from New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania.
I can explain.
I flew into Newark International Airport on Thursday morning. Took the Path Train from there into Manhattan where I walked and took to bus up to a friend's apartment on West 57th Street. I dropped my bag and hit the streets. Four hours, countless shops, and a few phone calls later (too bad for those of you who weren't available to walk, talk, and hang out with yours truly!) I returned to their apartment, changed my clothes, and met up with an old friend (well, he's not old, but we've been friends for over a dozen years) for dinner at a fabulous restaurant overlooking Central Park South. Thanks, John, for my first lesson in vintage red wine and one of the finest meals I've had in a good long while. Sorry I was so under-dressed; I'll know better next time.
On Friday morning, I met up with another friend for breakfast at Giorgio's Country Grill - a term that seems somewhat oxymoronic for a restaurant on the West Side of Manhattan. The food was good; the company was fantastic, and neither of us wanted to part from the other.
From there, I walked back to my friend's apartment, and while on my way, I came across an elderly gentleman who had fallen on the sidewalk. His nose was bleeding, his fingers and hands looked bent, perhaps broken, and he looked quite distressed. The most touching thing about the entire scene was that three rather burly, hard-hatted construction workers were attending to him quite tenderly. They had called an ambulance already (I asked just to be sure), and one was offering the gentleman his cell phone in case he needed to call anyone. I prayed for him often over the weekend.
At high noon, a group of us women left NYC for The Tuscarora Inn in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, where I led ninety or so co-travelers on this journey called life through a weekend retreat entitled "Traveling Mercies: On Life's Journey with Christ." Many tears were shed (most of them mine), many laughs were shared, and both hearts and minds were touched by grace, love, and the ever-new mercies of God. I spent hours talking to women one-on-one, listening to their stories not only of trial, but also of triumph. I spoke in English with some and Spanish with others. I listened to women sing and pray in Korean, Haitian, Spanish, English, and German. What a mixed group; what a mix of blessings.
In between the sessions, I read, journaled, napped, ate, walked, and sat on a bench outside my room, facing a broad and flat river, taking in the sights and sounds of rural PA. I was struck more deeply by the great beauty of that place yesterday morning as a group of us watched a slideshow of the aftermath of a terrible flood that took place there in April of 2005. The same bench on which I sat early yesterday morning had been submerged under four to six feet of water some fourteen months earlier. There is healing, cleansing, and destructive power in water. (And also in our words - but that's a-whole-nother blog.)
Yesterday at this time, I was on my way back to Newark International Airport for the return flight to Charlotte. It was an exhausting and exhilirating weekend. I rekindled existing relationships and made new ones. I also spent a significant amount of time in solitude, rekindling my relationship with myself: walking in Manhattan, waiting for flights, and willing myself to sleep after large meals and long talks - it was all glorious.
I love to travel.
I love to teach.
I love to spend time with friends, in spirit and face to face.
I hope to do a lot more of all of the above in the near future.
But at the moment, I'm back at home,
knee-deep in laundry,
chest-deep in good memories,
and over-my-head with gratitude.