Centennial Trail salute, Spokane WA

Being both a busy woman and a lover of the outdoors, I seriously appreciate public green spaces. City parks and trails can be an excellent way to fit spending time with nature into a hectic lifestyle, balancing the effects of the urban hustle and bustle.

According to proponents of environmental psychology, spending time in nature has at least three positive effects:

  1. Reduced stress
  2. Improved mood
  3. Improved cognitive performance

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My favorite place to meet nature during my busy five years as a resident of Spokane was the Mirabeau access point of the Centennial Trail. This was a quick drive from my home and from my work in our downtown tasting room, but the river running along the valley floor and the tall trees lining the pathway shielded me from the urban noise and made it feel like I was a world away.

This section of the Centennial Trail holds many memories for me, so I paid a visit to offer my gratitude before saying so long to Washington and continuing my journey east.

I took up running when I moved to Washington, and this was my top choice for logging in my miles. Not only was it a beautiful natural area, but the trail was well-maintained and relatively flat. I felt more like a wild animal than a chunky human here, and I could work on my breathing and my form without over-taxing my body and my psyche.

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It was here that I first broke the ten minute mile threshold in a 5k race, completing the run in less than thirty minutes. The race was part of Valleyfest, and it was a huge accomplishment for me.

It was here that I made my decision to run my first half marathon. I had been invited to join a friend in running the Bridge of the Gods, but I had never run that far, and I was wavering in my resolve. I took to the trail that day and found many other women out for a run. One group of three was exiting the trail as I was entering, and they asked me to take a photograph of them, so they could prove to their trainer that they had logged in their miles. “What race are you training for?” I asked.

“The Spokane Negative Split,” the brunette in the pink shorts and ponytail replied. “Are you training for a race?”

“I am thinking about running the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks,” I said.

“Oh, wow! I think that race is sold out,” she said.

My stomach dropped and burned.

“You might want to check on that right away,” she said. “And good luck!”

“You too,” I said. And in that instant I made my choice. I drove home from the trail, logged onto the website and paid my entry fee.

I did some of my best thinking here, so I also used the trail for walking. There were times I spread my blanket on the shoreline of the river and wrote in my journal or just stared into the sparkling water. It was here that I came to brainstorm new business ideas. It was here that I came after the shocking death of a close friend.

160101 Snow

It was here that I labored over my life’s purpose on New Year’s Day. I had been feeling unfulfilled in my work and was reading Napoleon Hill’s thoughts on the concept of drifting. The park was a dazzling winter wonderland, and the trail was covered in snow. I enjoyed complete solitude and clarity as I plodded through my dilemma one footprint at a time.

Today I come to say farewell to what feels like a dear friend. I took off my shoes and did some rock scrambling with Justice down by the water. I brought my journal and my camera to capture some last memories. I rolled up my jeans and slid my feet into the cool water, listening for the calling birds. I watched a critter sunning itself a few feet from me and a family in kayaks floating by with eyes closed and faces upturned.

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I am passionate about helping more women experience the benefits of being out in natural places. Being too busy is simply not an acceptable excuse. The more hectic your life is, the more important it is for you to spend time alone with nature. You owe it to yourself first, and when we care enough for ourselves we have more to give to those we love. Need help with this? Email me at sequoia1011@gmail.com.

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The Centennial Trail runs 37 miles one-way from Spokane, Washington to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It has numerous access points, each offering a new adventure. The trail is pet-friendly and popular with runners, walkers, bicyclists, tourists and locals alike. Several city parks and serene water features are accessible from the trail. It truly is a gem and worth a trek.

Just another #travel book?

My 50 states travel project for 2017 was born from a crazy, burning desire to write a book. I have always dreamed of being a writer. I know what it is like to feel a deep yearning inside that keeps you searching for an answer. This deep longing finally drove me to give myself the time and space I needed to actually respond. I was excited, and more than a little nervous.

  • Have you ever been in a place like this? Where you felt a deep desire to do something more creative in your life? Responding to that deep desire feels a little crazy, but not responding is kinda making you crazy anyway.

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So I embarked on my epic road trip. My journaling went great! Every day I filled three pages in my notebook with stream of consciousness writing. I was getting a blog post up about once a week. I even sent out a few fun newsletters.

