This blog is dedicated to the idea of slow living specifically as it relates to travel in all forms. When I moved to the island of Crete, it didn’t take me long to appreciate the art of slowing down. And after five years of living in the Mediterranean, I fully embraced the practices of wandering, lingering, and savoring both at home and on the road. If you want to read my writing from my time in Crete, you can see my writing on Cretan Chronicles.
There are times when it’s appropriate and unavoidable to pick up the pace of life. Working on a deadline, preparing a meal for last minute dinner guests, keeping up with an active toddler, racing beyond the speed limit because you’re late for that hair appointment you scheduled two months ago and it’s in jeopardy of being rescheduled.
Ok, that last one is just a product of bad timing on my part.
Which is precisely my point. Most of us lead hectic lives because honestly, we choose to. We cram so much into one day, that there is no wiggle room for the unexpected bumps and/or joys. Realistically, we can’t slow down every aspect of our lives. Only a hermit or a monk would be successful at that challenge. But we can be intentional about the things that are important to us.
I would submit that there are specific activities that should never be rushed if at all possible. Like cooking, praying, spending time with loved ones, and my most challenging “take your time” enterprise – travel.
On this blog, I hope you will be encouraged to wander with me to some surprising out-of-the way places, linger over some unexpected happenings, and savor the delicious moments of the journey.
Taking the offensive against hate one neighborhood at a time
Syrian refugees flee Isis atrocities
Clashes with police leave Minneapolis man dead
Dallas sniper kills multiple officers
Isis terrorists attack in Paris
Attack on America! 9-11
The news is full of these headlines. Everyday we seem to wake up to a new atrocity, a new expression of the age-old force of hate. It brings up intense feelings in us. Sorrow, confusion, suspicion, fear, and the desire for justice or at its worse, revenge. This blog is not intended to make a political statement about national security and immigration – but rather explore a deeper issue concerning humanity.
Yesterday, a terrorist attack aimed at a crowd of innocent French people celebrating Bastille Day, left 84 people dead and many more injured. This coward mowed down fellow human beings using a giant truck as his weapon, plowing through and crushing men, women, and children before he was finally shot dead. My heart cries out, “Death was too good for him! He should have suffered a thousand times over what pain he inflicted on his victims.” And so the hate he sowed, takes root in my soul, just as the Enemy had purposed all along.
But who is my enemy? The Muslims? The NRA? The politicians? The Blacks, Whites, Asians, Latinos? Anyone who thinks, looks, acts different than me?
Think on this scripture:
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
The war machine pours billions of dollars into eradicating our flesh and blood enemies. And perhaps for a season, we live in a false sense of security that we “won” and are now “safe.” And then, hate rears its ugly head again in unsuspecting places killing more innocent lives and leaving the survivors in a paralyzed state of shock.
War and hate have been in the fabric of our existence since the beginning of mankind, yet the worst kind of violence is that which is done in the name of God. Right now the Christian world is heaving from the senseless attacks at the hands of the extremist group – Islamic State. But we only have to go back into our own history to find agendas of religious based violence; the Christian Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, African slavery, witch hunts, persecution of the Jews, clashes in Northern Ireland to name a few.
On a recent airline trip I sat next to a gentleman and we struck up a conversation that lasted for the entire 3-hour flight. As a writer, I am always on the lookout for a good story and I’ve found the best ones come from the nitty-gritty realities in an individual person’s life. Nazim’s story was one of harrowing escape as a teenager from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. He and his family escaped with nothing except the clothes on their backs and walked by night for two weeks over the border into India where they took asylum. After receiving his higher education in India, he immigrated to America 30 years ago and runs a successful consulting business for the American military teaching personnel bound for Afghanistan about the culture, language and people of that country. He values peace, tolerance, generosity, and patriotism and raises his family to aspire to seek love instead of hate. His heart overflows with gratitude for the opportunities America has given him and for God who worked all things for good in his life. He has a sign on his desk at work, “God bless America.”
And he is Muslim.
We couldn’t have been cut from a more different fabric yet we found common ground on the most important rock-solid foundation – love. The most powerful weapon against the Enemy and his agenda of hate and destruction. So powerful in fact, that Jesus himself said that it was the most important commandment of all. Love God, and love your neighbor.
