A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. – John Steinbeck.
The first stop that we came to is Cottonwood. It is made up of several primitive campsites. It is an actual oasis because most of the campsites offer shade from the numerous cottonwood trees growing there. Also, there is a creek that runs through Cottonwood that is fed by a large spring in the canyon wall. The water is cold, probably in the 50s. As the water winds through camp, it hits various boulders and large rocks making an ever ending source of white water.
Not navigable by boat but healing for the hiker who has just descended 4,000+ feet into the bowels of the canyon. Since the first day of the hike is all down, down, down — the day takes a toll on me that no other hike does. My toes and my knees hurt. As much as I dislike cold water, the urge to dunk into this water is overwhelming. The attraction to Cottonwood’s healing water runs in the family. As we saw the water before we got to camp, Anna was inquiring about getting in it before we even got there. She plunked in way before I did and after an hour or two (I’ve long lost track of time), we both were amazed at how all our aches and pains felt better.
This water experience is just like tubing except you don’t have a tube and you stay in one spot — instead of the tube moving, the water does. While we were “tubing,” a group of young women joined us in the water. It was somewhat Brother-Where-Art-Thou surreal. They shared a chapter or so about some of their adventures and genuinely recommended places that we should to add to our itinerary.
We never learned their names, but I secretly assigned them trail names: Bene (short for benevolent), Mirror, Olympian and ‘Vert. Often, what makes (or breaks) an adventure is the people you meet. I cannot number the people I have met over the years because I embarked on an adventure of some sort. Although not every experience has been good, most have and, like this one, has provided me with evidence over my lifetime that people are mostly good and want to help each other.
This was Anna’s first opportunity to be introduced to the community that sometimes develops on the trial and I am thankful to Bene, Mirror, Olympian and ‘Vert for making the introduction.
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“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Today we begin our journey out west and I cannot escape feeling nostalgic about scout trips with Col. Hume, my scoutmaster. I clearly remember being Anna’s age (13) and loading that 1955 Scout bus for the summer.
The back of the SUV looks much like the back of that old scout bus — filled to the brim. The excitement is tempered with a little bit of scared. Admittedly, Col. Hume had a master’s equivalent in planning. I, on the other hand, have watched a few Youtube™ videos.
Whereas Col. Hume had every moment planned, I have anchored our trip around several days — the balance of the trip is open in case there is an opportunity to be “swept off.”
My hope is that – like most adventures – the adventure itself won’t turn out quite like I expect but I will always cherish the people I am with.
Source: Quote From ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (c)2014 All Rights Reserved to balance of material Brandon L. Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham
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My dad was an orphan. His parents were Dontis and LB Blankenship. While pregnant with my dad, Dontis and LB got into an argument of some kind (we don’t know what over) and separated. Nine years later, Dontis died. I don’t know if LB ever knew that she died.
I do have a letter that LB wrote Dontis begging to reconcile. LB was a train man and the letter was written on Noble Hotel stationery. It was postmarked later down the line. This is our first time to travel through Mississippi since I got the letter so I wanted to stop and see if I could find the Noble Hotel.
Here are Anna and I standing outside what is left of the Noble. It is currently being converted into lofts.
Perhaps a boring old building to most, it is the closest thing I have to an “old home place.” More-so, it is a physical reminder of the consequences of not reconciling while you have the chance.
(c) All rights reserved. Brandon L. Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham
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We didn’t quite make it as far as I had hoped the first day – Monroe (5 hours) – I can’t blame it on anybody but me. We were going to cut the grass one last time before we set out (and by we I mean Anna) and right as she started the mower broke.
Since we planned for our mower to be used while we were gone, I had to fix it before we left … so we didn’t get underway until noon.
We did get a chance to visit Duck Dynasty’s warehouse (see Uncle Si’s resting chair above Anna’s shoulder above) and eat at Willie’s Diner (not as strange as it sounds).
All in all, a full day.
**** (c)2014 All rights Reserved Brandon L. Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham
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If I leave the house I am probably guilty of it. Someone asked how I am and I say, “Fine, And You?” And their response? “Fine.” I’ve even noticed that men sometimes don’t even ask each other how they are doing, they will just say “fine” when passing each other or nod.
Not that these exchanges aren’t important for making the way through a busy day. On days that I see a lot of people, I cannot stop and engage each one of them. At the same time, I have to remind myself that only a small percentage of those people are actually “fine” and I really don’t know how they are.
That automated response slips into relationships that I do care about and really do want to know. It’s just habit. Without going into interrogation mode, I rarely regret asking open ended questions that get a genuine response:
- What happened today that made you feel loved?
- When did you last feel lonely?
- What did I do today that made you feel like we were a team?
- What did I say that made you feel left out?
- What can I do to help you right now?