But every time I sat down to work on my book, it just felt totally wrong. I had no idea how to do it. Do I just tell my story in chronological order? What is the point I want the reader to take away? The travel was changing me, freeing me, and I really wanted to write about that, but I didn’t want my book to be just another travel adventure story.

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As the weeks went by I became more and more frustrated. I was not satisfied to just put words on a page. I wanted to produce a quality piece of work, something of true value, something that could really make a difference in the world. (surprise, surprise :)) As mid-year approached, I grew seriously concerned that I would get to the end of the year and have nothing to validate my efforts. Plus, I was running out of money faster than I expected. I finally realized I could not do this on my own. I needed help.

  • Have you ever heard the old proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?”

I was meeting so many fascinating people on the hiking trails and in the campgrounds, even at the gas station. I started praying that I would somehow, someway cross paths with someone who could help me write the book I dreamed I could write.

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Then I met Dr. Angela Lauria, and I knew my prayers had been answered. Angela has been helping birth books since 1994 and has coached dozens of authors. She is highly selective about the people she works with, and with my application I was asking, Am I good enough? Is my idea strong enough? To my delight, I was one of a handful of candidates selected for her program, a kind of book boot camp that will help me produce a completed manuscript by August 1st!

<dramatic pause for applause> I know, right?!?

What a relief. I didn’t hesitate. I said yes to the call I could never quiet inside me.

I have heard the heart cry of so many other women who have also felt the Call of the Wild. Through this crucible I have discovered that the deep yearning to write a book was actually divine gift, and that I had an opportunity to use this gift in a much bigger way than I had ever imagined.

  • What is it that drives a woman to brave the dangers of solo travel? What is it that stops her? Would you ever choose to hop in your car and drive into the unknown? I am developing an idea that will help us answer those questions.

I am thrilled to say that one day very soon I will be able to share my finished book with you. Better yet, I will have a budding business in the creative arts that will allow me to support myself and other women as an author who makes a difference.

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Turning my project back into a #journey

I caught myself in the mirror, and the sight surprised me. I stood there, squared into the reflection, my eyes wandering over and taking in what I saw before me. This is not the old, familiar image anymore. I can hardly believe this is me. I move a curious step closer, take a deliberate breath, and then I slowly let it out again. I see the face of a 44 year-old woman attached to this body, the lines of consternation and time are evident but graceful. I am drawn further in toward the mirror, toward the reflection of this face, tilting my head and regarding her more closely still. Deepening laugh lines play at the corners of my eyes. I smile and make them come alive again.

“You are doing this, Sonya,” I say out loud to the person behind my eyes. You are really doing this. I gaze deeply into her and catch the glimmer of the person I always wanted to be. I knew she was in there. I didn’t think it would take this many years. I didn’t think it would be this hard. I regard her carefully, looking even more intently into her eyes.

Bloodshot? I take a step closer, until my nose is almost touching the mirror. I tip my forehead forward, now looking from under my lids, rotate my head to the right, rotate my head left, and back to center again. I lift my chin and draw my eyelids wide and back. Tiny red rivulets run from the bright white outer edges toward the morning blue center. Why are my eyes so bloodshot?

I had turned this trip into WORK.

I have a dream

I have dreamed of being a writer all my life, and now I am chasing that dream with all that is in me. This trip is not a year-long joyride. It is serious business, and it has a deadline – Thanksgiving. I am reinventing my life, and there is no time to waste. I’ve leveraged everything I’ve got, so I’ve got one shot to get this right. My future is on the line, and I went all-in on the flop.

With so much at stake, I defaulted into tackling this trip like I had tackled every other lofty goal in my life. I was using all of my familiar masculine energy: being driven, gritty, strategic, relentless; wrestling my dreams into submission. I demanded the most of myself every day, marching my way across the country, monitoring my pace, cracking the whip at my to-do list. Morning pages – crrrack! Affirmations – sssnap! Hike the canyon – pop!pop! Fuel your body – crrrack! Choose the next destination – sssnap! Drive on – pop!pop! Make camp, Bunk down, Day complete, Now sleep! I said SLEEP. EXECUTE, SoldIER!

I had regimented myself to maximize my odds for success. I hated it when my circumstances would not comply with my regimen. I was frustrated if Justice was moving too slowly, or if she was stopping and sniffing too often. I was irritated if the McCafe did not supply the public outlets I needed to charge my laptop. I lamented when the Internet did not reach my campsite. I seethed when a technical hiccup erased the newsletter I had spent two hours working on.

