Photographs I took during my trip to Paris this summer
Photographs I took during my trip to Paris this summer
Have you ever been a trendsetter who didn’t even know you were setting a trend? Or a key driving force behind a movement that was just something you were doing because it was fun? Sometimes fire catches when we are just playing with our sparklers for no other reason than they are pretty and bring us joy. In fact, I believe some of the best movements are started that way: unintentionally.
On Tuesday this week, Ashley and I played hookie from work to take a spontaneous road trip to our alma mater. Okay, it wasn’t really hookie. We logged our vacation time and told our bosses. And it was only about a 2 hour drive, so it wasn’t much of a road trip. And it’s possible we planned it about a week in advance, so perhaps it wasn’t entirely spontaneous. But still. We were adventurous!
Anyway, it was seriously the perfect day. We got to campus in the late afternoon as warm, golden rays of sunlight sifted through the trees. The weather couldn’t have been better – sunny and 75 – and it was glorious to stroll through the sprawling courtyards and relive our happy memories there.
We took a university bus across campus as though going to classes, ate at one of our favorite college sandwich joints, visited a couple of our favorite bookstores and coffee shops, and we finally tried strawberry tarts at a famous upscale restaurant that was way outside of our budgets during our college years.
The entire day was magical (and we hope to make it a quarterly tradition!), but my favorite part of the day was completely unexpected. There is a building in the center of campus – the Memorial Center – that serves as something of a student union or center for student activities. Within the Memorial Center is a room called the Globe Room, where the mahogany walls are lined with bookshelves, and the hardwood floors are covered in rich rugs of emerald, burgundy and midnight blue. Historical flags hang from the ceiling, and two gemstone globes serve as centerpieces surrounded by rich leather couches where students sit studying.
Everything about the Globe Room makes me feel like I am home; I have found my personal heaven on earth. Each time I enter, I breathe deeply, taking in the scents of leather and old books before giving a happy sigh. The Globe Room also houses a grand piano in one corner of the room, and during my days at university, various students would occasionally walk in, play a few soothing classical pieces (think “Moonlight Sonata” or “Clair de Lune”); then step out again, leaving the rest of us to our books and studies.
On Tuesday when Ashley and I walked into the Globe Room, a young man sat at the piano playing a soothing melody. He was clearly talented – the kind of person who can play piano without sheet music; the kind of person who can play brilliantly by ear.
Ashley and I sat down in two plush chairs, and I closed my eyes to better take in the sounds and smells of my favorite room on campus. I smiled to myself as I recognized the tune the pianist transitioned into. Then I was surprised to hear his low voice quietly singing along. I found myself harmonizing to his melody line under my breath. I hadn’t realized I knew the words to the song, but I did.
The pianist looked up, hearing my harmony drifting over to him, and he started to sing louder. So I smiled, apologized to Ashley (who occasionally is made to feel uncomfortable by my boldness), and walked over to the piano, where the man continued playing. We crescendoed together until we were each singing our parts at full volume. I’d never heard anyone sing along to the grand piano in the Globe Room before, but it was exhilarating, and I smiled to myself as I looked around at the old, familiar surroundings.
The music faded out, and the pianist (Daniel, I learned later) transitioned smoothly into yet another song. As he played the opening chords, I was astonished to recognize it as a Christian worship song: “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters. I let him sing the first few lines solo; then I softly came in with gentle harmony for the last few lines of the first verse.
As Daniel and I grew into the chorus, a young man walking past the Globe Room paused in the hallway and leaned in, listening. Near the end of the first chorus, another person stood from one of the couches and walked over to the piano, singing the words along with us. And then we were joined by another. And another.
My heart felt full, looking around at my brothers and sisters in Christ – people I’d never met before; people I didn’t even know. But even without knowing each other’s names, we started a movement in the Globe Room. Daniel unintentionally started a worship service in the heart of a public, state university.
The whole experience was beautiful and awe-inspiring, and I didn’t even realize what was happening until it was almost over. It was otherworldly worshiping together with complete strangers, sharing a spiritual bond as we united in Christ, praising our King without regard for doctrinal or denominational differences. My prayer is that we were not the only ones who sensed it; the supernatural force – the Holy Spirit – that permeated the Globe Room that afternoon. God truly is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine, and this experience is one I will not soon forget.
People are always surprised when I reveal that I’m a morning person. “But you’re so antisocial in the mornings,” they tell me.
Yes. That is because the still and the quiet of the morning is the reason I am a morning person. I live for the gentle, golden rays of dawn; the peacefulness of an early-morning drive, and the sleepy, pre-caffinated silence of my coworkers.
I love to wake while the world sleeps, to dress in the silent darkness and enjoy the few minutes of the day where I can believe that the world is vast and ripe for the picking; that life is a grand adventure and my potential is endless.