But exactly WHO is my neighbor? According to Jesus, it’s anyone in need – loved one or stranger. (Luke 10:25-37)
Our highest calling, our pinnacle of evolution, our most effective weapon against hate is to love others. I’m not talking about a Pollyanna-sit-around-the-campfire-singing Kumbayah type of love. I’m talking about a radical, counterintuitive, selfless love that isn’t afraid to engage with the lovable and the unlovable. Especially the unlovable. (Luke 6:32-36)
If we answer hate with hate then all we get is more hate. And worse, we give hate power over us. Lose-lose. Succumbing to fear by lashing out in hate makes us no better than those who hurt us in the first place. Hate is cowardice.
Still, we see atrocities all around us and our hearts cry out, “Do something, God!” And He answers, “I am. Through you.”
“But what can I do?”
“First, fight the temptation to lash out in your words and/or deeds. And then start small. If the intention is unconditional love, then it will grow into something big.”
“But I’m an introvert.”
“It doesn’t matter. Even introverts know how to love.”
“But I’m just one person.”
“So was Jesus. Follow His lead.”
And so, OPERATIONLove Your Neighbor is born in my home; reaching out to and serving my literal neighbors. I live on a dead end street in a rural mountain setting and have roughly six houses relatively close in my neighborhood. I have a good relationship with two of my neighbors because we have a lot in common. It’s easy to love them. The other four I either avoid because they grate on me or they don’t seem interested.
But everyone has a story. And it’s time I search out that neighbor or neighbors who I don’t really know. I may have a door slammed in my face. But then again, maybe someone may reach out to their neighbors and beyond, and who knows what the ripple effect might be.
The next time I read a “Headline of Hate” I will resist the temptation to react in fear and replace it with the intention to act in love.
“Life isn’t what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.”
I remember baking my first cake. It was my mom’s birthday and I was 10 years old. I was raised in an era when Mom did all the cooking and Dad and the kids did all the eating. So, needless to say, I had no kitchen experience beyond the sink full of dirty dishes to wash, but that wasn’t going to stop me. So, I banned Mom from the kitchen, and using her best recipe, I launched into a frenzy of baking a chocolate bundt cake for her birthday dinner. After careful measuring, precise execution and multiple batter samplings, I popped it in the oven and set the timer. All good, so proud! But best intentions don’t count with cooking. I sat on the floor in front of the cloudy window of the oven door watching the amazing metamorphosis of gooey brown batter rising into a beautiful spongy cake. I could hardly contain myself as the timer finally went off and I carefully pulled the cake from the oven. Now here is where it all went downhill. I was impatient to get the hot cake out of the pan, So, grabbing two handwoven potholders (my Christmas present to her) I inverted the cake pan and dumped the cake on the plate, only to get my hand stuck under it. As carefully as I could I maneuvered my hand out from under the cake not only leaving the potholder there but breaking the hot cake completely in half! I was devastated but not undone. I let the cake cool (a little) and patched it all together with a huge amount of vanilla frosting, attempting to hide the mishap with sprinkles and LOTS of candles. So, when the big cake moment came, I presented a lopsided cake with melted frosting to Mom. Her eyes lit up and she ooo’d and ah’d over this crazy creation. I was just hoping she wouldn’t look into the tubular hole in the middle of the cake and see the potholder. Of course, when she cut the cake, the secret was out. Her response? She laughed and remarked, “Now that is certainly creative of you! Thank you so much for my surprise cake.” And then she hugged me. The cake was a hit, the potholder was famous and I was redeemed as a cook.
That was one of my first lessons about gratitude (and patience!). And I am reminded of those people that see the cup half full vs. half empty. Those that have the ability to view this messy life through a different lens and SEE beyond the failures and into the blessings. I know people who have come through fire in their lives and they are an inspiration. They are real with their emotions, disappointments and anguish but they don’t choose to live there for long. Gratitude, especially when it’s hard, can be a taste of sweet frosting on a messy cake.
Someone once said that if you’re looking for things to be thankful for, start with the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning. If you woke up in a bed, be thankful. Much of humanity, doesn’t have a bed. If you turned on the faucet for a drink, be thankful. Much of humanity has no clean, running water. If you turned on the light switch, be thankful. Much of humanity has no electricity at their disposal. If you walked to the bathroom, be thankful. Much of humanity is suffering the pain and despair of disease and disability. If you hugged a loved one, be thankful. Much of humanity is alone and lonely. And the list goes on.
