Traveling Two Ways
A couple of weekends ago, Jim and I traveled to southern Indiana to help with a woodfired oven workshop. The funny thing is that we discovered that we traveled in two ways. We left our familiar geography and landscape for a new one. That travel, I had anticipated. But the mindful gathering and experience made us move also, an even more rewarding trip.
The road to the south covers much farmland, at least until we get to Indianapolis. But once out of the city, the land starts to dip and roll like a forested wave. Towns grow smaller and skimpier. Roads no longer run in a grid but follow the furrows of trees and stones. Our friends live at the end of a dirt lane, off the end of a street, in a huge factory building that once housed a tomato products company. Andrew is in the process of building a large woodfired oven outside. He hopes to put it to communal use, baking bread with others, as well as baking for others. We are here to help explain and give advice to those who might want to build one in their backyard.
Andrew and Kara are slowly bringing life into this big rundown brick building. From just a shell, they are working hard, coaxing breath into a once dead space. Out front, a garden is producing basil and tomatoes, fruit trees are taking hold, and as we arrive, Andrew is playing his accordion in welcome. We sit down to supper with them and their friends at a beautifully laid table and eat food just out of the outdoor oven. The evening is spent catching up. Out of nothing, much has sprung. Their tiny kitchen works and that’s what matters. On the second floor, they have managed to put up a stage for music and movie events; also, a small bedroom where we will spend the night. And on the third floor, which someday will become their lodgings, their bed sits under its own light.
The folks who gather for the woodfired oven workshop bring more than an interest in the topic. In an unusual moment, many of us share about our lives and our histories and our passions. Some of us have tears in our eyes, both from joy and sadness. Somehow the space allows freedom to talk and listen. And that’s when we begin that second traveling. So much of our lives are spent working to make ends meet, wrapped in others’ expectations, protecting our failures. This gathering and this place remind me that hopes and dreams are alive. And they are what makes us human. Just as Andrew and Kara work on a building, finding nuggets of gold as they go, we all work on living, doing what we can.
As we come back from our travels, I’m glad to be home in my own space. And I am reminded once again to focus on what matters: grabbing the freedom to not let myself get penned in by assumptions, imperfections, limitations, and enjoying the process, the matter of living wherever it takes me.