Encounter on a train

My friend Ruth and I parted ways at Union Station, she to Hampton via Greyhound for her brother’s funeral and I to my sister Sheila’s via the Metro. We connected at the Amtrak station in Atlanta, walked to the train together, but sat on separate rows. I’m so glad I accepted her invitation for coffee then breakfast a few hours later. 

I listened as she regaled me with stories from her life’s journey. There was difficulty and pain, yes, but springing from that was hope and eventual love and happiness. We should all be open to such encounters; we never know what gifts await us. 

Included here is the pic of LOVE at the Culpeper, VA stop. I made it from the dining car window as Ruth and I sat enjoying each other’s company. 

  

Reading my journal

I decided a few weeks ago that I should keep my journals close to me instead of stored in my niece’s garage twenty minutes away. So last week, I retrieved my beloveds. I’ve  been reading one from 2011 and came across this entry last night. And because I catalogue my photos by place and date, I was able to find the pic I took that day in Indian Springs State Park in Flovilla, GA. 

July 6, 2011: I’m so grateful for this beautiful and serene place. God is here, and it’s evidenced everywhere I look…from the ripples on the water to the algae underneath, even in the fly that just lighted on my knee. The peace, the calm, the quiet are all indicative of how God desires us to be, and we can be if we’ll edge out ego instead of God. 

curious creature

curious creature

 
I just saw the most curious creature; it looks like an ant carrying a load of debris but upon closer inspection, it’s not an ant. Whatever it is, it’s carrying a load at least 100 times larger than itself. It crawled on the handle of my bag and when I tried to bump it free, it clung and didn’t budge. It was still for a few moments, but it’s on the move again now that I’m no longer bothering it. I can’t zoom in enough to get a good shot of it, but maybe it’s a bug camouflaged as debris, huh? Anyway, it’s more evidence of God in His awesome wonder.

Saying goodbye

I purchased my Jeep Cherokee Sport brand new in December 1998. She was forest green and a lot more fun to drive than the Grand Cherokee I’d traded for her.

Since that time, she and I have traveled nearly 300,000 highway and dirt road miles. We even mud bogged a few times on the slippery, rain-soaked dirt road leading to Mama’s house.

I listened to many hours of the Tom Joyner Morning Show in that truck, laughing along with Tom and Sybil at J. Anthony Brown’s antics and murdered hits.

I sang along with my favorite songs and listened to countless hours of audio books and sermons.

There were even times when I worked through unresolved issues while talking them out into the voice recorder I kept in the truck for that purpose.

I ran countless errands and racked up thousands of cell phone minutes talking to friends and family during the commute home from work.

I visited many of Georgia’s state parks and lakes, dipped my toes in the Ocmulgee and Chattahoochee Rivers, and walked the shores of Georgia and Florida beaches with nieces, sisters, and friends.

A friend and I took what we refer to as a covered-bridge tour through Athens to Comer, Georgia. One bridge we saw, another we felt.

I visited a Georgia civil war battlefield still haunted by the soldiers who fought and died there, soldiers who continue to march and whose footsteps were so clear that I looked over my shoulder several times to see who was approaching.

I spent five months driving 20,684 miles on a cross-country road trip that took me across the state lines of 27 states as well as the borders of Mexico and Canada.

We drove the Pacific Coast Highway in California and walked along the Boise River as it ran through Boise, Idaho.

We crossed the I. B. Perrin Bridge into Twin Falls, Idaho and saw the spot where Evil Knievel attempted his jump across Snake River Canyon.

We crossed the Pecos River in Texas, Deception Pass in Washington state, the Rio Grande as it ran between the borders of the US and Mexico, and sat on the steps of the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston.

We visited 26 state capitals (I missed Sacramento, California) and spent the weekend in Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, whose grounds were so beautiful and serene that I hung out there not once but three times! I also saw the C&NW Railroad Bridge, the only remaining swing bridge in South Dakota.

Yes, I did a whole lot of living in my Jeep and because I was gonna drive her “’til the wheels fell off,” I expected to do a lot more. I’d even been toying with the idea of a road trip up the east coast, visiting those states I missed on the cross-country trip: Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Michigan.

That all came to an end, though, that day in late January 2015, a few days before my trip to Abu Dhabi, when parties unknown decided to take her from me. At 8:45 am, she was parked in front of my sister’s Atlanta apartment but by 1 pm, she was gone. The police recovered her, but she is no longer driveable.

