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She knew the package came from her and she knew what was inside.

She sat with furniture and suitcases tightly packed around her. The only space being her own little corner where she could easily shift in to gear and steer the wheel to her new home.

Admittedly, she wanted to tear open the package. Pour out its contents on to her lap. Read the letter she knew was waiting for her inside. Discover the unpredictable treasures of what she knew would be articles of clothing or trinkets found at some time of day, in some random place…All manifestations of thoughts and love that her friend still had for her. Gifts speak truth to the love harbored by the brokenhearted for the brokenhearted. The friend loved her unconditionally and she had chosen to let her go.

The way the manila envelope felt in her hands sent her heart in to her throat and the heaviness of nausea and stillness consumed her for a brief moment. Her blood felt cold and her heart seemed to be the only part of her still moving forward through time. She listened to it thud loudly against her chest and in an instant the package laid unopened on the floor. Without thought, her limbs did what they needed to bring the car to life.

She was behind the wheel driving the car, but something else was breathing strength into her limp body. She had become increasingly familiar with this fresh breathe of air over the past few weeks, each new breathe had grown larger than the one before. Once again, it came to her rescue. Right there in that moment. That untitled breathe of strength when she needed it most.

I steer my wheel now.

And with that thought she pushed down on the gas. Peace warmed her blood, the nausea dissipated, and the car moved forward with a smile…

Hidden Dome: The Soul of Durham

Anticipation leaked under cool blue skies

And feet crunched fallen leaves.

Roads whined sweet tunes of time

And age freed leaning trees.

What to make

Of this place not known;

This hidden dome—

Where nature says, “Move slow.”

People passing people with each step

And some stop to chatter.

Arms linking arms to keep warm

And some break for laughter.

Who are they?

These strange strangers?

The souls of this painted picture?

Destination reached under darkened skies

And mouths kissed mugs and glasses.

Taxis blurred through city lights

And chips lifted drunken masses.

What to make

Of this place not known;

This hidden dome—

Where evening says, “Let go.”

People passing people with each step

And some stop to chatter.

Arms linking arms to keep warm

And some break for laughter.

Who are they?

These strange strangers?

The souls of this painted picture?

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I wrote the poem above as an ode to Durham, England where I once had the privilege to live. The moments I spent venturing through the city shops or jogging along River Wear made me feel I belonged among a carefully painted landscape—one of those the spy wants to protect in the movies. Not only does Durham lend truth to the idea of a tight knit community, but the community itself compromised of some of the most intelligent people from around the world (some being English locals).

During the day, students of all cultures and backgrounds would intermingle up and down the cobblestone streets. The level of anticipation they shared to take part in lectures, and countless hours spent in the library researching their various topics of study, infected the air and you would find yourself beginning to wonder what you’d been doing with your life! The pure beauty of lush green fields and colorful leaves reflected the glory of autumn in to the winding rivers. The worn stone buildings stood strong with rich ivy leaves curling around the window frames. The bridges carried its travelers from Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle to homes lining the curvy streets. Years and years of rain and wind blackened the bridges’ ledges and green moss peaked through their cement foundations—all to remind you of the first forward thinking minds who crossed the same rivers centuries ago; the first to commit to challenging the known and discovering the unknown.

During the weekend nights, locals grouped together in pubs, dance clubs, and fish & chip shops (to soak up the alcohol of course–which is why I say “chips lifted drunken masses”). Students huddled together on weekend nights to enjoy a couple of drinks as well. However, most students were spotted on weekday evenings around Durham’s City Centre. Wednesdays, for example, were considered “sports night.” The institution’s sport’s teams crowded in buses to compete in Badminton, Cricket, Fencing, Lacrosse, Hockey, and other common sports played throughout the U.K. Win or lose, the teams headed straight from their buses, courts, and fields to buy a pint (or five).

Begging the question, “Who are they? These strange strangers? The souls of this painted picture?” represented my quest to connect with strangers of a new country at that time in my life. My curiosity toward the differences marked by the students’ and locals’ upbringings, and how these differences contributed to the painting of Durham, England, posed more weight on the idea of “soul” then it ever had before. “Soul” took on a double ant antra. Like myself, all beings I encountered in Durham contained souls. They were full of life! Yet, all the souls found throughout the city today and once long ago, gave the city its own unforgettable identity. The souls created the soul of Durham City! Despite the beauty of the scenery and the history of the city, without the people there would not be a heart to the body of such a glorious place. Nor a painting for the spy to protect

Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my adventures.

A Little Bit of Southern Love and Wisdom

Desires

Written by Thomas E. McKay:

A philosopher was accustomed to going out into the hills and woods to study the laws of nature. After spending a day in such study, he would return to his village at night, where he would gather his people around him and instruct them in the lessons which he had learned.

One day one of his friends came to him saying, “Will you please bring me a hawthorn twig when you come back, that I can study the lesson you gave last week from that tree?”

“Yes,” the philosopher said, “I will bring you the twig tonight.”

The second one of his friends that morning said, “Will you bring me a rose, that I may study concerning the lecture you gave last evening?”

“Yes, I’ll bring you the rose.”

And just before the philosopher went through the gate of the town that morning, a third friend said, “Will you bring me a lily that I might study the lesson of purity you gave last evening?”

The philosopher promised to bring the lily.

In the evening about sundown when the old philosopher returned to the village, the three friends were waiting at the gate to welcome him.

To the first he gave the hawthorn twig; to the second he gave the rose; and to the third he gave the lily.

Suddenly the man with the hawthorn twig cried, “Here is a dead leaf on the stem of my hawthorn twig!”

The second said, “Here is a thorn on the stem of my rose!”

And the third one cried, “Here is dirt on the roots of my lily!”

“Let me see,” said the philosopher.

From the first he took the hawthorn twig; from the second he took the rose; and from the third he took the lily.

He plucked the dead leaf from the hawthorn twig and gave it to the first friend. He plucked the thorn from the rose and gave it to the second. He took the dirt from the roots of the lily and put it into the hands of the third.

Holding the hawthorn twig, the rose, and the lily, he said: “Now, each of you has what attracted you first. You looked for the dead leaf, and you found it. You looked for the thorn; it was there. You found the dirt of the lily because I left it on the roots. You may keep what attracted you first. I will keep the hawthorn twig, the lily, and the rose, for the beauty I see in them.”

We find in this world just about what we are looking for. If we look for dirt and sordid things, we can find them; or if we look for mistakes in others we can find them also.

If we look for the good and the beautiful, the good and the beautiful will return to us.

–Excerpt from Albert L. Zobell, Jr.’s compilation, “Storyteller’s Scrapbook”