Thursday, September 4, 2014

Searching and Stumbling Through Many Moons

How I long to see / among dawn flowers/ the face of God. (Haiku y Basho)
Mt Kilimanjaro sunrise 1962

Zulu Mine Dancers 1962
Each Sunday at our Eucharist, I have the privilege to dismiss the congregation with the words: "Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord."  To me it is a plea, not only to be a servant and to love all whom we encounter, whether enemy, stranger, neighbor or friend, but to be a constant pilgrim in this world, trapsing from place to place however near or far to learn, to experience, to befriend, to be transformed by something new while holding on to the core of our hearts and faith. It's true. The world is not at peace, and I am rebellious and an advocate for so many things, mostly freedom of faith, speech and to do what one wants with one's own body. I advocate for abused, neglected and abandoned children, for runaway girls on the prostitution trail, for the heroes and she-roes of the police force whom no one appreciates until one needs a rescue, and for freedom of artistic expression. Our constitution says "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But we've made it so complicated that these promises seem to have gone underground and there is no equality and little respect. 
The Mosque at Jerusalem

Jesus' Galilee 1999

The best way to re-think and re-fresh is to move out of my environment and travel to far away places. It takes courage but it also builds my confidence in the true heart of people all over the world.  In addition, it's the only way I can rest my body and soul from the pulls, pressures and programs that fill my daily routine, even now in my 75th year. My whole life seems to have been a pilgrimage to know how others live, think, believe, create, eat and entertain themselves and approach death, the end. But it has escalated the past seen years and I call it the Years of Living Dangerously post - 86.  Blogging gives me the chance to share my experiences with friends and others I do not know. It provides vicarious travel for those who cannot afford to do these things. It gives me a peace that maybe you are with me a few minutes each day, so I'm not the only one getting something out of this.

Travel has always been a cornerstone in my life. From age 5 when my grandfather took us to Wood's Lake, Colorado, where I became a "cowgirl",  and summers at grandmother's at Dennis, Cape Cod, where I fell in love with theater and actors (autograph hound), and winters in Palm Beach where I feared horseshoe crabs, I was on a bigger journey.  Then there was the proverbial European trip with a group of girls (Clare Laughlin's Tours) between high school and freshman-hood at college, crossing the Atlantic on extraordinary ships, the Christopher Colombo and the Ile de France.

Raising the prison Chapel Uruguay

JumpDog in Uruguay
Four years later,  I was well prepared for my post-college graduation adventure - a trip around Africa in 1962 alone, when girls didn't do that sort of thing. It was the time of the Peace Corps, which I was not in. But I was a fledgling journalist and the trip was well planned, though Mother had nightmares about me in cauldrons of boiling stews. I wrote articles for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, learning the ropes about sending copy by wire, and having great mentors, Merriman Smith, dean of the White House Correspondents, and Smith Hempstone and his wife, whom I visited in Kenya, where he was columnist/reporter for a Washington daily, and later US Ambassador to Kenya. I was honored to have an interview with the "new" and exciting leader of a freed nation on that colonialized continent: Kwame Nkrumah, president of Ghana. (Before I set out on the trip, I wrote letters to the African heads of each of the countries I was passing through requesting interviews: In 1962 they were Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria(malaria attacked me here), Cameroon, Congo, South Africa, Bechuanaland, North and South Rhodesia, Nayasaland, Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt - the last two were canceled because I met my first husband to be when stuck in a mudhole in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanganyika and stayed there an extra ten days before returning home - and surviving serious hepatitis before returning to Karatu and Arusha to be married. We moved to Tennessee when I was eight months pregnant with my daughter Mary a week before President Kennedy's assassination.  
Ordination 1965

Between 2 greats: El Oreja y Maradona

After  birthing two more children, eight years on the Press Scimitar and trips to Europe while getting a Masters of Art History degree, I moved to Uruguay in 1984 as wife of boxer-soccer president Sergio Gonzalez. We took two cruises through the Mediterranean Sea and Northern Europe so Sergio could see some of the world. Then I made The Pilgrimage for a Christian to Jerusalem after my ordination into the Anglican-Episcopal Church in 1995. It was an eye-opener to encounter all three faiths that co-habit that area. And I also traveled to South Africa again and to New Zealand (and wonderful Bora-Bora where I swam with sharks) to judge flower design for World Association of Flower Arrangers. I began to visit holy areas - Walsingham, Stonehedge and Canterbury in England, Iona in Scotland, the many churches throughout Europe, Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, Russian Orthodox sites in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Our Lady of Guadaloupe in Mexico, and this still goes on. 
Green Iceland 2007

Holy Mt. Kailash 2012

People often comment that travel helps you appreciate your own country. My feelings are different: I learn to appreciate other systems, styles and beliefs and realize that our way, "democracy", now strangled by criticism, abuse and intolerance, is not the only way. We are not necessarily the answer, especially as we lose respect for each other. The happiest time in my life was living for 20 years in Uruguay. It was simple. I could walk the beaches early at dawn every day, rain or shine. And my faith increased three-fold by the ministry I was allowed to do and  the hundreds of people who touched my soul, who cared. Plus I became an advocate for prisoner reform and opportunities and took up gardening.
After returning to the US in 2002, living two years in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where I took up rock climbing, repelling and attempting to reach mountain tops like the Grand Teton,  I reluctantly moved back to my root city, but I was welcomed by Calvary Church and by the Drop-in Center for the homeless, where I was able to volunteer, and then Shelby County Juvenile Court, where I became at first a volunteer probation officer. I had a cause. That's what I needed. And every day I can watch the Mississippi River flowing by. Water is a must for my peace.
Bread and Puppet Dragon
Always a dragon appears
It was seven years ago that I began serious journeys to places I had never been, and all these experiences are recorded in my blog. Even after this major trip to China, (for which I've spent two months in study of its art and history),  with a few days again in Hanoi, and always the stop off in Thailand (my favorite for the bonding with elephants and tigers), I still have a Bucket List, if the Lord allows and lets me live.  I couldn't do it without my friend Jim Williams, who has arranged and patiently guided me through the highs and lows of most of these trips since the 2008 trip to Nepal and the base camp of Mt. Everest. Bless you, Jim. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dearest Audrey,
This blog about your life and travels is absolutely unbelievable! We knew about your recent journeys, but had no idea that you became a traveler when you were just a little girl. We are so thankful God protected you when you swam with the sharks.
Words are not adequate to describe you. Your unwavering faith, your desire to help others no matter who they are makes you a wonderful, unique person. Loved the photo of your Ordination!
If there were more Angels like you, our world would be a much better place.
Thanks again for this special blog. We learned so many things about you that we didn't know! You are amazing!
You're in our thoughts and prayers!
Love you always,
Geraldean and Judge