With the shock, anger, and grief behind me, I now await the appearance of my next road warrior, the one with which I’ll create new memories, cover different ground, and photograph some new sights. Or perhaps there’s a different, even better plan afoot. Time will definitely tell but until then, life remains grand.

 

A freedom journey

Nearly five years ago, I chose a lifestyle of freedom that was brought on by a desire to, as Wayne Dyer put it, “travel light”. I discovered along the way, though, that traveling light involved more than ridding myself of possessions: of getting rid of those three closets of shoes; the five closets and drawer upon drawer of clothes; the shelves and cases of CDs and DVDs; all of the gadgets, doodads, and knickknacks I’d packed away decades earlier; and most difficult of all, my library of hundreds and hundreds of books.

I discovered that I also needed to rid myself of attitudes and beliefs that no longer served me; of emotional voids that dictated a search outside myself to be filled; a deep-rooted fear that didn’t allow me to see the possibility of anything beyond what I was capable of doing myself; and the anger and sadness that revealed themselves in ways I was unaware. I NEEDED TO BE FREE!

So, after two years of gradually getting rid of stuff and wrestling with the fear of living without a steady income, I gave up my job of almost fifteen years; a job that was challenging, rewarding, and had terrific benefits. The problem, though, was that I’d begun to feel as though it were sapping my life blood; I only had energy enough every evening to eat and sleep. So yes, it was definitely time for a change.

Sure, I could’ve looked for a different job, but there was something deeper at work than the call to freedom and minimalism, and it was my need to trust God in a way I never had before. So, I heeded the call and began what I’ve recently begun referring to as my freedom journey.

For the most part, the journey has been one of revelation and adventure. A review yesterday of just a few of the thousands of pictures I’ve made along the way reminded me of just how blessed I am. I’ve explored parks, rivers, oceans, streams, mountains, canyons, flatlands, and badlands in towns and cities from the east to the west coasts of the United States.

I spent a month recently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) marveling over its deserts, sand dunes, camels, and mountains; the food, coffee, and tea; the Persian Gulf; the Sheikh’s palace and mosques (both regular and Grand); as well as the country’s reverence for God as evidenced by the calls to prayer that go out five times a day everyday.

Those are the fun times…the times when I feel the most free and the most blessed.

Other times, however, I’m required to look within for the reasons why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. The past several days was one such time.

First of all, my car was stolen and recovered right before I left for the UAE. As I processed through the emotions of that violation, I moved from shock to disbelief to anger to grief then back to anger again. But when I boarded that plane for the fourteen-hour flight to Dubai that Sunday evening, I resolved to leave it all behind. No, that violation would not be interfering with this trip of a lifetime, and it didn’t.

Back on US soil a month later, however, I was confronted with my car situation as well as the jet lag from the nine-hour time difference, and it was not a pretty picture. As I made call after call to resolve repair of my car, my emotions were all over the place. I was so frazzled that I finally decided to just rest and allow my body clock to sync.

More than a week later, I started the process again, and again my emotions were all over the place. Thus began my journey to get to the bottom of what was really going on.

I had to acknowledge first that I was dealing with the shame of not having full coverage insurance on my vehicle. Why I’d be ashamed of that, I don’t know…well, yes, I do know. It’s not uncommon to carry only liability coverage on older vehicles and since my car was sixteen years old, I’d cancelled the comprehensive part of my coverage. But the Lydia who always made sure her ducks were in a row in the past now found herself needing to repair a vehicle and not having the funds necessary to do it. That, too, would’ve been unheard of for the Lydia whose life was planned out and lived in the fear of “what ifs”; that Lydia made sure she was prepared to handle every “what if”.

I decided a few days later, though, that it wouldn’t be prudent to repair the car; the repairs would cost more than the car was actually worth and beyond that, I couldn’t be certain the repairs would resolve all of its issues.

“What to do now?” I asked. I can’t afford to repair the car, and I’m certainly in no position to buy a new one. My journal entry that day reads, “My question then is what will I do without a car?” As I wrote that entry, I heard, “What are you doing without it now?” I chuckled because I was, in fact, doing ok without it and even had access to my sister’s car for the next several days while she was in Los Angeles.

Yes, I knew that God would provide what I needed–He’d proven that many times already–so I didn’t go into panic mode as would have been my first stop a couple of years ago. That’s progress!

As I type this today, I’m also “recovering” from the further realization that I still had shame attached to my lifestyle choice. I discovered in the process that my old voice–the voice that’s strong, loud, critical, and condemning–is very much alive and that we’ll have to battle from time to time.