It’s easy to be thankful for the obvious when things peachy and going as planned but it is a daily struggle to practice the discipline of gratitude especially in the mundane and the ugly. But if God is in everything and is so all powerful that “He turns what was intended for evil into good,” then I can relax, breathe in peace and let go. Many times, MOST of the time, my act of thanksgiving is an act of obedience – of refusing to let go of God and instead let go of my will and my expectations.
In those heart-wrenching moments of trial and pain, I hold on to Him for dear life and in the end He blesses me with new vision, new lens, new eyes to SEE beyond the cracks in the cake and into the sweetness of love in which it was given.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)
Snatching moments of rest is about as satisfying as picking crumbs up off the ground under a table that has a feast laid on it. Even a pocketful of crumbs doesn’t add up to one mouth-watering bite of gourmet pizza or sweet cake when you’re famished. And it’s guaranteed that we all get famished one way or another. A big meal doesn’t last us for more than a few hours before our appetite starts talking to us again, “Feed me!” And here’s the thing; we have a choice about when and what to feed it. Many of us, myself included, will sometimes grab a quick snack or fill up with junk food giving us the false impression of satisfaction, but it’s not long before our appetite says, “REAL food, please!”
So it is with rest. How can we ever feel truly rested, refreshed and soul-nourished if we nibble away at moments or try to fill up with junk. “Who has the time to rest?” “I’m too busy.” “You can sleep when you die.” There are all kinds of excuses to ignore the very thing that even God did after His work was completed. It’s too easy to crossout rest on that ever increasing to do list of daily chores and appointments. We work long hours every day of the week, come home to work around the house some more, only to work again on the weekends getting caught up on things that we didn’t get done during the week. Or we take the weekend to have fun camping, hiking, or skiing and either feel guilty about not working or feel exhausted as we unpack the car on Sunday night. Sound familiar?
How do we find the time to rest – really rest? I think the answer is that we treat it as any other important thing on our list – we schedule it in and guard it possessively. And we have a plan. God had a plan all laid out for us regarding rest and I figured there must be something to it if He created it for us. And it must be important if He included it in the Ten Commandments. Why do we honor all the Ten Commandments except the fourth? “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) Some may argue, “But that was then and this is now. Those are old rules for an ancient culture.” Or “That applies only to the Jewish people.” Hmmm…well, then I guess the whole Bible applies only to the Jewish people because Jesus was a Jew, right? All I’m saying is that from the beginning of time, we have all been designed with basic needs and if we ignore them we risk burnout, body and soul.
What does “Sabbath rest” look like? I personally am not the least bit interested in sitting around looking at the walls, or holing up in my house to pray and fast all day, although that’s totally acceptable. I remember that Jesus got into a lot of trouble because He didn’t follow the plethora of rules and regulations the Pharisees burdened the people with regarding the Sabbath. How did Jesus “honor the Sabbath?” I read that He served others, healing them and ministering to their needs. He hung out with his friends, talking about God, and basically enjoyed his rest for a complete 24 hours. He made this day look different than all the rest; feasting on the important and putting the urgent aside.
So, I’m off on an experiment of sorts to integrate “Sabbath rest” into my life. For the next five weeks beginning today July 16, I’m committed to making an entire 24 hours (from Saturday evening to Sunday evening) look different from the rest of my week. I am NOT a rule and regulation type of girl – in fact, I have a lot more rebel under my skin than I like to admit, but I DO believe in healthy habits so here’s where I’ll start:
Turn off all electronics for 24 hours
This means resisting the daily temptation to check emails, login to Facebook or randomly search the internet. No TV, phone calls, pinging, texting, instagram, or downloading allowed because that usually links to more of the same and before you know it, I’ve lost focus, an hour (or more) has gone by and I can’t remember what I was originally trying to do. You know what I’m talking about. (OK, exceptions to the rule…here’s the rebel in me…Answering a phone call from my children and using my computer for things like writing and music specifically centered around God and rest.)
Intentionally engage in activities that serve God and others
This includes getting together with family, friends and needy ones. Connection in relationships by laughing, eating, helping, telling stories, playing games, singing…whatever brings us all together with the exception of watching a football game on TV (see above). It could also mean I just talk a quiet “gratitude” walk and meditate on everything I’m thankful for.
