Where are Diane and Bill?

Goin’ to Kansas City, Kansas City, here we come! Looking forward to BBQ, Jazz & Museums day after tomorrow.

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Left Seattle on July 8th.  Here’s where we’ve been:

Ellensburg, WA; Spokane, WA; Missoula, MT; Dillon, MT;  Brigham City, UT;  Moab, UT; Albuquerque, NM; Amarillo, TX;  Oklahoma City, OK; Fort Smith, AK; Little Rock, AK Memphis, TN; Nashville, TN, Great Smoky Mountains, TN; Greensboro, NC; Goose Point Recreation Area, VA; Flatwoods, WV; Ashland, KY; Louisville, KY; Mt. Vernon, IL; Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO!

On our way back to Seattle for late fall and the holidays and then on the road again.

 

Vignettes from the road: Church and religion

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 “The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” off I40 in Texas;    190 feet tall 

The Pacific Northwest where I have lived is not a highly churched area. The difference between Seattle and cities in the South and Midwest is marked as we travel. Gigantic crosses can be seen from the interstate. Some campground offices are closed on Sunday mornings for church; one we visited held services in its community room. Interstate truck stop “stores” offer religious inspirational cards and books.

Depending on the state and county, alcohol is not sold on Sundays or sold only after 11am or only beer can be bought. Billboards ask if you believe in God and announce “Jesus is coming soon” “Hell is real” and “God expects spiritual fruit not religious nuts.”  The main newspaper in Oklahoma has a daily prayer at the bottom of the front page along with the weather forecast. It has a whole section dedicated to “The Spiritual Life.” Our newest neighbors in the campground are from Tennessee. The license plate on the front of their truck says, “Jesus, the heartbeat of the world.”

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I learned yesterday that there is a Trail of Faith in Indiana. It’s a historic church trail featuring 19 churches over 100 years old. I’d like to visit it someday.

Religion in these areas is a visible part of the fabric of life. Religion can be invisible and still be powerful. Religion can also be dangerous. The etymology of religion lies with the Latin word religare, which means “to tie, to bind.”

The most important question is to what do you bind yourself on a daily basis that creates your religion? Being on the road gives me lots of time to ponder that question.

 

Post by Diane

 

Say her name: The lynching of Marie Thompson in Kentucky

Marie Thompson, a young black woman who was murdered in Kentucky, keeps me awake at night with fierce whispering from her grave. She insists I pay attention to the story of her lynching that took place over 100 years ago where I am visiting in Shepherdsville, KY. Every place we stand has a history to tell; often it is a hidden history unless you look for it. I looked for an African American or Civil Rights museum here near Louisville. Many of the places we have visited in the South have them. Not here. Yet I knew there were stories here that needed to be told. This one is about Marie Thompson in 1904. It is one among many of the lynchings that happened in Kentucky.

Marie Thompson was a black sharecropper working in the vegetable garden with her son in June, 1904, when John Irvin, the white farmer who owned the land, accused her son of stealing pliers that he had been lent earlier. The boy stated he had returned them. Irvin berated him for lying and kicked him several times in the back.

Thompson confronted Irvin, protesting his treatment of her son. He told her to get off of his place. Thompson, even knowing she was losing her home and livelihood, turned and intentionally walked away slowly as an act of resistance. This angered Irvin and caused him to attack her from behind with a knife. They struggled. Thompson cut his throat and Irvin died.

Recognizing the danger she was in, Thompson gathered her things and tried to leave town but was arrested before she could flee. When the story of Irvin’s death was reported, a group of about a dozen armed white men came to the jail with the intent to lynch Thompson. A group of African American men arrived and the shoot-out between them caused the white men to leave. The deputies promised the African American group that Thompson would be protected and they went away.

Two hours later a group of 50 white men returned to the jail, put a rope around Thompson, dragged her out and put the rope around a tree. Thompson fought them all along the way. While she was swinging from the tree, she grabbed the collar of a man next to her and then his knife which she used to cut the rope around her neck. She fell to the ground and started to run. The mob fired over 100 bullets at her. She fell to the ground and was left for the dead. She was found alive by the sheriff and taken to the jail where she died the next evening.