Yes, hers is the voice of fear, shame, and condemnation and while I may be unable to silence her completely–and may even fall victim to her sometimes–I know that I’m equipped to overcome her jabs.

I’m in good hands–the BEST hands; the evidence is all around me: in the family and friends who’ve supported and blessed me in ways too numerous to mention; in my sisters who assure me that the judgment I sometimes feel isn’t from them; in the fact that I always have what I need; in the many places I’ve visited and the photos I’ve made since embarking upon this journey; and in the fact that I live a lifestyle of freedom in not only a state of belief and trust, but in complete knowing that everything’s gonna be ok. The evidence, too, is in God who made all of this possible.

A friend said to me the other day that, “I have no desire to step out on faith like you did.” I totally understand that. I don’t know exactly why I was called to do it but what I do know is that it gives my life purpose; it gives me the opportunity to inspire others in ways I would’ve been unable to otherwise; and it gives me the opportunity to relive–or live for the first time–the times I missed because of fear and adult responsibilities as a child. 

Another thing my freedom journey has taught me is that it is never too late to live my dreams and for that, I’m immensely grateful.

My last day in Abu Dhabi

Sis and I headed out that Saturday morning to tour an organic farm she’d heard about. As fate would have it, we missed our turn and ended up roaming around Al Ain instead. I’m a farm girl, yes, but I was more interested in seeing more of Al Ain that day than a farm. Talk about excitement! I was like a kid in a candy store as we encountered scene after scene of wonderfulness. A friend suggested earlier today that I was probably wishing I had three sets of eyes, and I had to agree. The road ahead and the scenes to my right were covered, but I dare not think of all I probably missed on my left as we road along. I captured all I could, but there’s nothing like experiencing the beauty and uniqueness of this country in person. I was filled with joy as I bore witness, and I hope you’re able to feel some of it as you view these pictures.

Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum

There’s something about visiting historic landmarks, of walking the same ground, of sharing the same space as people of long ago. This experience was no different. Except for visitors, the Sheikh Zayed’s palace, situated near the Hili Oasis in Al Ain, is empty now, but I imagined the life energy that once inhabited it—the Sheikh and his family, the workers, the visitors.

Historic decisions were made, yes, but the plain old stuff of everyday living happened as well and I felt it all, or maybe I just imagined I did. Either way, I was moved as I traversed the halls, stepping inside the majlis (meeting rooms) and visualizing the discussions that took place between the leaders and elders.

I was moved as I imagined the children studying then playing in the courtyards, the women having tea or coffee and tending their children, the cooks stirring those oversized pots as they prepared meals fit for a king.

I pictured the Sheikh driving his Land Rover back to the palace as he returned home from his regular visits with the Bedouin.

I imagined the aroma of frankincense, myrrh, cassia, and cinnamon as its fragrant white smoke wafted from the burners placed throughout the palace.

I imagined, too, how hot it must’ve been and wondered if I could’ve survived the 100+ degree heat there in the desert.

It was all there, and I felt it…or maybe I just imagined I did.

Our desert safari

Our safari afternoon began when we met our driver at Al Jimi Mall. For the next half hour or so, we admired the dunes and date trees along the highway.

Off the highway, we caught sight of a caravan of camels crossing the desert road ahead of us.

At our desert oasis, we kicked off our shoes and walked barefoot in the sand and despite the heat, the sand was cool between our toes.

During the dune bash, our driver took us on a high-speed ride up and down the sand dunes—some steep, some not so steep—sometimes taking us to the very edge of a dune where it looked as if we might fall off!

During the ride, we stopped to make photos and climbed atop a dune. My niece and her friend, not allowing the thought of the climb back up to deter them, decided to run down the other side. And yes, the walk, which was more of a crawl for one, was indeed a struggle!!

The girls went quad riding while sis and I stayed behind to photograph them.

Camel rides were available, too, but we declined. Bellowing its displeasure, one of the camels made it clear that he wasn’t up for giving any rides, and the one person who insisted was not so politely disembarked.

Another highlight of the afternoon was the henna painting. I’d seen others wearing henna tattoos, but I’d never had one myself. Now, I’ll be sporting mine for the next several days.

Before dinner, we were audience to a falcon show. Our host gave us the history of the falcon, which is the UAE’s national bird, before the trainer demonstrated the falcon’s hunting procedure.

A highlight, too, was being photographed wearing the traditional abayas, burqas, jeweled headpieces, and necklaces.

After sunset, we convened to our tent for dinner then watched a “rags to riches” documentary about the history of the United Arab Emirates while sipping chai under the stars.

What an adventure!