Week 13 #1000Miles1Year #50States

Week 13 of my project (to log 1,000 foot-miles across all 50 states in 2017) took me into Texas. I contemplated the state mindfully, deciding where I wanted to concentrate my time and attention. I had never been to the Gulf area, so that was quite appealing to me. However, Texas is a BIG state, and I knew that the deeper I drove in, the longer it would take to drive back out. Did it really make sense to go all the way south to the border? I calculated my drive times and fuel expenses for several route options. It was entirely illogical to splurge on my resources and spend my time in the Gulf. But my heart argued with my head.

North Padre Island

I arrived in Corpus Christi, crossed over the Intercoastal, and continued several more miles out to where I would camp. It was a beach site, located on a thin stretch of sand, nestled between Mustang Island and Padre Island National Seashore. Under adverse weather conditions, this tiny strip of land would be fully submerged under the mighty Gulf waters. But today is far from adverse. It has been sunny, the temperature in the upper 60s, a persistent coastal current streaming over the shoreline. The orb of the sun is hypnotic, embarking on its descent behind the dunes, kicking up pinks and purples behind her. I study the high tide line and pitch my tent beyond it, spreading out my footprint amid the grassy dunes but maintaining a direct sight line to the sea.

The shifting sand is a baby-fine granule and feels silky under my feet as I load my sleeping bags and pillow into the tent body. Rain is not expected tonight, so there is no need to cover my quarters with the nylon fly. The mesh top alone offers a 360° view of what will soon be a starlit sky.

I bemoan the fact that my camera battery is dead, as my last three McCafe stops did not yield a single public outlet. Shame to miss photos of this amazing place, so I snap a few with my smartphone instead. Internet and cell service are totally sketchy here, so I sigh, and settle into the tent rather unplugged. I face south toward the crashing waves, sit up tall and cross-legged, and finally breathe in deeply, purposefully, trying to let it all go. Here I am, Gulf Waters. What do you have to teach me?

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#Sunriser

I rose with the sunrise the following morning, raised my head and my phone to catch a photo or twenty. I have spent leisure time on other beaches, Atlantic and Pacific, and I was anticipating the pacifying, rythmic echo of the waves crashing one after another: ka-churrrrr, ka-churrrrr, ka-churrrrr… But the waves sound entirely different today. Here the wind is blowing so relentlessly that there is no lull between the crashing of the waves. The current just pummels the shoreline continuously, so the waves ROAOAR more like a constant whirring jet engine. My tent concaves politely under its pressure.

I decide to spend the whole day right here and log our miles strolling up and down the beach. As the sun continues to rise, and with it the temperature, I throw the rain fly up and over the tent body, snap it firmly into place, velcro it tightly to the tent poles, and tie back the sides, creating a little cabana for myself and Justice. I envision reading and writing to my heart’s content in this retreat from the heat. This will be a productive day.

The wind increases early and steadily. Seawater hangs thickly in the air, such that I taste its saltiness when I lick my lips. The fine-grained sand is picked up easily and carried swiftly by the current, so a layer of grit clings to everything it graces. My sleeping bags are covered in it. My glasses, cell phone, lantern and car windows are filmy from it. I cannot bring any books or writing materials out into this. Work is thwarted once again. I spin the hair around my face and pin it into tiny buns to keep the ragged strands from blowing into my eyes. The dazzling sun, the warm, moist gale, the roaoaring waves lull me into near listlessness. I finally find the time to meditate, something I have been meaning to do for weeks.

A turning point

This time was a critical turning point for me. Obliged to slow down and truly drink in paradise, I frankly realized I had turned this epic journey into a project. I had even started *calling* it a project! And I had assumed the project manager mode instead of allowing myself to be a journeyman. I was not really nourishing myself. I was not giving myself time and space to be present, to be impacted, to be changed.

There were things I wanted from this journey, other than a career change. Beauty. Creative. Spirit. To become more connected, feminine, and free. To find my voice, my message. Where was I making time for these?

It was all too easy to stumble. I am all too good at being a project manager. I have no idea how to just let go and be a journeyman. What if I get it wrong? What if I miss some critical detail? What if Thanksgiving comes and I just end up broke, with no leads and no dream because I neglected to create and execute a viable strategy?

