Hello, Summer.

Well, almost.  Tomorrow is the last day of finals at school, and observing the students vacillating between the stress and the sadness of the end of the year brings back lots of memories.

Is anyone else shocked it’s May?

I have a lot of work ahead of me.  While I’ve been lounging on my couch at night watching episode after episode of Murdoch Mysteries, the days are slipping by and the summer is quickly approaching.  I have a talk on Pope Benedict, Art, Beauty, and the New Evangelization to write. I have another blog to nurture, since I want it a little beefier when my bio appears in the Franciscan Conferences program alllll summer long.  (“Who’s this girl on the very last page?  Oh, let’s check out her website.  Why is she still talking about Holy Saturday?”)

And as the weather gets warmer, my schedule will be filling up with free outdoor concerts, the kickoff of the summer social season (Steeplechase), trips to wineries, baseball games, and pool time.  When am I going to write that great American novel?

I will post soon about my sister’s fun visit to Nashville.  Until then, I’ll leave you with some pictures from Easter Monday (or in Italy, Pasquetta), most of which I spent driving.  I drove back to Nashville and then almost immediately headed further south to Chattanooga to see Nickel Creek.

IMG_7838

Pardon me boys, is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?  (Why, yes it is.)

Nickel Creek was the soundtrack for so many memories in high school and college, and once they broke up in 2007, I assumed I would never have the chance to see them live.  Then my friend Trena texted me one day with the happy news that not only were they releasing a new album, there would be a reunion tour to a few select cities.  Nashville was on the tour, but on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  Then a few weeks later I got an early-morning text from another friend: “Nickel Creek Chattanooga Easter Monday?”   They had expanded the tour!  I didn’t think very long before buying four tickets and hoping I could find two more friends to join us…

And we did!

The concert was incredible — I could dance and marvel at Chris Thile’s artistry all day.  And he didn’t even look tired at the end of it all.   They played a perfect mix of old and new. The crowd was amazing — standing shows always have their own energy, but this crowd sang, cheered, and recognized every song after a few opening chords.  It was brilliant.

IMG_7816Okay, off to go read some Pope Benedict.

 

Advertisements

Happy Canonization Day!

A few observations from this (early) morning:

1. One of the most striking things about any Papal Mass is the presence of the universal Church.  In its full splendor, impossible to ignore or miss, is the width and breadth and height and depth of the universal Church.  The young, the elderly, the families, the handicapped, the dignitaries, the homeless, the cardinals, the seminarians, the babies, the bishops.  Polish youth wedged next to Italian nuns. Families from the US sharing cobblestones with religious communities from Brazil.  This morning it was there, from the steps of St. Peter’s to the Tiber River, in Piazza Navona and Piazza Farnese, along Via dei Fori Imperiali and outside the Colosseum.

Behold the Church.  In her splendor, in her universality, in her holiness, in her pilgrimage.

2. History has never seen two Pope canonized in the same ceremony, much less two Popes present at the canonization of two Popes. It was one of those moments when you realize you’re alive at a very special time in the Church… the times they write about in history books.

3. It was worth the early wake up call.  I actually got a decent amount of sleep, since I went to bed early with a headache.  It’s now the end of the day Sunday and I’m feeling fine.  I took a quick nap after the canonization, before I got ready for morning Mass, but other than that, I’ve been up all day and it doesn’t even feel like I woke up in the middle of the night to watch history.

Mom was awake too, so we shared commentary via text message.  I marveled at the change in technology since I was in Rome nine years ago.  Now I was following along the ceremony with the same booklet the people had in their hands in those cute little Vatican worship aids – except mine was on my iPad.  I was living the moment with friends via pictures on Twitter and newsva on Instagram.  It was almost like being there.

IMG_7850Well, almost.  Except that I had slept in my own bed and was sitting on my couch drinking hot tea and eating a mini Columba.  So… not quite like being there.

4. It was strange to enter the real world later that morning and see everything go on as usual. Not only had I been up several hours longer than everyone else, I had just witnessed history.  Why was everything normal?  Why wasn’t everyone singing and dancing and laughing and partying?  It was like I had dreamed it all, and everyone else had missed out.

5. The thoughts I had during Mass on JPII’s first feast day returned.  Both John XXIII and John Paul II are in heaven, but to many of us, they aren’t just paintings on a holy card or statues of plaster.  They were seen with our eyes, touched with our hands, heard with our hearts.  Sainthood is possible, ladies and gentlemen.  Sanctity has been in our midst.  Holiness has laughed with us, has cried with us, has lived with us…. has challenged us.

“Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams.
Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.
Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
-Pope St. John XXIII

“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures;
we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity
to become the image of His Son.”
-Pope St. John Paul II

 

 

the funeral of a saint

I found a way to cope with my sadness about not being at the canonization.  I will relive the past.

So, without further ado, my email home on Sunday, April 17, 2005, a week after experiencing the funeral of the only Pope I had ever known.  The email is preserved in all its glory, every detail, every !!, for posterity.  No names have been changed to protect the innocent.

 

There are some moments in your life that you will never forget. I came to study in Rome knowing that I would return a different person.  I knew that I would experience things that would change my life forever. But I never expected to experience what I experienced last Thursday and Friday.

Around twenty of my classmates and I left our home in Rome Thursday afternoon around 2:30, equipped with blankets and bread, ready to camp out with the popes.  We knew that our chances of getting into the piazza the next day for the Holy Father’s funeral was slim, as we were competing with millions of people, so we realized we had to get an early start.  It’s not easy to travel around crowds with 20 people, so we soon realized (well, some of us realized and then took charge and ordered everyone else around. I think I’m practicing for when I’m first lady) that we would have to settle down as a group and then have a few people go scout things out and come back and report.  So we parked ourselves on Via Conciliazione, the main road that heads right into St. Peter’s Square.  If we could manage to stay there all night, we had prime spots for the rush the next morning.  But we had no illusions that they would let us stay there all night, since we had heard reports that they were closing the piazza and Via C at 10pm.  So we needed to find out more before we committed ourselves to spots that would be taken from us in 7 hours.  My roommate from freshman year, Marisa White (who’s an amazing girl — the world will hear from her someday, I guarantee – so remember that name) and I went off to investigate.

It didn’t take us long to realize that no one really knew what was going on.  We asked someone from every different military or police unit (“Hey, there’s a guy in a green uniform with a black beret – we haven’t asked someone who looks like that yet!”) and all the guys were more than willing to try their English out on the two of us.  Sorry, guys, we don’t want to talk to you… we just want information.  Which they had none of.  So we dropped them pretty quickly and attempted to get to the Swiss Guards, the official guards of the Vatican.  Our first try was unsuccessful because you needed a special pass to even get over to where they were standing.  So we walked all the way around St. Peter’s and the surrounding streets, make detours when necessary — and stopping to get gelato on the way — and managed to get to the Swiss Guards on the other side, at the Sant’Anna gate.

I wish I could somehow describe the atmosphere and the crowds.  There were people everywhere.  People coming and going from who knows where, pilgrims everywhere with sleeping bags and backpacks, large groups of people sitting and laying on the ground around entrances where they hoped maybe they could get into the piazza in the morning.  But we didn’t want to hope — we wanted to know.  And if we were going to camp out all night, we were going to sit ourselves in a place we were pretty confident about.  So Marisa went and asked to Swiss Guards (now, don’t think we’re Swiss Guard crazy. Okay, I am a little, but Marisa isn’t. M: “Joannie, they’re all either old and fat or short with glasses.” J: “But they know karate to kill!” M: “Joannie, look at them. Look past the uniform.” J: “Well, it IS a nice uniform…” so we were really just going to the Guards to get info, I promise.) and they wouldn’t say if Via C was closing — the piazza was for sure at 1o, but that didn’t really matter because no one was allowed in the piazza except the people standing in line to pay their respects, and that line had been cut off the night before.  But the Swiss Guard said that we seemed to have pretty good spots.  So we returned to the group not really knowing anything more than we had when we started. (but heck, we had fun.)  We were even getting conflicting responses about if the Mass was inside or out!  It was a combination of 1) security reasons keeping everyone either not talking or not knowing and 2) the Italians never really knowing what’s going on anyway.

IMG_1040There were lots of guards on Via C around barricades halfway down the street, but they were pretty much letting everyone come and go around the barricades.  There were also barricades at the very end of the street (far from St. Peter’s) that were a little restricted with their flow, and then there were barricades on the other end, right by St Peter’s Square, that were completely closed.  (This is really hard to try to explain) Via C was split into three aisles. The side aisles were the usual sidewalks of the street with businesses and things.  A lot of businesses stayed open, so people from the group wandered and got gelato and stuff. (most of us had brought food with us — I was armed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and peanut butter M&Ms (thanks again!) and an apple.)  The middle aisle was what used to be the line to view the body, but now the line was cut off, so we wondered where everyone that was walking up was going… because the road stayed fairly busy with pilgrims, the majority of them Polish.  It turned out that they were all going and camping up closer to the entrance of the piazza, by the barricades that were closed.  The red and white flags continued to joyfully stream past as the Polish joined us with their own blankets and dinner. I have never seen so many Polish flags.  It was amazing.