Enjoy reading, singing, church, hobbies, hiking – anything that helps me focus on God in my life.
Avoid those things that lead me into distraction including consumerism, gossip, distasteful chores (hate housework, love gardening), worrying about tomorrow’s tasks or trying to solve problems that can wait another day.
Realistically, I know there will be times where I will be tempted to “cheat” and rationalize why I NEED to go shopping for that perfect baby gift or check my emails (again) or get caught up on work, and I won’t beat myself up for it. But part of the satisfaction you get from success is directly related to how much you sacrificed for it – how you chose to stay committed. And it is a choice. I will need to consistently ask myself, “Is this an activity that honors God and/or serves others?” In the span of 24 hours I get to choose how to rest in order to be the best I can be for Him and for others that count on me during the rest of the week. And I will need to be intentional about getting things done during the other six days of the week to prepare for that day of rest.
I’ve read that to create a habit you must commit to do it for 21 days. After that it becomes a habit or at least it’s on your radar each day. I hope that by the end of my experiment (August 16th – 28 days) I will have produced a habit that I look forward to exercising every week – that I see it as a privilege rather than a duty. I hope that it will move from being an intentional task to being something I look forward to – like pulling my chair up to a table set with a big feast and gorging myself on all the goodness that is offered to me.
How about you? Feel inspired to join me on this journey? Everyone and anyone is invited. Let me know how it works for you.
When we said our goodbyes to Crete, Greece and I retired my 5 year blog entitled “Cretan Chronicles” (www.cretanchronicles.wordpress.com), many of my friends there asked if I would consider starting a new blog – perhaps calling it Colorado Chronicles. Although there is a great deal to blog about in my home state, my sights are set on travels and experiences beyond the boundaries of this beautiful area of America. And my focus is on how to preserve and share with others the treasured morsels of wisdom that I gleaned in Crete about intentional living and deeper sensitivity to life around me. And so, “Slow Food for the Soul” was born. But as much as I love to travel, I’m keenly aware that you don’t need a passport or ticket to far away places to find beauty and adventure. Sometimes, the best memories are made right in your own back yard. So, how appropriate to begin with a little introduction of my own stomping grounds here in Colorado.
Camping and Colorado are synonymous. So are “kitchen remodel” and “major headache.” After three weeks of cooking on a single portable electric burner and washing dishes in the laundry room sink, we felt like we were camping in our own home so we decided we might as well take this show on the road. Our first thought was to head west to Moab, Utah and take in the desert magic of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. But as the departure date neared and temps there soared into the 90’s, we chalked that idea up for a cooler autumn trip and headed south to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
Normally, we opt for out-of-the-way camping sites but our first night we decided to try a campground in Glenwood Canyon on the Colorado River. After a short but strenuous hike up to Hanging Lake followed by a long soak in the Hot Springs pool, we settled our tired bodies in for a long night’s slumber. Long night – yes. Slumber – no. The quiet of the night was frequently interrupted by passing trains echoing off the canyon walls and a surprise group of night rafters reveling in their midnight full moon float trip down the river; just a typical night at the Glenwood Canyon Campground. (I should’ve been suspicious when I noticed a bowl of complimentary earplugs at the reception desk.)
But a new day brings optimism and breaking camp early the next morning, we set off south towards Aspen through Carbondale and Redstone. The views alone were energizing, and as we followed the Crystal River with the massive Mt. Sopris looming before us, the previous sleepless night was a distant memory.
The road over McClure Pass dumped us out into the Uncompahgre Valley where the Ute Indians lived and flourished in the 1800’s. This fertile valley is home to little agricultural towns like Hotchkiss and Paonia and it boasts some of Colorado’s finest produce. The North Fork Gunnison River meanders through June-green ranches and farms, generously giving its precious water to fields, orchards and vineyards. One of our favorite vineyards is a little family run operation called Black Bridge Winery near Paonia. Tucked back on a country road and on the banks of the river, this farm is an oasis where you are invited to stop by, picnic on the lawn under the shade of the cottonwood trees and, if you like, enjoy a free wine tasting. The store is full of homemade jams, soaps, honey and wine. Our favorite is a red blend called Black Bridge Breaker Row.