Then again, what if I gain the whole world and lose my soul? Isn’t that what I have been searching for? And wasn’t the land calling out to me?

I am venturing into new territory, on so many levels. I don’t know how to do this. The person I have always wanted to be is right here, making her debut. But I can’t make this happen. Intuition tells me this only comes about when I allow myself to be unmade. I need to stop following my regimen and start following my bliss, and permit that joy to do its own special work in me. It does not need my planning to accomplish this. It does not need my execution. It needs me to be more open, receptive, and paying my attention to Beauty. Creative. Spirit.

Back to my #roots

Pop is worried about me. He has been watching my video logs on YouTube, and he says I am getting too skinny. He thinks I should be eating more rich foods and drinking hot coffee in the morning. He suggested I take a library day to review my goals. He begs the question: How are my present personal sacrifices being leveraged for my future happiness?

My future father-in-law is totally sweet, and I appreciate the sentiment. We have lived very different lives, and I am sure it is difficult for him to imagine why I would be driving alone across the country, imposing mean conditions on myself, chasing a dream that is still largely undefined. You may be wondering the same.

As fate would have it, I am entering the American Plains, a region that holds my roots and many childhood memories. A goal review at this time, in this place, is perfect. We are nearing the end of the year’s first quarter, and I am thus about 25% into my project. Looking toward the future, I take time to remember where I came from – small town USA.

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Agriculture is the basis of Carnegie’s economy, the main production being cotton, wheat, broomcorn, cattle, hogs and poultry. Here, cotton is scattered about the park playgrounds.

My kin on my mother’s side moved to Arizona from Montana when mom was still a young girl, and the family lived modestly as grandpa continued farming and beekeeping. My kin on my father’s side lived in Kansas and rural Oklahoma, where my grandmother had a cellar and canned her own vegetables and preserves.

My earliest memories are walking my sandles through rusty-colored dirt, chasing the baby horned toads because the big ones scared me, staying in the old converted school bus on grandpa’s farm, making mud pies and a delicacy I called “piccolosherie” from old can tabs, pebbles and other items I could scavenge from about the neighborhood. Did you know that if you trap a grasshopper in your hands, it will spit on you?

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My grandmother’s home in Carnegie, population >2,000.

I grew up an army brat, and my family moved frequently. When my father was stateside, we lived on the army bases. When he was abroad, we often lived with family. He would send pictures and postcards from his foreign duty stations. I was beguiled by the images of these iconic structures and exotic landscapes, and I wanted so badly to be there myself. I was jealous that my father got to visit all of these amazing places, while I was stuck at home, day after day, with the same old dirt and rubble and horned toads and spitting grasshoppers.

At least we got to move around when he was back stateside. Each new duty station brought a new adventure for me. I got to go snow tubing on the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I got to tap my toes in real blue grass in Kentucky. One time our family actually got to accompany my father overseas. We lived in Germany for a year, and I thought it was the most magical experience imaginable. Though we lived on the base among the other American families, I attended a Host Nations class at school, where I got to learn practical German and practice what I learned on field trips, like going to the market and trying to buy tomatoes for the evening’s dinner salad. I was hooked.

Our military life ended when I was in fourth grade, and we settled back into Carnegie, Oklahoma. I thought it was utterly boring. I thought I would be stuck in that place for the rest of my life. I spent my summers at the park and the swimming pool, running around barefoot, sleeping outside under the stars, going to the pow-wows and rodeos, anything to bring the sparkle of life to my dull, brown world. I spent my winters devoted to school. We qualified for free breakfast and lunch, and I worked hard to earn good grades and ignore the fact that the other girls rode horses and wore leg warmers and I did not. I believed if I got smart enough, I could make the kind of life I really wanted for myself.

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The rodeo and the pow-wow were the highlights of my summers in Carnegie.

I became obsessed with the spelling bee. I found out that the national competition was held in Washington, DC. If I could make it to nationals, I would get to go there. Words were now my very best friends, my ticket out of town. I took home the practice book, which was a thick pamphlet of stapled papers containing column after alphabetical column of words, words, words. I studied those columns of words all summer long, dreaming of climbing the stairs of the Washington Monument and sitting in the giant lap of Abraham Lincoln himself. That winter, I won my school bee and was runner-up the regional bee. I made it to the state competition in Oklahoma City, where I misspelled the word dishwasher. Well… I was never a very good one. 😉

A couple of years later, my family moved to northern Virginia, and my dream of DC became a reality after all.