We passed the time talking and studying and I called Mom from a pay phone. One of the neatest parts of the evening were the priests that wandered through the crowds or sat against buildings with their purple stoles, ready to hear confessions.  The grace that was flowing that afternoon was almost visible.  It was so beautiful!  You got such a sense that these men were truly men of God, ready to do His work at every moment! They could have been doing a hundred other things at that moment — but they were ready to hear confessions.  I have to say, one of the most memorable confessions of my life came that night — I was just standing on Via C talking to the priest — holy cow, it was incredible! That whole night was one of those experiences that seems natural while you’re doing it, and then you pause a second and think, “What in the world?! We did that? That’s amazing!!”  We SLEPT OUTSIDE OF ST.PETER’S!! I went to confession on the street!  It’s mind boggling.  I wish I could describe it.

Around 5 or so — I kind of lost track of time — our president of Christendom, Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, his wife, and our college chaplain, Father Heisler, found us.  They suggested we at least move a little closer to the piazza, so we moved camp a little farther down the road and ended up all gathering around a huge supply of bottled waters — some people even built seats and beds with all the bottled water.  I was really impressed with how prepared Rome was for this.  They had bottled water out the wazoo.  They only problem was that it was all bubbly water.  Marisa and I were offered water when we were wandering around, and we asked if they had any “natural” and the guy said no, but then his assistant and yes and pulled two non-bubbly bottles out of nowhere — but then as we were walking away the guy started getting mad at her — haha, we think she probably gave us his water! 🙂

We were also camped out right near a first-aid type station, which was really nice because they had tons of blankets for everyone, and they kept passing them out — since we were right there next to them, every once and while the nun would come over (she didn’t speak any English) and just cover up the guys while they were sleeping and stuff.  It was so cute!

IMG_1048

So the O’Donnells and Father Heisler talked to us for a long time, then left to go find dinner — Mrs. O’Donnell was convincing Dr. O’Donnell to stay all night, so she had to keep him busy and moving all the time so he wouldn’t get fed up and leave!  They suggested we go find their son, Niall, who was camped out on the other side of the colonnade of St. Peter’s.  So we sent two people, Maris and John O’Herron, to go scout things out before we moved.

As a side note, the O’Donnells were SO nice to us.  He’s on the Pontifical Council for the Family, so needless to say, they had a lot of other things they could be doing and a lot of other people they could be seeing. But they took time out to come visit us and make sure we were okay.  It was unlike anything a larger university would ever experience. Your president and his wife try to get to know you by name and seek you out to make sure you’re okay? And then after dinner they came back and brought us cookies! It was SO sweet. They came back three times throughout the night (once at around 2 or 3 and they woke me up – it was cute.)

Well, we waited for awhile for John and Marisa, and we were sending Peter to go find them when he came back with the report that now Via C was blocked off and no one could get on it.. so that meant John and Marisa were stuck outside.  We were in the middle of a huge elaborate plan which included Peter leaving and somehow bribing the guard with a cigarette to let him back in (you have to understanding how Italian police work) when Marisa and John appeared out of breath … they had snuck back in one gate, then ran and pleaded with other guards to make it back to us.  So we decided to stay where we were — if they let us stay, we were in an even better spot since we were ahead of all the other crowds.  The only other people left on Via C were us, hundreds of Polish pilgrims now sleeping in rows, some American seminarians, and journalists, who had access to the road all night.

As the evening wore on, we passed the time studying, sleeping, and getting interviewed by several radio and television stations.  The road became fairly deserted and we wrapped up in our blankets to keep warm.  IMG_1052While one wouldn’t usually call a concrete stretch of a thousand Polish pilgrims, a handful of American college students, and a hundred roaming reporters “deserted,” it was empty compared to the other side of the barricades at the end of the road, where pilgrims continued to gather.  Throughout the night, we were reports that the line was stretching for kilometers.

There were several hilarious episodes through the night, memories I’ll never forget, but a particularly funny one happened because of my obsession with Shepard Smith.  I really wanted to meet him, since he’s my favorite Fox newscaster, and I knew he was around the Vatican somewhere.  John O’Herron had been wandering around up Via C by the Polish pilgrims and came back and told me he saw a Fox guy — he thought maybe a local guy from DC.  So he went with me so I could ask the guy where Shepard Smith was (by this time, my obsession had become the joke of the group).  Well, he said he didn’t want to be interviewed because he had botched his last interview a few days earlier (to be an American in Rome during these times means you get interviewed constantly.  It’s crazy.) so I had to go talk to them instead.  Well, I chickened out.  When I returned to the group, Marisa got mad and said I had to do it.  So she went back with me, and I went and asked the guy if he was from Fox, blah blah blah.  It turns out that he was from the DC Fox station, and he got really excited (he was a spastic fellow) when he heard we went to school in VA, and asked if there was anyone in our group from VA.  So me, being the devious person I am, told him that we had a guy from VA — John O’Herron.  He said he would catch up with us later, when he found his cameraman (he was lugging his own camera around – it was pretty funny) and we went back and told John he was going to interview him, and John freaked out and went off by himself to get himself ready for it.  What made matters worse was that John and his family actually watch their local Fox station at night for the very purpose of making fun of the “googly” news guys … and once we talked to this guy, we could see why — he was crazy!! … so it was pretty hard for him to get through the interview without laughing and without us cracking up… but he did it, and he did a very good job.  Then he called home and told his family to make sure and watch the “googly” news because he would be on.IMG_1054

The night wore on … I slept a little, got interviewed by a German radio station and a Boston TV station … we talked with the North American seminarians who were camping near us … it was a pretty fun night.  Dr. O’Donnell and his wife came back — they camped out all night, too! : )  There were a few false alarms — “I think they’re opening the piazza!” so we’d pack up our stuff and head up there, only to find no sign of them opening the piazza anytime soon.

We headed up to stand in line by the gates around 6, I think, so by the time the sun rose we were lined up with our Polish friends and a few American seminarians, waiting for the piazza  to open.  Before the piazza opened, however, the barricades at the end of the road opened, and more pilgrims — the majority Polish — began to stream onto Via C to join us in the wait. We were released around seven o’clock, and people started to head toward the piazza.  We were reluctant to leave our spots near the barricades on Via C, though, because we were right by huge televisions and there was no indication whether people were actually being allowed into the piazza, or just around it.  There were rumors that due to security, people wouldn’t be let in the actual piazza, and when we asked a guard as everyone was streaming in, he told us they weren’t letting people in the piazza at all, just around it.  So we waited by our TVs, because we knew if we weren’t allowed in the piazza there was no way we were going to see the TVs in the piazza and we wouldn’t really know what was going on.  Eventually, though, my friend Andy went and scoped things out, and he saw they were letting people in — so we headed up there.  So if you watched TV and were surprised there weren’t more people in the pizza, that’s why — thousands of people were told they weren’t even being let into the piazza, so they didn’t want to leave Via C with the TV screens, and it was impossible to tell from Via C if the piazza was open or not — it’s hard to comprehend, but everything is so mammoth and far away that while Via C and St. Peter’s look close, they aren’t.  So it’s really hard to tell what’s going on, even though it’s right in front of you, because it’s actually pretty far away.

The last part of that paragraph was a horror in grammar, but I’ll continue.  IMG_1071I’m sure most of you saw the funeral or clips of it on TV.  I don’t need to say that it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.  Plus, not only was I blessed to be in the piazza for the Holy Father’s funeral, I was blessed to be able to experience it while being surrounded by people from Wadowice, the Holy Father’s hometown.  While the entire piazza was filled with the Holy Father’s countrymen, the people that surrounded me were truly his people.  I will always remember how joyful his people were.  They cried and grieved, but they rejoiced, knowing their friend had followed Christ and had fought the good fight.  When we clapped for the Holy Father at the end of Mass, their clapping drowned out the helicopters that hovered overhead.  I will never forget those people. They had hitchhiked to Rome, slept on the concrete, and afterward, stood in the rain.  They were there to say thank you to a man that was a son of their country and a father to the world.

IMG_1089

The image of the pall-bearers when they turned and lifted his coffin up for all to see before they went inside will be forever burned into my mind.  It was amazing.

IMG_1095

Tomorrow, the conclave begins, and we begin our vigil in the square, awaiting the white smoke.  Most of the pilgrims have left the city, and the Church will pause until the Holy Spirit will make the new pope known.  As I walked through the Square the day after the funeral, I was initially surprised that nothing seemed different.  There was no physical change since the Holy Father passed away except that the shutters to his bedroom window remained closed.  It reminded me, however, that the Church continues.  We said goodbye to a Holy Father that history will never forget, but the Church’s invisible head — Christ — is still with His Bride.  I haven’t been down to see the Holy Father’s tomb yet because the lines are still very, very long.  But I’ll make it down there soon.

I wish I had a cell phone and could start calling people the minute the smoke appeared!  Such exciting times… it’s hard to write down.  IT’s hard to even speak about.  All the experiences have been so intimate and personal, that they’re hard to talk about.  Not that I don’t WANT to talk about them, but they’re impossible to talk about because they’re impossible to voice or understand unless you experienced them.  But I continue to try.

[Apparently I did.  Did anyone actually get through those 3,000 words?]

 

 

Romesick

bildeI will be the first to admit – I kind of wish I was in Rome right now.  I didn’t think I would want to be – I had been blessed beyond measure to experience the funeral and conclave of 2005, and that was with a roof over my head and the crazy energy and carefreeness of a college kid.  Add Holy Week and Easter of 2008 and I thought I had enough of Rome crowds for a lifetime.

But now … a handful of friends are heading over there, Twitter is full of bishops and priests and media tweeting from Rome, and, well, how do you not want to be there?

Instead I’ll be watching from my couch, drinking coffee and making breakfast casserole for any friend crazy enough to wake up at 2am to join me.

Nine years ago, we were chanting Santo Subito.

Come Sunday, we’ll be able to say Saint John Paul II, pray for us.

Quick thought of the day

The liturgy for Wednesday of the octave of Easter always boasts two of my favorite readings – the road to Emmaus in the Gospel and Peter’s cure of the beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.  I love how Peter turns to the beggar and the guy expects a little money, then Peter declares, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Today I was struck with a little thought.  If this man had been sitting by the Beautiful Gate every day, and had been crippled since birth (see Acts 3), wouldn’t Jesus have walked by him too?

Perhaps this is yet another example of someone Jesus chose not to cure.  Not because He didn’t love him, but because the plan was bigger.  Maybe the beggar had seen Jesus come and go and had heard the stories.  Maybe he wondered why so many had been cured, but not him?  Like so many of us, he could see the thread in front of him but not the whole tapestry.

It can be hard in the midst of suffering to see why God is letting us bear the burden, seemingly alone.  Why do others not suffer like we do?  Or why are others relieved of their pain while we continue to suffer?

Perhaps we are waiting for Peter.

The semester of a lifetime

My friend Jenny is hosting a link-up of favorite John Paul II stories, and I thought it would be fun to jump in.  This is actually my first official link-up.  Crazy, huh?

IMG_1083

Anyone who knows me, has heard me speak, or has read my blog for awhile knows my John Paul II story.  It’s not just a moment, it’s three months of moments, beginning on February 2, 2005, when 29 juniors in college boarded a plane for Rome to study abroad.  John Paul II had just been admitted to the hospital the day before, but I’m not sure any of us fully comprehended what might await us that semester.  Certainly none of us dreamed our last Sunday in Rome would be the installation Mass of our new Holy Father, Benedict XVI.

I remember seeing John Paul II for the last time.  It was Wednesday, March 30, and a group of us were leaving for Paris the following day.  In the last months of his life, instead of his large General Audiences in the Square, John Paul would come to his window and greet pilgrims at 11am.  I knew we needed to be there that Wednesday.  When 11am came and went, rumors began spreading that he wasn’t coming.  We had seen him a few days earlier, on Easter Sunday, but none of us realized how sick he was.  I think we were so used to seeing him suffer and had witnessed so many false alarms, we hadn’t fully comprehended that his health was really failing.

When he came to the window, he couldn’t even speak.  I looked at the television screen and saw the anguish in his face, and it was as if I was seeing the suffering for the first time.  He was preaching his last homily, proclaiming his last encyclical, addressing his last apostolic exhortation.  It was silent. It was the Cross.

Two days later, I was in Notre Dame Cathedral kissing the crown of thorns, unaware that my Holy Father was on Calvary for one last time.

Our first night in Paris, we stayed at the convent at Sacré-Coeur.  Spartan living arrangements were embraced enthusiastically for a few euros and the opportunity to pray in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament in the basilica in the middle of the night.  For some reason, however, the Sisters said we could only stay one night in the convent.  While we were upset at the change of plans, if we hadn’t been forced to find other lodging, we never would have had access to CNN — where we saw on Friday night for the first time that John Paul II was dying.

Saturday evening we headed up Montmartre for Compline and 10pm Mass.  We were going to be late for Compline, and for a feeling I couldn’t explain, I knew I had to be at Compline. We raced up the steps, and as we entered the darkness of the basilica, my legs were weak, I was sweaty, and I thought I was going to faint. I glanced at my watch.  9:35. We had made it just in time.  We made our way through the basilica and knelt in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament.

Two minutes later, John Paul II died.

We didn’t know, of course, nor did anyone else in the basilica.  Instead, the city of Paris- the youth, the businessmen, the married couples, the families- all gathered together in that beautiful basilica and celebrated the vigil of Divine Mercy together, praying for our beloved John Paul II.  When we returned to our hotel, the other girls ran up to our room to turn on CNN.  I stood in the lobby, my eyes transfixed to the television screen.  He was gone.

The next week was a blur. When we returned to Rome the day after he died, we headed straight to St. Peter’s.  Although morning Mass was long over, the Square was packed.  No one wanted to leave, as if leaving his window meant leaving him.  People were singing songs, praying the rosary, sharing memories.  We said the Divine Mercy chaplet and then headed back to our house.

The next afternoon, knowing the crowds were only going to multiply, a group of us headed to St. Peter’s to pay our respects to the only Holy Father we had ever known.  That night was completely surreal.  Standing in line for hours, passing makeshift shrines with candles, signs, and intentions, watching clips of John Paul II on the jumbotrons that were set up in the Square and all the way down Via Conciliazione.

Although it’s two football fields away, Bernini’s Holy Spirit window was clearly visible as we walked up the main steps of St. Peter’s and straight through the main doors.  The whole way up to his body lying in state, that window was in front of our eyes, lit up despite the darkness outside.  The theme from World Youth Day, Jesus Christ, You are my Life, was playing. To this day, it’s hard to hear that without weeping.

But the overwhelming feeling was not sadness.  It was triumph.  The music swelled, and we entered the bright basilica, still staring at the Holy Spirit window.  His suffering was over.  The victory was won.  And the Holy Spirit would take care of us now.

 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.”
John 1:4-9

IMG_1036

 

Blue Hole

Just a few pictures from the weekend.  We were teaching in the Tri-Cities, which is a far piece – well, the farthest we travel to teach.  After a day of teaching in Johnson City (cue Wagon Wheel, because it was in my head every time someone said Johnson City…) we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather to find some mountain beauty.

We ended up taking a chance on a waterfall that Sister had found in a brochure and I had found online.  It was a good risk.

IMG_7655You take pictures like this before you realize what’s coming next.  This waterfall, “Blue Hole,” is really four waterfalls.  This isn’t one of those four.  But it’s the first thing we saw, and it was beautiful.  But then we kept walking down the hill…

IMG_7661These pictures don’t really do the whole thing justice.  It was magic hour, so the sunlight was perfect.  It was off the beaten bath (and there wasn’t a single sign announcing the waterfall’s presence), so there was no one else to be seen for about a mile.  After a long day of teaching, it was exactly what we needed.

IMG_7664The more we walked, the neater the waterfalls became.

IMG_7704

IMG_7686

That waterfall required some additional, off-the-path climbing, but once Sister and I made our way down (roots make the best foot holds), we were rewarded with a significant temperature drop (it was stunning to feel the cool air pouring from the falls) and a beautiful view.

Then the last fall…

IMG_7695

This is the “blue hole” that gives the whole waterfall complex it’s name.  After making it’s way down the mountain, this waterfall pours right into a deep, blue hole. : )

IMG_7679

This view was much more majestic in real life.  I took this from the top of one of the falls, looking down at Sister Mary Sharon, who was sitting by the Blue Hole.  Behind her is a giant rock face that is much higher and more stunning in person.

It was definitely worth the trip.  Then we rewarded ourselves with pizza and calzones back in Johnson City.

On Saturday we taught in Kingsport, then headed back across the state home.  In two more weeks, the spring travel schedule will be over.  Just to give you an idea of the life of a traveling catechist – I will have slept in my own bed one Friday night between March 7 and April 25.  But I’m not complaining.  Have Bible, will travel. It’s an honor to preach His Word.