We headed out toward Ridgeway/Montrose intending to possibly camp in Ridgeway State Park near the reservoir but decided to take a detour (thanks to photographer John Fielders book, “Best of Colorado” – highly recommended.) We drove a nicely graveled road – Cimarron Road – winding 20 miles through a valley, over hills dotted with pristine ranches and the dramatic Sneffels mountain range growing ever closer. This was where the original movie “True Grit” starring John Wayne was filmed. The scenery was intoxicating and it didn’t take any second thoughts to make the decision to find a campsite in this beautiful area. We turned off at the nearly empty Silver Jack Campground and set up camp in a forest of stately aspen trees high above the Silver Jack Reservoir.
After an afternoon walk down to the water, we enjoyed “happy hour” at my favorite venue – under a canopy of tall aspens with the Colorado blue sky peeking in above us and a carpet of green laid out before us. The only thing better than happy hour with a great bottle of wine is happy hour with great wine, comfy camp chairs, fresh mountain air, long summer afternoon shadows and my best friend (who also happens to be my husband.) We sat silently and watched the evening sun melt behind the aspens and touch the eastern cliffs with gold.
The next morning, our adventuresome spirits got us into a little trouble as we skirted past a closed gate and ascended Owl Creek Pass (a short cut down into Ridgeway and highly recommended again by Fielder.) We weaved our way around fallen trees that were uprooted by heavy spring snows and marveled at the open views as we went higher. But it wasn’t long before we realized why the road was closed. After high-centering our Subaru in a snow bank, we dug out with some firewood and a dustpan (Note to self: Purchase a decent camp shovel!) only to look ahead 100 feet and see a giant fallen tree completely blocking the road. Somewhat shamefaced, we backtracked out past our campsite, up the Cimarron Valley and out to Ridgeway State Park.
We set our sights on the charming and picturesque historic mining town of Ouray (named after the great Native American Ute Chief) for the night. On the way, we stopped to indulge in a hot springs soak. Just south of Ridgeway is Orvis Hot Springs – a non-assuming, verging-on-tacky, little building with a gravel parking lot and a tiny entrance. If you blink, you’ll miss it. As we approached the reception desk, a young woman with a no-nonsense but friendly demeanor welcomed us and accepted our $16 per person entrance fee while casually mentioning the “bathing suit optional” policy. She then escorted us through the building pointing out the showers and changing rooms, the complimentary coffee/tea kitchen, the private tubs and sauna – all very simple and slightly tired looking. Finally, opening a creaky screen door in the back, we were greeted by an astonishing sight – a beautiful private garden oasis, embellished with landscaping profuse with flowers, budding trees, fountains and waterfall-adorned pools. After three hours of soaking our tired and sore bodies we looked like happy prunes and reluctantly left Orvis behind to continue on to Ouray.
The historical town of Ouray is nestled under huge cliffs at the base of the San Juan Mountains and its streets are lined with restored Victorian homes and shops. The close proximity to hiking and jeeping trails, hot springs pools, top-of-the-world views and the famous celebrity town of Telluride with its music festivals, makes Ouray a high altitude wonderland. We treated ourselves to a hotel room that night at the Hotel Ouray currently under new management and being lovingly updated by Patty and her husband Patrick (https://www.hotelouray.com.) Guestroom #9 was a nicely restored room overlooking the old town of Ouray and within earshot of the nearby thundering Cascade Falls.
The drive to Telluride was another unexpected bonus as we took the road less traveled. Last Dollar Road is a pleasing gravel road that meanders through valleys full of grand ranches reminiscent of Bonanza. Most of the route was an easy grade but the last few miles were narrow and precipitous as we descended to Sawpit and continued on to Telluride. Telluride sits at the base of a sheer box canyon surrounded by cliffs, forests and dramatic waterfalls, and is rich with the history of the Ute nation as well as mining ventures. Today it hails as a topnotch ski area in the winter and the scene of world famous music festivals in the summer. Once a sleepy little mining town, Telluride has grown up and is a favorite playground for celebrities and locals alike. The infusion of new money in the 90’s, helped put Telluride on the map as a topnotch mountain resort with quintessential western appeal. A ride up the gondola provides stellar views of the town and its surroundings.
