I wrote a blog in December entitled, “Travel Post From Atlanta: The Walk Outside Our Door,” in which I argued one doesn’t have to get far away to get away. We have been spending the last week on Norris Lake in East Tennessee. This is a place that is as familiar to us as our home in Atlanta. While we have been here many times over the last eight years or so, I had never taken the walk all the way up the hill back up to the road. Instead I had worked out in the small fitness center watching CNN and listening to music on the headphones.
This year I have largely abandoned the fitness center in order to head uphill and pay more attention to where we are. Each day I have taken the hour long walk I have seen different things, including a red fox and a great horned owl. I have also seen rabbits everywhere.
I have only taken the camera with me once, and unfortunately it was the haziest day so far. I am still learning the hard way to take the camera every time both because of the photographs I will miss otherwise and because of the fact that having it influences the way I see what is around me. I wrote about this idea on a post entitled, “A Way of Seeing: Learning to Make Photographs.”In short, I notice more and observe somewhat differently when I have a camera. For instance, I had walked by the tree below several times before I took notice of the plank that has grown up within it. Any idea how this happened?
Because of the early morning fog and haze, the walk didn’t offer up any great shots of the big view from the ridge top, but being naive, I tried to get one any way.
At the top of the ridge is the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church. Its cemetery has very recent stones as well as some weathered limestone ones that appear to go back to the mid-1800s. I particularly liked the wreaths on the door.
After the stop by the church the walk is all down hill detouring from the route back to the start in order the stop by the marina. Down below even with the dry conditions this summer, the foliage is lush enough to provide respite from the heat if not the humidity.
From the Marina it is a short walk along the lake back to where we are stay.
I visited Pearl Harbor last week, and I have been thinking about it since. In fact I have been thinking about it in combination with two other sacred places I have visited over the last several years—the American Cemetery in Cambridge, England and the American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia. It felt important to me to see these places. Even more, it felt like a responsibility.
In England and in Tunisia, I went with my daughter and wife on July Fourth, 2005 and 2010 respectively.
At each place there is a kind of immediacy that can easily escape me when I reflect on the sacrifices the generation that fought and won the Second World War made. In Cambridge, this feeling hit me when I first entered the small chapel at the cemetery where on the ceiling is a mosaic that represents planes flying across a blue sky. It also hit me when I visited the Eagle Pub near Corpus Christi College where many American Pilots and Crew stood on chairs and wrote their names, and often their flight group, on the ceiling.
In Tunisia, the feeling was most poignant when my daughter asked me why there were some markers that had no name and others where more than one person had been interred. I don’t remember exactly what I said to her, but I do remember stumbling through my response.
At the USS Arizona Memorial, the oil that still seeps from the wreck below the surface struck me. Somehow its rainbow sheen splotched on the surface of the harbor and drifting to sea made December 7, 1941 feel like more of a living tragedy than the famous photographs of its last horrific minute on the surface ever could.
Throughout history and literature is the demand that we remember those who have sacrificed everything for others. It is the least we can do.
I have just returned from a trip to Oahu, Hawaii, and I was reminded time and again of a simple truth: beautiful places are nourishing. From a lovely afternoon hiking up Diamond Head above Waikiki to a day spent in Lanikai, during which we kayaked to a small island, swam in a cove, snorkeled, and hiked up to pill boxes set over 500 feet above the small beach community, I felt stronger at the end of each day than I did at the start. It was definitely good to get pulled out of my routine and tap into a different rhythm.
It was the last beignet that put me over. I have been walking along the edge for days. Today it was the Camellia Grill in the French Quarter for breakfast, a Muffeletta from Central Grocery for lunch, and Café Du Monde this afternoon. I need an intervention.
Leaving Atlanta last Tuesday for Seattle, flying to New Orleans overnight on Friday/Saturday and now on the final night of the trip before heading home, I have eaten and eaten and eaten. From a Space Needle Rotating Restaurant calorie fest to a lovely brunch at Windsor Court to an amazing lunch Commander’s Palace, the world has been my buffet. And tonight it has to stop. It is late to give up something for Lent, but here goes…