and Gus was the consummate host. He kept his feet on the ground, kissed liberally, but never nipped, and he spent his entire afternoon sitting by one guest, then another, as if making sure no one was left out. I was so happy I cried for a while after everyone left. My joy was complete.

My Boy Gus

My Boy Gus

Aside from the obvious, “Don’t make snap judgments” lesson, I have also learned that when dealing with animals, asserting dominance isn’t about being aggressive or, God forbid, abusive. It is about finding a way to be heard. As an introvert of epic proportions, it is hard for me to assert myself. I was afraid Gus would come to fear me if I made demands of him, but to my surprise, our bond is closer than ever. Now that Gus realizes he isn’t invincible, he sees me as his go-to person when he feels unsure and when he needs to feel safe, he knows I am there to stand beside him.

So as we enter a new autumn, an autumn of beginnings, I move forward renewed, with another dear friend at my side. Gus, this quote is for you:

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. – Author Unknown

Winter Days

If I had a blog, today I would write about The Greenwood in winter.

The Missouri Arctic

The Missouri Arctic

Winter is back. Yesterday’s high was 15 degrees (with 25 mph winds) and today is even colder. The low last night was -2 and we’ll be lucky if we crawl into the teens for a high this afternoon. The snow that fell on Monday is reflecting most of the sun’s warmth back into space, leaving us wrapped in a blanket that offers no warmth. Until the weather breaks, our lives revolve around caring for our animals 24-7; keeping them well-fed and sheltered from the wind and snow.

Rain in the Snow

Rain in the Snow

Yesterday, despite the wind, we let the horses out for the day to stretch their legs and get some fresh air after three days in the barn. Horses are a great source of potential energy and when they are kept up, that energy builds day by day until they can get outside and burn it off. They made quite a spectacle of themselves, running, bucking, and even rolling in the snow; thrilled to be out in the sun and cold. Watching them play like kids on a Snow Day always lifts my spirits; at least someone is enjoying life in the freezer. I don’t really hate the cold weather, but as I get older I tend to adopt the Zen of the Hen instead.

The Zen of the Hen

The Zen of the Hen

Over at the chicken house, the tenor is quite different. My laying hens, rooster, and Ferdinand the duck prefer to stay indoors when snow is on the ground. I opened their door to the coop this morning, but no one wanted to venture out. The hens spent their day on the roost, under their heat lamp, or busy scratching for the dried mealworms I scattered in the straw as a treat. Ferdinand, my fawn and white runner duck, did have to forego his daily bath, but he when he saw his swimming pool had turned into a skating rink, he, too, was content to nestle down in the straw and enjoy winter from afar, alongside his roommate Edward, the Australorp rooster. I promised my boys warmer days will return, but even as I said it, I wondered how many times I’ll make that promise before the cold is through.

The Horse Barn

The Horse Barn

The bulk of our winter chores revolves around cleaning horse stalls. When all five horses are indoors full-time, keeping their quarters clean is an arduous job. While it is easier to scoop frozen “horse apples” and our work is certainly less fragrant this time of year, there is no getting around the fact that it’s plain old hard work. To pass the time, I turned to the mantra I used when backpacking. Most backpackers have a chant they use to distract themselves when hiking up an endless hill or trudging across rugged terrain. I adopted mine from a book I read about a woman who through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. It goes like this: “We are the through-hikers, mighty, mighty through-hikers. Every where we go-oh, people want to know-oh, who we are and so we tell them, ‘We are the through-hikers, mighty, mighty through-hikers…’ ” This encouragement has gotten me to the top of many mountain passes and today, it got me to the end of my task in record time. When I was finally able to stand up straight and stretch my aching back I felt as though I had reached the summit of Everest. Mom and I gave the horses a round of apple-treats, checked in with the barn cats and headed home for lunch in front of the fire. Mission accomplished.

Me

Me

In five hours, it will be chore-time again and we’ll start the lugging, lifting, and loading all over again. Some days I wonder why I chose this life rather than that of a business-woman. I could be sitting behind a desk in a warm office on these bitter mornings, sipping coffee and chatting with clients and co-workers, far removed from the wind that rattles the windows and the curtains of snow that dance across the parking lot, but then I open the barn door and am greeted by a symphony of nickers, clucks, meows, and crows that remind me just how much I am needed by the creatures I love. I might be able to earn more or achieve more at another job, but nowhere on earth could I feel more complete. This is where I belong.

Flakes

If I had a blog, today I would write about living honestly.

Me

Me

“What will people think?” If I had a nickel for every time a parent, teacher, or other well-meaning adult sent this phrase my way, I would be a billionaire. While I admit that there is value in considering the consequences of one’s actions, I seems to me that the importance of what other people think weighs too heavily on my mind. Take yesterday, for example: I am in the process of getting a yellow Labrador puppy and, after what I considered “a lot of thought,” decided I’d get a black Lab as well. I emailed the breeder and she was glad the remaining black male would have a good home. Then I shared my plan with some of my more analytical friends and realized I was about to get in over my head. I weighed their cons against my pros and decided I’d better stay with one puppy for now. I was ok with the decision, even though “reason” is a real kill-joy, but I felt physically ill when I realized I’d have to email the breeder and retract my offer. “Oh my God,” I thought, “what on Earth will she think?”