Before she died, Thompson confided in her doctor, “I didn’t want him (Irvin) to die but I wanted to pay him back for what he had done to me and my boy.”

Thompson was a fighter and a defender. She was a mom protecting her son. She challenged injustice with fierce resistance. She was murdered for it.

I think of black mothers who have given their all to keeping their sons safe. I think of the disastrous consequences when any black person is perceived as challenging authority. Or how death comes with everyday actions like when a black person drives a car, walks home with a friend, wears a hoodie, holds their wallet, attends a birthday party, holds a fake gun, rides a commuter train, or attends a Bible study.

And I weep. One hundred and twelve years after Marie’s death, it is still not safe to be a black person in this country.

 

Post by Diane

For more information about Marie Thompson, see the following:

From Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching By Crystal Nicole Feimster

University of Kentucky Libraries

Racial Violence in Kentucky, 1865-1940: Lynchings, Mob Rule, and “Legal Lynchings” by George C. Wright.

 

 

 

 

 

Saying “Yes!”

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September 7, 2016

Two years ago today, Bill and I committed to risk a major life change. We were driving on Whidbey Island, immersed in its beauty and peacefulness as we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. The last few years had been difficult ones as my aging parents had lived with us and my work life no longer felt enlivening.

I turned to Bill: “What if we bought an RV to live in and traveled around the country? I could quit my job. We could sell the house.”

Bill looked at me. “Do you really mean that?” My words hovered in the air; waiting to see if they would truly be given a landing spot. “Yes, yes, I do” I answered. Everything aligned in me in that moment to say yes even though I had no idea about how such a thing could possibly happen.

Today we are in Louisville, Kentucky celebrating our 14th anniversary. We’ve been on the road since July 8th in our 21-foot trailer, Sophia, that is now our home. Beauty and peacefulness fill our days. Wonder is our constant companion as every day brings newness. I’m doing the work I feel called to do. Bill and I have time together that is precious.

When your body and soul exclaim, “Yes!” – trust that yes. Live into it with passion and the universe will respond. To be sure, you will encounter difficult moments along the way. Significant change requires tenacity and trust. It will be worth it.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

― William Hutchison Murray

Fourteen years ago I said, “Yes!” to our marriage. It continues to have magic, boldness and abundant love in it.  Love you, Bill!

 

 

36°48’16” N 80°3’5″ W

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Type that into google Maps and Sophia, our travel trailer, is within 50 feet of that spot. Also called Goose Point on Phillpott Lake in southwest Virginia.

A common metaphor used to describe the strange complexity of chaos theory is that of a butterfly beating its wings in Tiananmen Square in Beijing (39°54’26.4″N 116°23’27.9″E) causing a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean.

It was two months ago that we knew we would be in Greensboro, North Carolina, on August 12. With that deadline our itinerary developed some fixed points: seeing family and friends along the way (Ellensburg, Spokane, Albuquerque.) From there our stopping points were chosen because of time and distance. At least six of those places had markers of great national importance or of tragic events. We had not anticipated these experiences when we sat down to plan our journey. The butterfly is beating its wings far away.

We had stopped for a day in Amarillo, Texas when we discovered that our awning would only roll out about 3 feet before jamming. We tried to schedule repairs in Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Arkansas, and in Memphis, Tennessee. All to no avail. The butterfly is beating its wings.

When we were in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee we located a dealer (Econo RV) that sold our brand of travel trailer. He said we could bring Sophia by and that he would take a look at the awning. That dealer was in some small town (Bassett) in southwest Virginia (about 90 miles north of Greensboro.) The butterfly continues to beat its wings.

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Diane found a US Corp of Engineers campground 20 miles from the dealership. She reserved a spot for two days for us in case we had to wait for the awning to be repaired. It’s a common experience, whether it’s a doctor’s visit, an auto repair or a call to the plumber, that the problem you bring to their attention disappears when they take a look at it. The awning unrolled and rolled back in repeatedly just fine. The butterfly has not stop flapping its wings though.