After camping one night at the disappointing Sunshine Campground we woke to a change in the weather. Cool temperatures and the threat of precipitation urged us to hurriedly eat and then break camp just as sprinkles of rain beaded up on our jackets. The beautiful Lizard Head pass that descends into the lush Delores River Valley has always been one of my favorite stretches of scenic road (part of the San Juan Skyway) in SW Colorado. After stopping in at a great little bakery/café in Mancos (the lemon/blueberry bars are to-die-for), we headed east towards Durango. A spontaneous stop at Chimney Rock archeological site proved to be a memorable event as we toured the high ruins of an ancient Pueblo Indian settlement thought to be an offshoot of the Chaco Canyon tribe. It remains a mystery as to why these people settled here but many believe it had something to do with astronomical observations – a type of natural Stonehenge.
As the rain worsened we decided to pass on camping and stay in a hotel. Our plan was to head north from Pagosa Springs on Hwy 149 – The Silver Thread Scenic Highway. Looking at the map and determining approximately where we’d be in a few hours, we called ahead to the little town of Creede to secure a hotel room. Arriving late, we found our hotel right smack in the middle of this once bustling but now sleepy little mining town. Hotel Creede is a historic hotel with four rooms to rent upstairs over the restaurant, a bath down the hall, vintage well-used furniture and faded Victorian wall paper. I seriously think not much except the linens had been changed since 1868. Very quaint and totally authentic, it was clean, quiet and comfortable, especially as the rain beat down overhead.
We had dinner at a newly opened restaurant on Main Street called Arp’s where I had THE Best Gumbo. Hands down. Marty, bartender by night, fishing guide by day, entertained us with stories of the area of Creede and how he came to call this little town his home. He encouraged us to not miss the17-mile Bachelor Loop drive up the extremely narrow canyon from Creede through abandoned mines and high aspen groves. It was well worth the time and effort. Before exiting town we stopped at the nicely designed visitors center and a friendly woman gave us some tips to try next time we’re in the area. Campsites recommended were Rio Grande, Marshall Park and Miner’s Creek. And for great burgers, she said to stop in at Freeman General Store. Gotta love the locals!
As we drove through the beautiful Rio Grande River Valley I could close my eyes and almost see the early inhabitants – Native Americans and settlers – on these unchanging hills. The river was deceivingly calm as it curved around mountain meadows and approached a huge chasm in the earth. North Clear Creek Falls plunges 100 feet in a showy display of Mother Nature just off Hwy 149 on the way to Lake City.
Descending Spring Creek Pass through low moisture laden clouds and mist was a poignant reminder that weather in Colorado can change at the drop of a hat. But cooler weather also typically brings out more wildlife and we were thrilled to spot a mama moose and her twin “mooslings.” Slumgullion Pass (I love that name) is home to beautiful Lake San Cristobal where the Continental Divide high peaks reflect in its cold still waters.
By the time we arrived in Lake City at the bottom of the pass, it was a steady downpour so we did a tour of the town in the comfort of our car. Lake City was once was home to over 2,500 people at its peak after gold was discovered here in 1874. The town exploded with miners, families, saloons, churches, brothels and all the colorful characters and activities you’d expect to see in a bustling gold mining town in the late 1800’s. Today it has significantly less inhabitants but is a well established community that has preserved over 75 historical buildings making it the largest historical district in Colorado. This area once rich with mother lode gold is now teeming with year round recreational opportunities.
It’s easy to see how Colorado got its reputation as a recreational playground. The wilderness areas surrounding much of our route are packed full with ample opportunities to hike, bike, fish, camp, jeep, ski, snowmobile … and the list goes on. The Gunnison River brings life to its valley of sage-covered hills and cottonwood trees and provides some of the best river activities that Colorado has to offer. On Hwy 50 from Gunnison, we drove over Monarch Pass and east into the high prairie town of Salida. I have to admit, I’m a little partial to this ranching and artistic community since my Dad bought land there years ago and we enjoyed many family events at the ranch house that laid in the shadow of the dramatic 14,000’ Collegiate Mountain Range. Only a 2 ½ hour drive down beautiful 285 from Denver, the town now is the hub of outdoor activities, hosts an array of art studios and still manages to protect that small town feel. As we prepared to venture up to our camping site outside of Salida, we noticed some significant storm clouds gathering in the west and decided to wait it out by enjoying happy hour at the local microbrewery, Elevation Brewery. After the storm, we set up camp in the shelter of some pinon trees on a ridge looking down into the Arkansas Valley in the east, and in the west, a close up view of another “fourteener” called Mt. Shavano.