It took several months of concentrated effort to remove the southern twang from my voice. Adapting myself to a changing environment was exciting, and I was relieved to distance myself from that dull, dirty existence I once knew. I was metropolitan now. I ate seafood and took a foreign language. I saw cherry blossoms on the Mall and masterpieces by Monet. I wore dangle earrings and saved my money for two months to buy a pair of white jeans and a t-shirt by the Colors of Benetton.

Such would be the motion of my life over the next thirty years.

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Mural on Main Street in Carnegie.

 

Ironically, the pursuit of my dreams has led me back to my roots. Connecting with the land, sleeping under the stars, finding inspiration in the song of the whippoorwill… I missed the meaning in those simple messages long ago. I am learning to listen more carefully now, wearing messy hair and dirty feet once again. My southern twang is gleefully returning to me. Finding my message and my authentic voice is a journey whose time has come.

I don’t view my present circumstances as a sacrifice. I am living in my happiness. A simple life is not necessarily a mean one. I am discarding all of the distractions and discovering what is truly important to me, as the cotton gin separates the fibers from the seed. I am becoming ever more grateful for every small pleasure, like hot coffee and linen napkins and grasshoppers.

The grasshopper is both grounded and free, connected to the earth yet able to fly with the currents. With a single thrust of its strong hind legs, grasshopper takes flight with a leap of faith, not knowing exactly where it will land. I believe it is imperative for me to do the same. I may not know exactly where this leap of faith will take me, but I trust myself to ride the wind.

Facing #fear

Today’s post is in response to a question I received via Facebook messenger from Sunni in Spokane, WA. Sunni was kind enough to give me permission to use her question on my blog, so that my reply might benefit a larger audience. Thank you, Sunni!

Hi Sonya, Well, I just saw your firepit post, and hope you are staying cozy!!! So, I would actually like to take a long road trip, too, mainly to see some of my favorite places around the country, and friends & family along the way. I would probably write & post a journal or blog, too. Its just kind of a fuzzy idea right now, but at 64 years old, I am thinking about ways I can realize some of my still unmet dreams while I am still in good health and energetic. So, I have been wondering how you are financing your trip, and how you feel about driving and camping in remote places by yourself. I would hate to have a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. I used to take road trips around the NW and camp by myself. Not sure if I am feeling as brave anymore… Anyway, when you have a little time, I would love any insights you can share with me. No rush!! I’ll thank you in advance, and hope your trip continues to be the awesome adventure it seems to be!! Btw, now that you are in Branson, where is your next stop in MO? Anyway, happy travels!!! ❤ ❤ ❤. Sunni

First of all – you GO woman!! #girlpower It tickles my heart to hear my friend describe herself as being in good health and energetic, thinking about ways to realize some of her unmet dreams. Too often we speak poorly of ourselves and sell ourselves short. We should be proud of who we are, and we should believe in ourselves enough to reach for our goals. I applaud any woman who is strong enough to pursue her desires, whether it is a solo road trip, a new career challenge, a greater level of fitness, what have you.

I’m going to answer Sunni’s question in two parts, the first being how I feel about taking this kind of journey by myself. The second, how I am financing my trip, I will address in a second post soon.

How do I feel about driving and camping in remote places by myself?

This question proceeds from a place where fear dwells. So let me tell you how I feel about fear. Yes, I am dealing with fear issues during my journey. I am well aware of the dangers that attend this challenge. It is possible that I may face danger from an animal. It is possible that I may face danger from a human. It is possible that I may face danger from mechanical failure, accident, weather, etc. These are all things that could happen, and these are things that I cannot control. I refuse to let fear of these things rule over me.

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Honestly, facing danger is just a part of living. I know a man who came face to face with a Florida panther in his quiet neighborhood, and he was just stepping out his front door for work that morning. Tornadoes tore through dozens of homes the Midwest a week ago, just a few miles from where I slept safely in my campsite under cover of the very same storm. Can we ever construct a life that is safe, or even safer, by making one set of choices over another? This is not to say that we are to behave in a way that is reckless or irresponsible, only that fear should not be the driving force behind our decisions.

