“The world is a book…”

“…and those who do not travel read only one page.”  –Augustine of Hippo

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This is one of my favorite quotes.  When I was young, I used to sit on my front porch swing and read books.  My family didn’t travel often, and never too far from home, so books were my way to see the world.  I imagined that I would be best friends with Tom Sawyer.  I wanted to be courted by Genji (and then punch him in the face).  I cried for Tess Durbeyfield.  More than anything, I knew that reading about them, reading about where they lived, was my window to a world I may not ever get to see in person.

Fast forward several years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to a few interesting places.  I’ve got so many more on my list.  I think about them, all of them, any time I’m packing for a trip.  I think about them any time I’m buying plane tickets.  Honestly, I think about them when I’m running errands or doing laundry.  There are so many places to visit in this big, beautiful world, and I want to see them all.

I think traveling is important.  I think it’s essential to go to different places, meet different people, eat different food, listen to different music, see different things (drink different wine!).  There’s no better way to understand the world than to go live in it.  And sometimes the smallest things surprise you…or, you know, how small you are surprises you.

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If the whole world is your home, and you never go out and see it, it’s like you’ve never left your bedroom.  And I would like to think everyone moves past that phase once they reach adulthood.

So, for now, see you soon, Seattle and Alaska.  After that, who knows?

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien

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Virginia’s Forgotten Memorial

I’ve been thinking about how to usher in Memorial Day weekend this year.  For a lot of Americans, this is the first official weekend of summer, a three-day breather with cookouts, picnics, beer, and beaches.  But for many, many more, this weekend is about honoring those who’ve lost their lives serving our country.  I think it’s important not to lose sight of the real reason Monday is a holiday, even while we enjoy the long weekend with our families and friends (or, if you’re like me, the blissful, oft-elusive heaven that is bed).

Bedford is a small community in rural Virginia.  It’s surrounded by mountains.  It’s a nice town, idyllic even, as small towns in Virginia go.  A lot of people probably pass right by it, seeking the larger destinations of Roanoke and Lynchburg.  But they shouldn’t, because they’re missing one of the best monuments to courage and sacrifice that this country has to offer, and it’s right here in Virginia.  So, I’ll take a moment, before I explain why in detail, to say that every Virginian (or, you know, every American) should visit the National D-Day Memorial.

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When I talk about the D-Day Memorial, the first question people usually ask is why a memorial for such a tremendous, painful, do-or-die undertaking would be located in a small town like Bedford.  Here’s why – Bedford lost more of its boys, per capita, than any other community in America on D-Day, and the survivors took pride in making sure this monument stands in honor of their fallen brothers, and in honor of all the men who died that day.  Nineteen men from Bedford – nineteen – lost within the first day of the invasion, and four more in the next several days of the campaign.

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You can read about them here:  Why Bedford?.  Or, if you’d like a little more detail, you can purchase the book The Bedford Boys by Alex Kershaw.  I would encourage you to do so.

The memorial project was founded by Robert (“Bob”) Slaughter, a D-Day veteran and Bedford Boy himself.  It now stands on 88 acres overlooking the mountains.  It walks visitors through the D-Day invasion from its start, strategized and spear-headed by Eisenhower, to the Normandy landing, complete with simulated gunfire, to its finish, a grand display of the flags of all participating nations capped by a victory arch and watched over by the Lady of Trévières, a replica of a French World War I monument aux morts damaged by shrapnel.  Like her sister statue, Lady Liberty, she guards and protects, but she also mourns so great a sacrifice.

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That’s the balance the National D-Day Memorial strikes, and strikes perfectly.  It celebrates a great victory, but also remembers the great cost.  It honors the dead, but it doesn’t glorify their loss.

That’s what Memorial Day is all about, isn’t it?  Some soldiers never come home.  They’ll never drink a beer on the beach, or eat a hot dog at a family barbecue.  The least we can do for them, especially on a holiday designed specifically for the purpose and regardless of our politics and other nonsense, is to celebrate their lives and honor their sacrifices.

 

**A couple of notes on this post:

  • If you’d like to learn more about the National D-Day Memorial, and/or (and?!) plan your visit, the website can be found here: https://www.dday.org/
  • All of the photos in this post are courtesy of Dr. Thomas Carter, who kindly allowed me to use them in order to write something I don’t know if I would actually want him to grade…

This One Time, We Tried to Go Hiking…

So, this happened on Sunday:

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You know that feeling, when you go on a hike and you get to the top and you look out at an amazing view and realize your place in the universe?  Yeah, we didn’t quite get there.

We’re heading to Alaska in June, and we’ll be hiking a lot.  Graham has always really loved to hike, and I was an avid hiker in college, so when our friends let us know they were planning a hike on Sunday and asked if we’d like to join, we agreed without any hesitation.  We decided to head to Keys Gap on the Appalachian Trail, and had a good laugh at the possibility of hiking seven miles in the torrential rain.

Sunday dawned, gray and wet and windy.  It rained.  A lot.  We trudged our way up the trail anyway.  About ten minutes in, Graham discovered that one of his hiking poles was jammed.  Not the best start, but he managed, and overall it was actually quite peaceful in the woods – there was mist, it was quiet, the trail was empty.  We walked and chatted and took some good pictures.  And then the sole of Graham’s left boot peeled off.  Really peeled off, like a banana.  I was concerned, since the trail was wet and slippery, but Graham’s a trooper, and he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.

Not five minutes later, about a mile in, sopping wet and beginning to wonder if this was actually a good idea after all, the sole of Graham’s right boot peeled off.  And, that was that.  I pretty much insisted that we turn around.  There’s never a good reason to risk an injury three weeks before a big trip.  Or any time, really.

So, we didn’t make it to the top of the mountain, and Graham’s trail name is officially “Sole-less.”  I suggested “Inspector Broken Gadget,” but it’s a little too long, I think.  The good news: since we didn’t actually spend all day on the trail, we snagged some great barbecue for lunch and enjoyed an afternoon sipping wine and chatting with our friends at the Aldie Peddler (one of my favorite places on Earth).  So it wasn’t all bad.  Sometimes, really, it’s better when the adventure doesn’t go as planned.

Graham got new boots and poles yesterday, but I think we’ll always remember this beautiful moment:

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