One of the Baby Labs

One of the Baby Labs

As I lay awake trying to compose an email that made me sound realistic rather than indecisive, a new thought occurred to me: What if I really am a flake? What if I stop running from my fear of being exposed as emotional, prone to acting first and thinking later, and (OMG) utterly imperfect? I let this new paradigm float around in my head for quite a while, then decided to make the leap. I got out of bed and posted a simple email: “Hi, after giving my decision some more thought, I realized it would be better for me to have one puppy at a time. I’ll keep my yellow pup and wait to get a black later on. Sorry for the misfire. – Julie.” I still felt queasy, but at least I’d been honest and that felt good.

Mystical Me

Mystical Me

As I’ve gone about my work today, I’ve given this more thought and I think it has real possibilities. I don’t know how I will deal with what comes in the future, but I like the idea of accepting my idiosyncracies and letting them show. I can work on anything that’s giving me problems, but overall, it simplifies my life immensely. This way I am free to fail at things, make mistakes, embarrass myself, and even look stupid in public without the desperate need to cover my tracks and meet the world’s standard of perfection. I am Julie and I’m doing the best I can. What do you think of that?

Be Still And Know

If I had a blog, today I would write about the sacred nature of silence.

The Lord of Holiness

The Lord of Holiness

The last few days, the message of The Universe has been, “Be still.” I spent two days on a solo retreat in Missouri Wine Country, enjoying the rare privilege of reading, writing, and sitting in quiet contemplation. Originally, I had gone to the little town of Hermann to eagle-watch along the Missouri River, but when I arrived, I knew my trip was to center around restoring my spirit, not adding to my portfolio. I gave in to the urge to rest and in the stillness of those midwinter days, I found new life in the simple act of doing nothing.

Any doubts I had about forsaking my eagle project were erased this morning when I discovered a handsome bald eagle perched in a tree near the barn. I had followed my heart on my retreat and now the eagle had come to me and I knew at once the story I needed to share:

The Eagle wasn’t always the Eagle. The Eagle, before he became the Eagle, was Yucatangee, the Talker. Yucatangee talked and talked. It talked so much it heard only itself. Not the river, not the wind, not even the Wolf. The Raven came and said “The Wolf is hungry. If you stop talking, you’ll hear him. The wind too. And when you hear the wind, you’ll fly.” So he stopped talking. And became its nature, the Eagle. The Eagle soared, and its flight said all it needed to say. (As told by Marilyn Whirlwind on Northern Exposure).

My Bald Eagle

My Bald Eagle

Today the eagle assured me I can trust my heart; that not all needs are met by action. The eagle reminded me that unless I am quiet in body and in spirit I cannot hear the voice of The Divine. Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke to this when he wrote: There are voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.”  and still more compelling, he admonished, “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.”

Going forward, I will remember to stop, to be still, and to listen, for then I will not have to go in search of Holiness; it will come in search of me.

An Experiment in Stillness

If I had a blog, today I would write about my grand experiment in quietude.

Hermann, Missouri

Hermann, Missouri

It has been more than a decade since I’ve gone on a retreat by myself, with no other goal than to rest. Today I’ve broken this unhealthy trend and am sitting on a king-sized sleigh-bed, watching the sun go down over acres of vineyards and inns sprinkled with snow-white church steeples. A fire is blazing in my fireplace and I am sipping a superb dry Merlot. This is the life.

The Vineyard

The Vineyard

Although my taste of wine-country is happening in Missouri, not Provence or Tuscany, this little corner of Heaven makes me feel as though I am in a far-away land. The place where I am staying is called Hermann Hill Vineyard and Inn. It sits atop a high hill overlooking the Missouri River Valley and the quaint Germanic town of Hermann. If a person time-warped into Hermann without GPS, you would feel certain you were in Germany’s Rhineland. Rolling hills, tall brick homes, and sprawling vineyards make it very hard to think “Missouri.”

Quiet Time

Quiet Time

The remarkable thing about my vacation so far is rediscovering the point of a vacation: To do as little as possible. I realize some people need constant action to stay sane, but I am not one of those people. I go, go, go, but that isn’t my default condition. I need down time; all-the-way-down time and I didn’t even know it. I planned this trip around hiking and (with a little luck) getting some photos of the bald eagles that sometimes winter along the Missouri River and while I may do those things, I’m not going to push it. If laying around watching favorite movies or reading a good book sounds better, I’m going to risk public opinion and do it.

I make light of this, but think about it: Could you go on a trip and feel good doing nothing? Would you return home full of energy and self-esteem if you all you had to report was how the light changed across the countryside as seen from your veranda? It’s a sad state of affairs when society expects us to accomplish something even when we are (theoretically) getting away from it all. It’s time for a change.

Good Night Wine Country

Good Night Wine Country

We’ll see how it goes, but for the next 36 hours I am going to listen to my Inner Being and if She says, “Rest,” I’m going to rest. It’s a little scary, but I think I am up to the task. Ooh! My complimentary ice cream and warm cookie are here. I think this is going to work.