As my plane angled into position on the runway in Kansas City, I turned off my phone and had the distinct feeling of being in the starting blocks of a race. I haven’t raced since high school, more than 15 years ago, but the particular giddy nervous energy of the starting line found its way back into my veins easily. If you’ve ever run track, or cross country — or played any competitive sport, really — you’re familiar with The Moment.
I was a sprinter, and the 100-meter dash and 4x100 relay were my races. There’s this moment, after jogging a few paces and peeling off your outer warm-up layers, shaking out your legs and jumping in place, stretching your arms across your chest and taking a last deep breath. Then getting down on the track, kneeling on the surface of the earth; all four limbs on the ground, like a child...fitting shoes to angled blocks, and thumbs and forefingers to the painted starting line. The world gets quiet and still. With one knee pressed into the gravelly surface of the track, the man with the pistol says, “set,” and you rise into starting position — body leaning forward, weight shifted onto fingers, balanced and coiled like a spring. That moment. All the preparations and training having accomplished what they could, and all the world stilled, focused in the silence of expectation for what is to come. That moment. Waiting for the gun.
And then the pistol fires, and every fiber, every choice of both body and mind is condensed into forward motion. Legs and arms flying, we run.
As I write this I’m sitting at a dining room table in Stanford-le-Hope, a modest little community in Essex, on the outskirts of London, where I’ve landed for the first month of this year-long journey. The windows are freckled with rain this morning, and gulls trace curves across a gray slice of sky formed by mossy rooflines. I’ve been welcomed so warmly, already. I’m eager to explore this place, to walk the roads and to share her people and stories.
I took the long route here, flying first to Prague for a few glorious days with my dear friend Katie, followed by a gathering of friends and colleagues in Vienna, a spontaneous day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia; a train through the Alps to Zurich and another one to Paris, and finally a last leg by rail through the Channel to London (you can find my photo chronicle on Instagram). After few stops on the Underground and one last overland train, I stepped out of a railway station to twilight in Stanford, my home for the month.
I’ll admit: having lived out of a suitcase for several weeks now (with about 51 weeks yet to go), I’ve had a few thoughts along the lines of, “what the heck am I doing??” The reality of having left Kansas City, of being a pilgrim for an entire year, and of not having the usual routes and routines and objects and rooms to build my days around — this is only beginning to sink in, now that I’ve stepped into the experience of it. It’s more than a little unnerving to lose your context; to be pushed off-balance into a new normal that is anything but normal.
But even deeper than the uncertain questions, I can feel the bursting beauty of it. I am thrilled and humbled and honored to be here, doing this; meeting new people and asking new questions and living under a new sun…standing here on a precipice of open-ended wonder and possibility in this wild world, so much of it new and unknown to me.
And, I’m so glad to have you with me. Thanks for following along.
I’ll sign off for now by sharing something I wrote last night. It’s a kind of letter to myself, a reflection and exhortation as I lean into the starting line of this project. It feels like a fitting way to begin this blog: with a time capsule of the things that feel most important, and the things I want to remember along the way.
these are the days we have.
Do not ignore the small stories; the easy-to-overlook ones.
This is what you have come for.
This is what you were made for.
Keep your eyes open.
Be present, and listen — but do not be afraid to speak.
Suck the marrow out of the moments that come to you.
Drink the cup, and share it.
Become a thin place, one that others can see through.
Let everything happen to you, both beauty and darkness.
Choose to be near.
Do not let go of My hand.
Pick up the small stones, shine them, and put them on display.
Collect the words that others have been given,
the ones they are carrying
like treasures and swords.
Bleed like the human you are.
Sing, too; for you were made to sing.
Receive hospitality, and give it.
Breathe the free air.
Take note of the magic that passes before you.
Look people in the eyes, and find the light there:
bless it, and speak its name.
Be alive, for you have been given life.
Carry peace in your body.
Let each day be new and whole, and make it yours
in the best possible way.
Find family, and forge it.
Be prepared for the brave and the beautiful to reveal itself:
for it surely will.
Here's to the journey!
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