Then other people wake up and start polluting my world with their noise. While I sit at a stoplight, smile on my face, enjoying the soft blackness around me, some punk pulls up in a beat-up Caddy with blown-out speakers, blasting my delicate ears with sounds both musically and lyrically offensive.
The mood is ruined, but I quickly pull away as the light turns green and continue on my way to the office. Once there, I stop in the kitchen for my morning green tea. A rotund woman seated nearby is oblivious to my entrance, as she is fairly sucking face with her breakfast muffin, smacking loudly and licking her large lips with gusto.
My eye has not started twitching yet, so maybe my few remaining minutes of solitude can be salvaged. I walk back to my desk – formerly an office; now an open cubicle concept – and my very aggressive, very German manager is already on the phone with a vendor. Her laut, wütend tone carries through the open space. I have a front-row seat to her impassioned concerto, as I sit a mere three feet away.
I finally concede to myself that my morning is over. I brace myself for the continued influx of unwanted noise and human interaction. I didn’t get to recharge my energy sources today, but tomorrow is another day.
And maybe by tomorrow, my Bose headphones will have come in.
In my recent adventure on the high seas, our sailing crew was comprised of starkly different characters. Tony, our skipper, encapsulated everything I’d imagined a skipper would be: rugged and weathered, with a tangled mass of shoulder-length hair, tattooed arms, beer in hand and never clad in anything more than a pair of swim trunks.
Elle, a curvy blonde in her 50s, is a British lawyer who smokes like a chimney and never ends the evening without her friends Gin & Tonic. Elle lives with abandon and a zeal for life that has led her on countless adventures of dancing in the sand and running off with passionate lovers. She’s lived a full and exciting life but, childless, divorced and advanced in years, she seems lonely. She travels the world but has no one to share life with but the locals who she inevitably befriends, but between throaty laughs, she speaks longingly of community and companionship.
While I found in Elle much that I hope to emulate – her zeal, passion and friendly playfulness – I learned the most from observing Jenna, a single 35-year-old from Boston. Jenna aced all of our written sailing exams, but when it came to working together on the rigging, she tended toward stress, either barking bossy orders and criticisms at other crew members or getting panicked and defensive when Tony pointed out something she needed to do differently.
I saw mirrored in Jenna my own perfectionism and the toll it took on not only her enjoyment of the trip but also her relationships with others. During long stretches of sailing on a single tack, Jenna would often read aloud to us from a sailing book she’d brought along. “Oooh, listen to this article on retractable keels!” I frequently saw Tony and Elle exchange glances – Is this girl for real? – but she remained oblivious to the way her unsolicited readings were received.
One night ashore at a beach bar on one of the many remote islands of the Grenadines, Jenna met a young American man over rum punch. After about six beers, Tony was ready to take the dingy back to our boat, but Elle ssh-ed him and gestured to Jenna. “Look at her! She’s forgotten all about her allergies and her Kindle and her lactose intolerance. Give her some time. She may dance in the sand yet!”
Although I agreed with Elle – this girl seriously needed to loosen up – I remember wondering if those are the kinds of comments people make about me when I’m out of earshot. As sweet at Jenna was, it pained me how much I related to her because I saw in Jenna not only my strengths – intellect, ambition and focus – but also many of the things I dislike about myself.
I know I should be who I am, but I hope that as I age, I will relax, live in the moment, and develop a bit more Elle in my Aurora.
Last night, Bryan left his pickup truck at home and picked me up in his Aston Martin instead. Apparently his third vehicle is a motorcycle. I haven’t seen that one yet.
I’m still trying to figure Bryan out.
He is a 36-year-old electrical engineer who is getting ready to retire. He has spent the last decade traveling the world as an engineering consultant and project manager. He’s lived in London, Paris, Nigeria, South Korea, Qatar, Iran and multiple states across the US. The result? He speaks four languages, is worldly wise, and has had a lucrative enough career to retire before age 40.
Bryan sees every emotion that flashes across my face. He doesn’t think I’m stoic. When I told him that I am often perceived as having a stoic persona, he actually laughed out loud. I had to remind him that not everyone is as perceptive as he is.
In his retirement, Bryan plans to write memoirs of his international adventures, publish a photo book, do long-term mission work in Haiti and work on his golf game. Like me, Bryan gets bored easily, so he is always looking for his next adventure. It sounds like he’s never in the same place for long, which makes him a very interesting date and conversation partner, but perhaps not such a great husband or father of my children.
I still haven’t decided if I’m romantically interested in Bryan. He’s a good looking guy. He’s physically fit (just finished a Triathlon) and wealthy (retiring before age 40). We met at church, and he’s a godly man with strong family values and good work/life balance despite being so wildly successful in his career. He’s brilliant and perceptive and interesting and adventurous.
He ended his last text to me with Bisou, which is French for kiss. It is “a warmer, more playful, and more familiar version of bise. It can refer to a kiss on the cheek or on the lips, so may be used when talking to lovers and platonic friends.”