There are many joys and challenges to camping but perhaps the best benefits are that it causes you to appreciate the moment, to slow down, to expect the unexpected and to stretch your resourceful thinking and imagination in order to engage in the entire experience. Our short trip around southwestern Colorado renewed our appreciation of the beauty and enjoyment we have available right here in our own backyard. That, and the fact that no matter how soft your REI sleeping pad is, there’s no place like home.
“The only place we have to see before we die is the place of seeing God. And His presence is everywhere for those who slow to see.” Ann Voskamp
Welcome to my new blog! After I retired my five year blog, Cretan Chronicles (www.cretanchronicles.wordpress.com), it wasn’t much later that I began to get the itch to blog again. But coming up with a theme was a challenge since there are so many things to write about these days and the world of bloggers is saturated by every topic imaginable. I finally narrowed it down to the question, “What am I passionate about and how is that significant for my readers?”
Some people are passionate about running, or hiking, or cooking, or politics…the list goes on. But these are merely activities that feed a deeper inner passion – to find something that we can relate to that feeds our need for belonging, peace, control and satisfaction in this crazy world. We all want to make a difference whether it be in our own lives or in the lives of others – in our own home or in the world at large. What I’ve discovered is that I can make a difference anywhere I go just by using the gifts and talents the good Lord gave me as long as I slow down enough to listen and breathe.
My passion for travel has taken me to places outside and inside myself to where I realize that I crave travel not so much to see things on my bucket list, or take great photos or find new blog material. Travel feeds my desire to make a difference – to experience a reciprocal relationship with a different culture where we can all come away with something that makes us better people in the long run. Even if its just a new appreciation of a different slant on life.
And so, this blog is born out of a desire to share what I’ve learned from my travels and living abroad to those of you who have a deep seated need to slow down, to turn off the distractions and to really see and live life intentionally.
I miss many things about Crete especially as I try to navigate through some reverse culture shock here. Everything here is so big and fast – I realize that the small town European culture fits my personality so well (especially the island and the sea!). But the close proximity to our precious family is priceless and so I’m treasuring every moment with them while still being very intentional to preserve the pieces of Cretan life I so appreciate – like a slower pace, a stronger sense of God’s presence amidst the busy-ness of daily life, an afternoon nap or cup of tea, not to mention, a better diet!!
I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was feeling so conflicted – comfortable and yet deflated – when I returned to the States and then it occurred to me; The familiarity of American life makes it predictable…”normal”…almost boring. The aggravations of life on Crete were rooted into the very things that made it such a great place to live – slower pace, out of season food not available, inconsistent business hours, new holiday celebrations every week (businesses closed), no regard whatsoever for rules in regards to traffic or queuing up. But I find myself becoming more frustrated with the rigidity of rules and regulations in America – so much so that I nearly “got my Greek on” and blasted right through an obscure stop sign in the middle of nowhere last week. True, my challenges pale to what most of the rest of the world has to tolerate or suffer. We have enough food, enough money, enough material goods, projects and entertainment to live very comfortable lives. We are blessed to distraction.
“Intentional living” is a term thrown around a lot these days but I think it has merit especially in America where our biggest enemy is the black hole of Distraction. We intend to do something, go somewhere, some day get to that thing we’ve always wanted/needed to do but it constantly eludes our best intentions because something else fights for our attention. I remember the days of parenting small children when my greatest wish was a few moments of undisturbed quiet to see a task from beginning to completion. But I also knew that raising my children was far more important than marking checks off my bucket list and in fact, was at the core of intentional living during that time of my life. No matter where we are in our lives, from diapers to board meetings, from our own neighborhood to some far away place across the globe, we have the ability to live in the moment.
The secret to slowing down? You have to choose it. Just because there is a hole in your schedule doesn’t mean it should be filled. Better yet, schedule in a big hole. You’ll be surprised with how God fills it with something satisfying and good for your soul. All because you were available.
Living abroad has changed me – in a good way. I’m more patient, more tolerant, more grateful and more open to any new experience or adventure. I’m more discerning and wiser about our global community and my prayers are bigger than they ever have been in the past. If you are craving a simpler, more aware, less frenetic life like I am, stick with me and we’ll journey together through more travels, stories, recipes and photos that will hopefully nourish the soul and inspire the spirit.