Before we left on this adventure, I thought a lot about the places we might visit. I started thinking about the whole idea of ‘place’. I mean, there are no two identical places in this world, even if two areas of Levittown look exactly the same, they are distinctly different even if only by the way the lawns are mowed, where the bird nests are hiding or the slightly different longitude and latitude. Paying special attention to the particulars of the place where I am is a form of mindfulness for me. It helps me to be present and I get a big sense of gratitude for the richness of life on this planet when I just stop, look, listen. Every place has its own feel, history, geology, its own smell. Pilgrims have always travelled to holy places, places where blessings could be imparted. Is every place holy? If so, how do you find your way to the holy well?
So, this will be the first in a series of experimental pieces about the places we’ve been.
We stayed with friends in Port Republic, Va. a beautiful area north of Charlottesville. There are lots of old farms. Near many of the farms there are subdivisions of row houses and McMansions. There are many small churches and bill boards with biblical quotes on them. A town nearby is home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University . In the county side I saw several Confederate flags flying. That war seems a recent event here with hard feelings still evident. One of the civil war battles was fought in the field outside of our friends’ house. The Battle of Cross Keys was won by the Confederate Army. About 1,000 men and boys died in this field and surrounding hills.
The soil here is yellow with a light orange tinge. The rocks are mostly shale.
We have arrived here in the midst of a cold snap. Our friends tell us that this does happen every year around here. We walked out on a small pond on the farm. You can see the round, yellowish shape of a snapping turtle. It’s amazing to think that will survive till next spring. As we slipped our way across the pond, we were watched carefully by the resident goats.
I can’t say that I found a holy well in this place in terms of a big, wow moment. I was struck by the blending of the past and the present, from really old rocks to new buildings, from displaced indigenous peoples, to brave soldiers, to optimistic young college kids Parts of this place were hard to look at and some were a reassuring comfort.