Friday, May 29, 2009

South Carolina

I returned home to Hershey, PA, final grades in hand, this past Monday after two weeks of some intense stuff. I learned many things and found some new delights in life during those times. I described some of them in the post previously (such as long walks and cooking with Rachel and going down rivers in boats). I learned others in the following nine days that involved road tripping to Francis Marion National Forest, camping in various places, paddling somewhere new everyday, meeting a slew of lovely people, and road tripping home. It was intense; it was long; it was challenging; it was more than rewarding.

Some "new"s for me:
-Living without much... such as running water and toilet facilities.
-Hiking thirteen miles.
-Finding birds more interesting than trees (at times).
-Sleeping on a beach under the stars. And being very rained on and then swarmed by bugs.
-Eating peach cobbler for breakfast one morning.
-Finding country music perfect and singing it compulsively.
-Paddling through a field of yellow flowers.
-Watching a gator surface on a river as the sun sets.

We camped in three locations. The trip was designed for us to be in the interior of the low country in the beginning, move to the marshlands and in the intercoastal waterway, and ending in the wide open world of the beach and Capper's Island. We paddled everyday for most of the day and had guides who told us about the historical places we were seeing and would never have known on our own. It was amazing how much there was to know about these back woods areas just north of Charleston and how much there was to love. I can't fathom growing up there but I was learning to value its histories and characters and cultures and the geography that underlies and shapes everything we see. It made me want to know Pennsylvania with that kind of appreciation and intimacy. It was a beautiful place.

And I will never forget being unable to sleep Thursday night after the talk around the fire, finding a bush "one far see" away, and standing for half an hour watching the stars be clear and calm. And six shooting stars.

And I will never forget kayaking up Awendaw creek in our first day of sunshine (our fourth paddle of the week), feet dragging in the salt water, smelling marsh grass, and singing hymns under my breath. "Praise Him all Creatures here below."

Some "Nature" we saw:
-Swallow tailed kite, an endangered bird that was astonishing and overwhelming to see.
-A loggerhead turtle (dead)
-A bald eagle hunting on the waterway
-Dolphins with a baby
-Alligators (one was twelve feet long)
-Cyprus Trees hundreds of years old

Some History:
-Hamption Plantation (One of my favorite moments. We wandered around quietly and spun in the ballroom and played frisbee behind George Washington's oak tree. My frisbee got caught in it but Kalob saved it)

-An abondoned rice canal and many former rice fields (rice canal below)

-Shards of pottery over a thousand years old. We found them along the marshbeds and held time in our hands.
-Seewee Indian shell rings.

And I can't end this without mentioning the lovely people that I was given the chance to know. I heard some of their stories, watching them interact, saw our quirks and differences somehow work in a team. It was a time of some quiet for me, and there was a distance between me and them that could not be entirely overcome which saddened me. But I think it was supposed to be this way... our quiet times and me listening to them be honest around the fire in the dark, tongues and hearts loosened by the warmth and the dark and fatigue and the hum of the guitar strings. I loved the hours before bed, always the same songs again and again, and the sound of Eric and Kalob singing.

During the day, there were conversations on the river, like Hannah and I talking for 45 minutes on a hidden porch swing, arguing about poetry and prose with Matt, praying with and learning from Adam, answering Kalob's unexpected questions and interests, and playing "Would You Rather" for hours with Haley and Brittany.

Each and every one of them was completely unique, quirky, unexpected, and deep. Each had stories and thoughts and I completely misjudged them all when I first knew them. You simply cannot expect that what someone gives on the surface to be who they are. There is so much underneath that fills them out. They are not vacuous space fillers but people with personalities and characters. I just can't get over their stories that help color in who they are. I can (in one sense) agree with Hannah: "It restores your faith in humanity." I don't really have any faith in humanity and still don't, but it was a restoration of my value in the "imago dei" that happens even when we are walking directly opposite to that. It is something to look for in love in those I encounter.

I miss them.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


This week has been an intense one, to say the least. I have woken up each morning in great worry over what clothes I should wear or bring for that day on the water. It seems odd to adjust my clothing so minutely to the whims of the Central Pennsylvania sky. I have also learned a new skill that involves very oddly shaped and brightly colored boats. I've also gone from falling out every few moments in the pool to making it down Knife Finger Falls with only a little extra water in the boat. This has been challenging, to say the least, and exhausting but also something that I have enjoyed. Even in the physical stress of paddling all day, I've been able to wind down from the semester and rest. It is something I would definitely love to keep doing. Water can be so peaceful and so dynamic and surprising. And I've seen things that I wouldn't have known to look for otherwise, such as seeing a rainbow that was a full circle around the sun or an elk on the bank or a swimming snake. I'm also realizing how often I live in a disconnect between my thoughts and my actions. I am comfortable in classrooms, sparring with words and ideas. I am not comfortable doing with my hands and body. I don't have that option here. Of all the things that I am learning from this class, it is the meeting of the two that will create two halves of living.

And. I turned twenty. I missed being home for it, but it couldn't be helped and God provided some dear friends from the area to celebrate with me. Rachel and I have been quite domestic this past week and topped it all off with two lovely cakes and party hosting. Maggie, Chelsea, Rachel, Steve, and Sarah came in and out during the evening which included frisbee throwing, kitchen sitting, candle blowing out (an intense adventure!), French film discussing, a walk through electric fences up to see the stars, and creating a mental book of "Dana's Faces" with interpretations. Such good times and ones I did not deserve or appreciate enough in the moment.

I leave tomorrow for South Carolina and the final class portion of this semester. I'll be there until May 25 when we drive back to State College and then to home. I won't have computer access but will occasionally turn on the cell phone. Then it will be three weeks till Ocean City Beach Project! I will be posting extensive information about that soon.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

So It Is True...

... I HAVE been terrible about posting in the past...


I'm truly sorry. Can I offer an excuse? Really you don't have to-- alright, if you insist. I know you are so eager to know what has kept me from the art of blogging.

In a word: finals.

Not necessarily final exams but the myriad of final anything that was taking place. I had several final papers and projects along with a few exams. I had final Nav Nights and final Bible Studies and final hang outs and final Theological Tuesdays and final naps on the Mall grass to take and final Maryn mixes to listen to and final Websters visits to make and final drinking Tazo teas under large, dark, spreading green trees.

It sounds like I did nothing but leisure in the past month. I didn't. I wrote a great deal for classes and read an even greater deal. But all of this is very trite and meaningless since the entire collegiate world is in the grips of panic and stress. Can I complain? Not really. But I am glad that the endings are almost done ending and that I can now look with great anticipation toward beginnings.

For example: my transition time from school into summer will be with Eng 297: The Beach taught by Professor Bob Burkholder. I have been in weekly classes with him and twelve other students, and have posted about it before. I'll be starting the kayak training this coming Monday and next Sunday we will drive to South Carolina (about thirty miles north of Charleston) for our trip. I'm very excited and very aware that I'm not prepared at all. However, I think the movement from class into other kinds of work will be very helpful for me to start focusing on Ocean City Beach Project, which will be my home from June 13 through August 8. But more on that another time.

I've missed my sisters. Tonight, Gretchen and I lip synched to songs from "Wicked" in the basement, taking on roles and playing them up. Such a good time! I love doing ridiculous things like that with them, and seeing my brother be the coolest person ever. I also miss nights talking late and long with Hannah. As an example of what these are like:
4:48 to 5:43

What I also know is that not one of you will watch it. But it is so charming that I had to share it anyway.

AND. I get to sleep in my own bed tonight. In perfect quiet, far from the sound of cars and heels.