There is a danger I give credence and deference to. I believe it to be a more clear and present danger than anything else that could happen. It is the danger of living a life below my ability because I was afraid of what might go wrong. This is what I fear most. It is the danger of regret. This is a danger I can control, and I summon all that is within me to do so.

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I made a decision long ago that fear would not be my master. I acknowledge that I have fears, and some of them are based on legitimate dangers, but I don’t let those fears call the shots in my life. If ever a fear tries to bully me, I face that fear head on and put it in its place. For example, I had a debilitating fear of heights. So what did I do about it? I took up rock climbing. I pushed myself, shaking and trembling, higher and higher until I rang that bell. I do it over and over again. I ring that bell in the face of fear. I stand up to that bully until fear is the one cowering at my feet.

That is how I handle the fears that are being uncovered during this journey. I do not pretend that they are not real. I do not pretend that they do not represent a legitimate, possible danger. I am not reckless nor irresponsible. I simply face them, acknowledge them and receive information from them. I treat fear like a consultant and allow it to tell me what it feels I need to know. Fear informs my decisions, but it does not control them. I am the master of my own destiny.

Fear is powerful! Employ that power in your favor.

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#Cemetery overnight

Yes, I slept in a cemetery last night. Technically, I was not actually IN the cemetery. I was camped well outside the fence. (That is why the ghosts could not get to me.) hahaha

I was driving into Missouri from Western Kentucky. I was completely unfamiliar with the area I was entering; just following my GPS to the free campsite. I came upon a sign pointed right> toward the recreation area, but my GPS pointed me straight ahead^ toward the camp. I obeyed my GPS. I reasoned to myself, “Maybe the paid camping is over there, and the free camping is over here.” It was totally plausible.

When the familiar female maps voice lilted, “You’ve arrived,” I crept to a stop, looked around and furrowed my brow. “Are you sure?” I responded. Number one, I was sitting in the middle of the dirt road I was following. Number two, I was in a cemetery. There were at least three distinct plot areas I could see from where I sat: one large, fenced-in plot stretching out on my left, and two open, smaller plots falling behind me. A small white church sat on the grounds as well. Where exactly have I arrived?

I scanned the area for any No Trespassing! signs. There were none. There was, however, a sign on the front of the little white church that read, “YE WHO TAKE SHELTER HERE REMEMBER THIS IS GOD’S HOUSE”. Well, they aren’t discouraging visitors, I thought.

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I contemplated what to do next. I figured that the actual campsite must be further down the way. I continued following the dirt road until it dead-ended (pardon the pun) just above Lake Ouachita in a wide, pebbled, circular clearing that looked like any other secluded campsite I had visited in my travels. There was even the charred remnants of a campfire. The lake flung itself out gracefully from east to west, and the sun was beginning its decent. A few careful steps down the dirt and rock and embankment, and I would be standing on the beach. It seemed a very fine campsite indeed, save for the cemetery.

I have become accustomed to cemeteries, especially in my travels. I have toured and photographed a number of grave sites recently. I didn’t feel a sense of creepiness at all. On the contrary, I have developed a deep reverence for these grounds, the love and memories they hold, and the holy voids they contain.

I decided to stay. I really liked the place. The birds were singing and the squirrels were playing. The water was gently lapping the shore below. The sky was being painted by the setting sun. It was peaceful and serene, and I was sure to have it all to myself. This was a gift.

Lake Ouachita-1

The evening progressed steadily and surely toward dusk. I took some photographs, just for fun. I fed Justice and then myself. There was no internet here, but I had cell service, and I enjoyed my usual evening chat with my fiance. After, it was silent.

As the dark of night settled over us, the first uneasy stirrings began. My mind got edgy and disturbed. I kept feeling the urge to look over my shoulder, back toward the cemetery. I told myself I was being silly. But my mind kept trying to project images from that movie, The Sixth Sense. I see dead people. It reminded me how the ghosts wanted to interact with the living boy. They wanted something from him. I shuddered. Then I gently but firmly pushed the images out of my mind. I refused to entertain them, no matter how my psyche complained.