Certainly uncomfortable at first, before long these open ended questions (and others like them), are a new conversation. A real one.
(c) 2014 All Rights Reserved Brandon L. Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham
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My greatest struggle in calling a young girl into an authentic woman is meaningful conversation. I find that I am either talking to Anna or missing conversation opportunities. I rarely talk with her. I am often reminded of this when Anna says, “Mom has already told me that.”
Being heard is an essential step in developing authentic self. Consider what happens when someone is not heard. Or further consider what happens when someone’s voice is rejected. Suppose my daughter says, “I’m tired” and I respond that there is no reason for her to be tired. After all, she has not really done anything but hover over her computer all day. What I have communicated is a subtle message that robs my daughter of her own feelings. Pressed far enough, I am communicating that she is not a person. Persons, after all, have their own feelings.
I am struggling with how best to communicate this idea. Look at it from the point of view from being loved. What would happen if from an early age I told my daughter that I did not love her? At some point, she would not feel loved. Pressed far enough, she would feel that she was not love-able. She would feel that something was lacking in her as a person.
Returning to the daughter that says, I’m tired.” Rather than conclude and say that it is ridiculous for her to be tired, I might genuinely ask why she thinks that is. Her answer might give me some insight into why she is tired, “I didn’t sleep well last night,” or it might not. I might not see a rational basis for her tiredness and may never understand it. I can still listen. Without commentary, judging or contrast – I can just listen.
(c)2014 All Rights Reserved. Brandon Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham
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So, I’ve had several people ask me what I actually do (or think I am doing) to call a girl into person-hood. For starters, I try to just see her. How often do I look at my own daughter and see her like she is in the picture above – out of focus?
When Anna was born she was the first grandchild on one side and the youngest on the other. Whenever we would go to visit the grandparents, Donnalee and I were invisible. I am convinced we could have painted the room a different color and nobody would have noticed or cared.
I try not to do that with Anna. No matter how great the achievement or how terrible the failure, I try not to let my focus shift to it. Instead, I work to keep the focus on her.
Ever go to a meeting or a party and feel like there was no point in you even going, nobody even noticed you? Make sure your daughter doesn’t feel like that in her own home. Take a moment and just look at her.
(c)2014 Brandon L. Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham
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“There are roughly half a million videos that have been uploaded on YouTube by kids inviting others online to validate their looks by deciding if they are ‘pretty or ugly.’” “[G]irls as young as nine are getting thousands, in some cases tens of thousands, of people to weigh in on their appearance.”
I remember the day that Anna found her hand. It was just another day in the life of an infant with hands and feet flailing around. Then, something clicked when she realized she could make that hand, her hand, move. Watching Anna caused me to stop and think about how she has not always been her own person. There was a time when she was a part of her mother and, for a while, their bodies were one. When they were separated at birth (and perhaps before), Anna was on a journey to be her own person. Today a hand. Tomorrow a foot. At some point a fashion sense (three or four years old). Eventually a whole, independent person.
There are many ways that this happens and as many books on it as you care to read. But there is one way that is often overlooked, and it is this. The father calls his children into personhood. If the father’s voice is silent or unheard, girls will seek other affirming voices. Further, since another does not have the authority of the father, it will only serve as a temporary substitute, a place marker, for the father’s voice. This being the case, she will move to yet another to hear their voice. Since another cannot truly affirm, the need for this serial affirmation will grow until she is listening to “tens of thousands” of others in places like YouTube, or worse.
There are two areas of calling. One is active. I actively say, “you are my daughter,” “I couldn’t be more pleased with you,” “I can see how you feel that way even though I may not agree with the conclusion you reached.,” “You are the right size with the right body at the right time in your life,” and so forth. How about when she is not longer a girl? Is it not for the father to call his daughter into authentic womanhood?
The other area of calling is in defense. There always seem to be people who have developed a habit of the “too.” Anna you are “too” tall or “too” skinny or growing “too” fast. If I am present and that goes unanswered, I am agreeing with them by my silence. She is not “too” anything. At whatever season of her life she is, she should be affirmed by her father in it.
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We took our MLK holiday to test our gear on a moderately easy hike at Tannehill. This is a great hike for families. The trail is graded and in good condition except there is standing water in a few places after a rain. The trail is well marked and about four and one-half miles long. There are slight inclines along but they are immediately answered by slight declines. Part of the trail tracks Slave Quarter Road which has signs periodically identifying trees along the trail.
This was our first hike where we both carried gear we intend for the Grand Canyon so it was a good trail for a trial run. We had lunch on the trail which was a nice break. Even though it was a short trail, we were starting to get tired by the end. More training definitely needed!
On the trail our discussion turned to favorite hikes (and by the way, hikes are great talking and listening time). I certainly have my favorite hikes. My most favorite? This one.
(c)2014 Brandon Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham