There is no more delicious feeling in the world than being truly SEEN by someone, and loved no matter what they see. Seeing love covers a multitude of sins, holes, cracks, burns, you name it. It's not blind, it sees ... and loves anyway. I find it to be the underpinning of any healthy relationship … you show yourself, trusting that you won't be rejected, but that you'll be Seen and Known. THIS is the sweetness, the very marrow of life to me.
I've tasted this at many points on this journey, and it never fails to release just a bit more of whatever it is I've spent my life guarding or concealing. Things I'm afraid I'll be judged for, or shunned for, or seen as weak for. I've got a lot of those still lurking in the depths, and they only gradually seem to see the light of day. As they do, and they're seen and not judged, I become a bit lighter, more myself, more free.
I got a very rich dose of this in NC, and I'm still musing on it a month later. Heady stuff, being seen and loved. After Knoxville and the delight of soaking up Keren and Bobby's fellowship again, we finally got ourselves to Raleigh, and the home of my Uncle Dick and Aunt Judy. I'd promised them a visit before the trip ever started, and after 18 months on the road we finally rolled up to their door and dove right into the pool of love and warmth and relationship that is their home. Judy is my dad's sister (the eldest of 7 kids) and an amazing blend of both her parents. Heart savvy, head savvy, and an expert at Seeing and Loving. Her husband is a softie hiding under a tremendous wit, with a servant's heart. I went under, and didn't come up for days.
Spending two weeks with them (camped at a nearby state park) we worked on a bunch of painting and yardwork and housework projects that were either Someday ones, or things that are getting harder for Uncle Dick to keep up with thanks to his Parkinson's disease. We worked, but the relating and talking and sharing was woven right in and around everything, and I felt it in every corner of my heart. Seen. Known. Loved. An absolutely priceless gift.
Our welcome ran out at the state park (we had to move after 14 days thanks to regulations, even though the place was nearly empty) and so we hauled ourselves to the NC State Fairgrounds just west of downtown, and set up camp for another two weeks. Up next was painting at Tim and Anita's, and that was another bit of heaven. Never enough time to talk, but we made a go of it, and managed to get a bedroom and a bathroom painted in between. Anita is Judy's eldest daughter, and knows fierce love as well as any of my Grambie's grand daughters. Her husband's listening love poured out alongside hers, and watered us all.
Our last week in Raleigh was spent getting to know the delightful Rich Bolich, and reworking a gravel pathway around his backyard pool. Rick found our blog online before we ever left on this trip, and contacted us saying he'd love to meet us and give us some work, and support what we were doing any way that he could. Finally meeting in person was a joy for all of us, and he treated us to a couple lovely meals, including one for Douglas for his 14th birthday, and gave us the run of his place and complete trust in messing around with his landscaping and walkway. Another friend for life, and another anchor in Raleigh.
We also had the delight of hanging out with Stephanie and Brandon Smith (Steph's another Rule cousin), and taking the boys to Defy Gravity (a trampoline park) for Douglas' birthday treat. Highly recommended if you've got one near you … he declared it to be the Best Birthday Ever!
Leaving Raleigh caused a lump in my throat for several days, of the very best kind. Choked up with love and kindness and fellowship. Feeling seen, loved, and blessed beyond measure.
We tacked back west after pulling out of the fairgrounds, and holed up near Charlotte for some time to ourselves. While there we made visits to my delightfully colorful ex-Brooklynite friend Carolyn, and Amanda and Jeff Orr and their boys … more open arms and hearts and homes. Amanda is Judy's youngest, and another kindred spirit for sure. Our boys had some great romps with hers, and were fun to get to know. We also fit in a gold mining trip, as there happened to be a 4th generation gold mine right next door to our campsite. A good learning experience for Fynn, whose dreams of King Midas got a healthy reality check :). Just between our campsite and the mine, there was a house with a donkey named Applejack in residence. If you've never been treated to a wakeup bray/honk/screech, it's quite the experience.
We had only two fellow campers at that campground, and both kept to themselves. An older gentleman who we'd once glimpsed washing his truck, and a woman with two huge dogs who appeared to be doing some spring cleaning. The day before we left, the lady walked her dogs past our campsite on leashes, offering a "Hello!" on her way by. I noted it as a slight bit odd, as she'd been letting the dogs roam free all week. A bit later, she came over and halloo'd the trailer (camper etiquette doesn't seem to allow knocking unless you've hollered a greeting first, from a respectable distance of 10 feet or so), and I came to the door to find her offering to show my boys a snake that she'd found by her camper. Fynn was all for it, and so he and I followed her over to find a nicely sized black snake hanging out by her fire pit. I reminded him that Michael had previously offered $5 to the first boy to come to him holding a snake by the tail, and so he picked it up, wincing a bit, and holding it as far away from himself as he could he walked it over to show Dad.
As he was walking away, she handed me a little rolled up piece of grey paper said “Oh, there's one more thing … here's a map for a little treasure hunt that can be done in the woods back here, if you think your boys would enjoy it? I hope it's not a problem … there are some knives and matches involved ...” I assured her that was no issue, and that they'd be delighted!
Fynn unrolled the hand-drawn map and started right out, as Douglas wasn't available yet. He found “Long Log” right by Applejack's fence, and “Root Dam” and “Gnome Home” were also discovered with little trouble (which suddenly helped explain why I'd seen her coming out the woods the day before with a pile of moss in her hands), but he couldn't figure out which tree had the treasure chest under it. He called in Douglas for reinforcements, and a few minutes later they emerged from the woods with a little black chest, full of absolutely perfect treasures for the two of them. It was filled with some special 50-cent pieces, a couple $2 bills, a pair of sheathed pocket knives, glow-in-the-dark pebbles, a telescope, flashlight, and some matches. The effort she went to to provide them with a fun experience, before uttering a single word to any of us, was astounding to me.
It turned out that her name was Lori and she taught dance in a nearby town, had a granddaughter nearby, and was going through some old stuff while her hubby was away on business. The cleaning turned up some treasures that she thought the kids would get a kick out of. I think Lori herself was the treasure. We had been Seen, once again, and Known, before we ever even managed to exchange a word.