Suddenly my mind gripped me and insisted I turn the car around to face the exit, right now do it now, just in case we needed to make a quick getaway. I actually laughed out loud at this suggestion. Oh how the mind can play games with you, if you let it. I took a deep breath. I declined. I wanted the car facing east, so I could watch the sunrise in the morning.

All night long, my mind tried to get me quaking with thoughts and feelings related to the cemetery nearby. Over and over I pushed them gently and firmly aside. I remember being plagued by many such nights as a little girl, when I cowered under the covers, eyes wide, fearing the monster under my bed or the demon in my closet. Only I am older and stronger now. Fear is not my master. Should something extra-sensory actually occur, I trusted myself to know what to do in that moment. Worry is not a welcome bedfellow. This I have learned with great gratitude.

Bucktown Cemetary-2

In the morning, I decided to explore and honor the cemetery and the church before moving on. I found out these grounds are all that remain of the original location of the town of Buckville. The residents once built their lives in the area now covered by Lake Ouachita. The church itself had been moved from the valley floor in 1951 to prevent it from being covered by water. It is now listed on the registry of historic places.

I had spent the night on hallowed grounds. I had wrestled with my fear. Now I was walking away with my blessing. You can do the same. It doesn’t take a cemetery to confront the fears in your mind. Grace and peace belong to any who do likewise.

#Sunriser

The little voice in my head woke me up this morning. “C’mon! C’mon! C’mon! The sun is going to come up – right over there! Right over the lake!”

How did the little voice know where the sun was going to come up? And how is she so full of energy?

Groggy, I don’t even bother to open my eyes. I replied to the little voice in my head, “That would be very lovely to see, if the sun were coming up over the lake… and if I could move.” It had been a rough night. Edward and I had words. I went to sleep late. It rained all night. The pelting rain fell loudly on my car top, and I tossed and turned fitfully beneath it.

“C’mon! C’mon!” The little voice was so insistent. She reminded me that the boat ramp was right off the water, and that I could pull the car right up to it. The words just tumbled out of her, “We could watch the sunrise from the car, and you wouldn’t even have to be cold!”

How did she know all of this?!? I am still sleep-disoriented, and I can barely remember where exactly we made camp last night.

However…

Photographing a beautiful sunrise from my vehicle, sipping camp coffee with the heat blowing… it did sound lovely. Much more lovely than the two previous sunrise shoots, where my hands went numb and my teeth went chattering. The little voice obviously was not going to let me go back to sleep anyway.

“Okay, okay. I’m moving.” I actually spoke this out loud – to the little voice in my head. I start working my way through my morning routine. I stuff my pillow into the feet of my sleeping bag. I put Justice on her leash and let her outside.

“Hurry up! Hurry up!” she squeals. “We are going to miss it!”

I look around me while I wait for Justice to do her business. The dark is giving way to the light. I am starting to make out the shape of the trees, the picnic table, the fire pit. I agree, the sun will be coming up very soon. I decide I can brew my coffee from the boat ramp, just in case the little voice is right.

I warm up the car and return the driver’s seat to the drive position. My slipper nudges the gas pedal, and we move forward onto the dirt embankment, then up onto the gravel road. It’s less than a mile to the clearing I found at the end of this road yesterday, and the boat ramp is at the far end of that.

I survey the lake and the tree line and choose what I hope will be a good vantage point, maneuvering the car to point due east with room for me to jump in and out for photographs.

I light up my camp stove and wait for the water to boil. It’s a nippy 45 degrees, and a cup of hot coffee will do as much as the sun to brighten my day.

Meanwhile, the little girl inside me is practically bouncing with anticipation.

Sure enough, the clouds begin to tinge pink just over the treeline, and the water below picks up a pink hue as well. I smile in spite of myself. This is lovely indeed. The sun inched her way up, serene and subtle, winking through the clouds at the little girl inside me.

I am sipping my rocket-brewed coffee at Cordell Hull Lake, somewhere between Nashville and Knoxville. There is not another soul in sight. The birds are singing, and I can distinguish at least three different calls. They are each saying, “Good Morning!” in their own tongue.

I am now delighted that the little voice woke me up with such insistence. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this. What a glorious scene, and I am the only actor in it. Save for the sun. Oh and Justice. Oh and the birds. And the trees and the lake. Okay, we are a symphony, each playing our own special part. I feel so fortunate and grateful to be here. Yesterday has passed. Today has dawned anew.