Learning New Things

They literally stopped me on my morning walk – the yellow daffodil blooms vibrant against a deep green hillside.  I pulled my cell phone out of my jacket pocket to take a picture.  I’ve wanted to take a photography class but haven’t made it a priority yet.  In the meantime, I’ve been playing with the settings on my phone.  Changing the “Exposure Level,” I’ve learned, changes the amount of light – though I don’t know what setting this would be on my actual camera.  Today, I learned I have both black-and-white and sepia options.  Playing around, I got some shots I’m actually quite proud of!



I came home and decided to tackle the leftover roasted chicken in the fridge.  The book I just finished (Kitchen Counter Cooking School) inspired me to make my own chicken stock for the first time in my life.  It’s very simple, and a whole lot cheaper than buying chicken broth (much less sodium, too!).  I yanked the leg to separate it from the rest of the chicken and stopped cold – look at that knee joint!  Glistening cartilage at the end of the femur, the ACL I just tore staring me right in the face.  I don’t think I’ll ever stop being fascinated by anatomy.  Anyway, my stock now cools on the front porch and smells delicious.

A Stop Along the Way

As we fiddled with the buckle across the toes on a pair of sandals, I said to the saleswoman “Well, once we get it right, I hope I never have to change them again.”

“If you do, you could just come back,” she responded.

“Well, I’m actually moving to North Carolina,” I said.

“Oh really?  Where?” she asked.

“Brasstown, to a place called the John Campbell Folk School,” I said.

Her eyes grew big.  “My daughter has dreamed about going there!  And she wants to take her grandfather, too.”

“Oh – she must get there.  She’ll love it, I’m sure.  And he will, too.”  I said this without knowing anything about her daughter…because anyone who has “dreamed” of going to JCCFS will surely love it.

The woman went on to explain that her daughter went to college in western North Carolina and wanted to get to JCCFS before she left, but for whatever reason was unable to get there.  The more we talked, the more I was convinced that it was destiny that I spotted this consignment shop in a small town in New Jersey on my drive from Galloway to Lancaster, PA.

In just a few minutes, we were agreeing that God (or the universe or whatever you want to call it) sends us what we need when we need it.  For her daughter, it was the perfect job – one that gives her two months off and an apartment.  This is a young woman who did mission work in Cambodia and went to DC to represent her local high school’s Save Darfur campaign.  So that two month break will be well-used I’m sure.

“Just a little – that’s all they need,” the woman said.  A little what?  A little belief that whatever they want to do can be done – even if they have no idea how.  Because once you put it out there, the universe has a habit of sending you what you need, we agreed.

I gave the woman my blog address to pass on to her daughter.  “I can’t wait to tell her!” she said as she rang up my purchases.  She gave me her card.  “Let me put my name on it,” she said as she crossed out the name of the current owner and wrote her own.  She explained that she was in the process of buying the store.  She had worked there for a year, and was given first offer when the owner decided to sell.  She talked it over with her husband, and in just a few days time they decided to do it.

“Have you ever been a business owner before?” I asked.

“Never!” she said.

“Oh, how exciting!” I responded.

And this is what I love about traveling.  I didn’t see any sites today.  Didn’t drive any multi-lane highways.  I stopped in a little town at a consignment shop and had a conversation.  That one conversation reassured me that I’m on the right path – and maybe I assured someone else that she, too, is on the right pathJ

On Simple Pleasures

“That was the best part of my week here,” said the gentleman walking down the trail with us.  I smiled, but didn’t comment as it wasn’t my compliment to take.  The compliment was meant for the other two people walking the trail with me: my friend John and his father – who had, just a few minutes before, put away their guitars after playing and singing around a campfire.  “I’m going to be sure to tell them that they need to keep you guys playing here,” the guy went on.

As wonderful a compliment as this was, here’s what makes it even more special: This wasn’t two guys playing music at a state campground.  No, far from it.  This was a $400 per night resort.  The kind of place where the men still have to wear suit jackets to dinner.  A turn-of-the-century building far enough from civilization that they have to have their own fire company and generate their own power.  The kind of place where guests don’t build campfires themselves – the activities staff builds them.  And if you want a s’more around that campfire, you don’t go get a stick on which to roast your marshmallow – the staff provides not only the heavy-duty metal prong but also the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers.  And they pay two guys to come in and sing campfire songs with you.  So here was a guy getting waited on hand and foot at a top-of-the-line resort and his favorite part?  Sitting around a campfire singing songs.  Thank God for small pleasures.

But you know what’s even better?  You don’t need to spend $400 to get the experience.  There are state parks and campgrounds all over the country where, for much less money, you can sing to your heart’s content.  But you might have to bring your own s’more supplies.