At the end of our first day here at this campsite we extended our stay for two more days. Midway through the second day we extended our stay here for another week and a half.

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This camp is achingly beautiful, still, secluded, and entirely restful. For the first time in weeks, months, or longer we have stopped and are at rest.

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The butterfly’s wings do not always cause a hurricane…

 

Post by Bill.

 

 

The first 25 feet is a slow slide . . .

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The first 25 feet is a slow slide down the gravel, the brakes are a whimsy. We come to a stop and face the reality that the only direction we can take is to keep going ahead.

In 1976 an old and dear friend of mine, Susan Morris, taught me that there are always more than two options. Life is not binary, she said. That dictum has served me well through the last 40 years. I believe it, I trust it, I say it a lot. There are always more than two choices.

And sometimes there are less.

We took off this morning from the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, on our way to the last stop on this leg of our journey: Greensboro, North Carolina.

We drove a few miles and the Voice of Google Maps told us to turn right. The sign for Interstate I-40 said turn left. We had a few options there: go left, go right, take another look at Google Maps. We went right. We drove for two miles and the Voice said “turn left at the next road.” The sign on that road said “no trucks, GPS is inaccurate.” We had a few  options there: ignore the sign and turn left, keep on going or turn around and go back. We kept on going. After a couple of more miles down the road the Voice said “turn left at the next road.” The same sign was there, the same choices available for us. We kept on going.

In about another mile the first sign we saw said “in 11 miles this becomes a gravel road, no trucks allowed.” The second sign said “for the next 7 miles the road will be very, very curvy and narrow.” We kept on going. Stunning beauty, verdant green on both sides of a very, very narrow mountain road; steeply falling off on one side. In the next 7 miles we saw one vehicle coming our way. Slowly.

After about 7 miles, the Voice said “turn left at the next road.” We stopped and, finally, pondered. The road to the left was actually a very steep gravel one lane road. Google Maps said that in a mile and a half this “road” will connect with interstate I-40.

For the last 7 miles we have been traveling on one of the narrowest two lane roads that we had ever driven and  especially while pulling a 21 foot travel trailer. There had been no place to turn around and go back the way we had been coming. There seemed little hope that this would change as we continued to climb towards what would become an unpaved road.

We turned left and began our slow slide down that gravel road. We stopped at a flat spot 50 feet down, there are a couple of feet on either side of our truck and 21 foot travel trailer; bordered by a ditch, the slope continued pretty steeply on down to a curve that we couldn’t see beyond.

Dante had Beatrice as his guide to heaven. We had Henry as our guide to the bottom of this mile and a half Road. He and his dogs lived just around the curve. He said “Yeah, it’s pretty tricky, but my brother took a trailer about your size down to the bottom of the road a few years ago. You got to watch the first couple of curves though, they’re pretty sharp.” We had a long chat, he and Diane and I, about a lot of things – how long he had lived here (20 years); neighbors (besides his brother, not many); where he grew up (Georgia); that kind of stuff. Really what was the hurry? He told us where the easy spots were, how there really weren’t any. And, as we kept saying, “Well, it’s just about a mile down to the bottom, right?” He would say “no, really, it’s a mile and a half.”

The truck  is now in four-wheel-drive and in its lowest gear. That means it’s top speed is about 5 miles an hour. We take off. Actually, Diane walks in front of the truck and helps me negotiate the curves. For the 1st mile there is only about 18
inches on either side of the trailer.

It’s a completely beautiful setting. We are in a hollow: close-by green woods, hot and muggy sunlight through the trees, the hum of many, many insects, very occasionally a cabin dug into the hillside. And, a gravel and dirt and mud road
that goes steeply downhill with sharp curves and little room on either side of the trailer. Diane leads the way almost the whole time for the next mile.

After about a mile and a half the road ends up at interstate I-40. We enter and continue on our way to Greensboro. Not, as it turns out, unscathed (but that’s another post.)

There are always more than two options, except when there are fewer.

 

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