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Across the Sea

Mary Liz Ingram —  September 18, 2016 — 2 Comments

We met a man in Santorini who told me that when you come expecting good things, with a good heart and good intention, you will find goodness returned to you. When your eyes are open and your heart is willing, you see magic things all around you. You notice the hummingbird moth on the yellow thistle, the feathers on the ground, the adventure to be found.

Be a child with wide open eyes, welcoming whatever arises. -Sister Dang Nghiem

At the end of July, my husband and I were so grateful to be able to travel to the Mediterranean, journeying through Greece, Montenegro and Italy. Through the whirlwind of experiences, I watched for the twisting of the olive trees, the constellations in the sky, the plants I knew and those that I had never seen. We put our feet through the black pebbles on the Aegean coast, rode a Moped through low-growing vineyards, climbed the Acropolis in Athens, wandered through dark catacombs, ran around Rome at night. I watched the moon over the waves and knew each experience was shaping me a little bit more.

Traveling with a great group of people, we collectively reflected upon our days in the Mediterranean. I wrote in my journal on the last night in Rome, sifting through images and snatches of thoughts I had collected:

I’ve been amazed, felt filled with adventure and life, I have been worn and tired, I have felt relaxed and at peace. I have wondered after the wisp that catches my attention every now and then. I have tried to be present, at home with every step. It has been impressed upon me even more deeply than before that I am a part of the whole of creation – that the bee, the bird, the sea, the sky, the trees, the air, the land, the past, the steps and people are all so interconnected – we are a family on earth, and each place is our home. The mystery of the sea and sky and life itself seems even deeper and more mysterious and wonderfully complex than before. I am ever more convinced that love must grow, that unity and patience and an embrace of the other is necessary and compelling. There is no other way. We are all one – all one. Brother, sister all around from the people who smile to the people who push you – the bee on my plate, the cats on the pillars, the trees twisting and reaching, the sparkling sea and stars that guide. Unified as one body, God is in the wild places, all around and in and through.

Now that we are back home, I try to keep that spirit with me. The open eyes, the sense of adventure, the unity and connectedness of life on this earth. During our travels, I drew pieces and places that I collected each day, from little flowers to towering columns. I like to flip through them and remember.

I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world. -Mary Anne Radmacher

 

In our big pink bus, we travelled to Wittenberg, famed as the spot where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church, becoming a major turning point in the Protestant Reformation.

Wittenberg, GermanyIn another beautiful, peaceful, medieval German town, we toured Luther’s house, saw Luther chocolate (?), Luther monuments, and even ate a “Luther Meal”:

“We ate some pork, beef and chicken with wine sauce, vegetables from ‘Katie’s Garden’ (carrots, turnips and parsnips), mashed peas, brown bread with mustard, apple dumpling, and of course wine. We ate and drank out of cool ceramic goblets and plates.” -journal excerpt

By the end, we’d had our fill of Martin Luther.

Martin Luther, ink sketch

Martin Luther, ink sketch

Though characterized as “the father of the Reformation,” and without question a highly important figure in church history, Luther was a real jerk sometimes. He said a lot of rotten stuff, and did a lot of rotten stuff. But he also worked hard to affect real change, real reforms that were definitely needed. He stood strong against corruption and didn’t give in to serious opposition. He was a real person, mixed with good and bad, and he made a place in history by working for what he believed was good and right.

As a side note, I have to share that we walked down some stairs and peered through a hole in a stone wall, looking at a mirror to see a reflection of Martin Luther’s toilet. Oh yes. I saw his loo, his WC. He apparently, like so many of us, did a lot of brainstorming in the bathroom. Don’t judge.

Wittenberg

Wittenberg

 

Erfurt, GermanyThe city of Erfurt makes me want to move to Germany.

Rich with history and beauty – we passed a house by the river that had a building date of 1328! – but on the cutting edge of modern eco-responsiblity, the place seemed perfectly beautiful, perfectly peaceful, quiet and lovely.

Flowers dripping out of window boxes, cobbled streets brushed clean, running rivers crossing under bridges, bicycles and solar panels…everywhere you look, there was beauty. It felt a bit like IKEA covered in flowers…responsible living, tidy and organized, no space wasted, no space ugly.

As we walked, we came upon a medieval bridge with perfectly crooked houses that people still inhabited. We turned down the street to look between the buildings, and saw rows of colorful umbrellas strung high across the tops, floating down the strip of sky.

We turned out of another pathway of winding streets, surprised to be standing in a huge open square with a gorgeous cathedral planted in its center, shining golden in the evening light.

Magnificent. It makes you feel good to be alive. It encourages me to live more responsibly in my place.

Erfurt & Eisleben, Germany: colored pencil & ink doodles

Erfurt & Eisleben, Germany: colored pencil & ink doodles

"In flight", colored pencil & ink doodle

“In flight”, colored pencil & ink doodle

“The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.” -Frances E. Willard

A week out from a transforming experience, I’ve recovered from jet lag, spent time with my kids, sorted out things missed at work, uploaded photos, and let the adventures rest in my mind. Two weeks in Europe, touring, learning and changing, with a group of 30, thanks to the generosity of family, travels never cease to change a life. In order to cement memories, absorb lessons into my life, and recount my journey through words and art, I’m sharing my daily doodles, journal excerpts and reflections in small bites over the next few weeks.

As with all great journeys, mine starts with leaving one place to go to another.

Equipped with lots of hugs and kisses from my kids, a packed bag, and a tidy stack of traveling art supplies, we headed to the airport in Atlanta, headed for Germany. Ready to experience and discover, always growing and seeking to move forward, reforming and becoming better in order to do my part to better the world.

June 16, 2014

“With the roar of the jet engine ringing in my ear, and the bright sun streaming in through the oval window, we zoom above the puffy clouds towards Germany. Sitting by the window, looking down on the patches of trees, snake-like streets and glimmering drops of lakes, our journey begins.

The engine drowns out the sounds of the mother in front of me. It muffles the conversation of the parts seller who builds his own motorcycles. It blankets the woman clutching her rosary in an unknown fear or grief. It lights the spirit of adventure that makes my heart skip, taking us high from the ground and letting us soar through the blue sky to new places, new people, new experiences. 

Below us, a mountain range of clouds, a landscape made of cotton…

A ribbon of rainbow streaked across the sky as the sun begins to set over the wide ocean.

Dozing in and out of a quickly passing night and into morning, I look down to see the sun rising like a jewel on a blanket of ripples like sheep’s wool. Clouds like an ocean of foam blanketing the sea.”

Germany, ink doodles

I wrapped the soft fabric around me, bunched it up in my hand, pressed it to my face and inhaled deeply.

The smells of the exotic filled my mind, bringing memories of expertly pointed piles of spices, rows of scarves swaying from awnings, dusky light filtered between close market stalls; the sound of languages unfamiliar and brass clinking together as the crowds slowly flow down the cobbled path.

Here’s a quick look: Walk down a Jerusalem street

It’s been years – 12 to be exact – since these experiences were my own, as I travelled for a month through Jordan and Syria. And now my husband has returned from a 2-week journey to Israel, bringing treasures wrapped in Arabic newspapers, including my beautiful scarf.

As he lifted the scarf from his bag, I knew that the fabric would be holding the scents of the foreign. I remember opening my own suitcase upon my homecoming those years ago, and being hit by the strong smell of a different place, trapped in the fibers of my clothing.

So I held my gift to my face and breathed deeply and slowly, eyes closed, transported to a place I remember, an experience like no other so far.

The Scarf, 3x4 pastel on card

The Scarf, 3×4 pastel on card