hiking

#ConsciousLiving: Snapshots and Thoughts from our Kentucky-Ohio Roadtrip

Clifton Gorge in Ohio

Last week, Daniel and I drove 7 hours to Nazareth, Kentucky to attend the annual Kentucky Council of Churches conference at the Sisters of Charity Convent and Retreat Center. You may be thinking: "Why would two Virginians go to a conference tailored to Kentuckians?" Well, I've sort of been keeping a secret for the last year.

I was asked to give back-to-back workshops on Conscious Consumerism! This year's theme was Justice and, while most of the sessions were, quite appropriately, on racial justice and reconciliation, they wanted to include a section on "lifestyle justice," as well. I tailored my talk around a uniquely Christian perspective on what it means to consume ethically, making sure to prioritize empathy, prayer, and meditation. While it matters what we consume, it also matters why we're consuming, and how that dependency on consumption affects us emotionally and spiritually. Right action is good, but it's better if it stems from a change of heart. I used this quote by Doug Frank (read the whole interview - it's great) in the presentation to drive home that point:
If you’ve got a rage for the good, as I did, then shifting your focus from personal morality to social morality doesn’t make you any less of a narrow-minded legalist. Instead of trying to be good enough by not dancing, drinking, lying, or cheating, you’re trying to be good enough according to the standards of social progressivism. It’s still a very tiring treadmill.
Clifton Gorge in Ohio
Daniel and my parents hiking at Clifton Gorge
Speaker on Ethical Consumerism and Fair Trade, Leah Wise
Looking totes profesh at the conference

I identify very strongly with the tiring treadmill of trying to be enough. It's become a huge goal of mine to do the right things out of a deeper calling than just "How do I make people think I'm good? How do I convince myself I'm good?" I believe that, for those raised with a Christian world view in particular, it's vital that we confront that insecurity before we can really make healthy choices. So, while the talk included particular definitions, models, and ethical companies, it was really about taking a hard inward look and growing from there. If anyone wants a copy of the slideshow, I can send it over. Just email me or leave your email in the comments. I don't think the whole thing was recorded, so you'll miss all my antics. Sorry about that. 

wildflowers, Clifton Gorge in Ohio
Wildflowers at Clifton Gorge
Stillhouse at Heaven Hill
The Stillhouse at Heaven Hill
Bubbling Bourbon, Maker's Mark
Yeasty pre-bourbon
 
We realized a few days before our trip that were would be right in the middle of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so we spent a day and a half after the conference ended touring distilleries. I'm not a huge fan of bourbon - though I certainly like it more after several tastings - but I LOVE learning. Bourbon is a truly American product with a long, humorous, sometimes harrowing history, and our tour guides at Heaven Hill, Maker's Mark, and Bulleit were extremely knowledgeable. I liked the dark, quiet, spookiness of the stillhouses, too. If you ever want to know about the history of bourbon, I am happy to talk your ear off, but I'll leave you with just one fun fact for now:

For bourbon to be classified as bourbon by the US government, it must be aged in a new, charred oak barrel. While this might seem wasteful at first, the barrel actually gets to take a lively journey around the world, adding warmth and spice to several other aged liquors. After 6-20 years of aging bourbon, barrels are sent to Scotland and used for scotch. Once the aging process is complete there, they're sent to Mexico to age tequila. And finally, nearly 80 years later (if all goes as planned), they'll be sent to the Tropics to age rum. What a life!

Mums
Mums
the tree with the lights in it, louisville, kentucky
"The Tree with the Lights in it" in Louisville, KY
An explanation of the above caption and my final scattered thought for this post, a quote from Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:
It was for this tree I searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years. Then one day I was walking along Tinker creek and thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells un-flamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.

harmonies

navy and yellow with sseko designs stylewiseguide.com casual outfit featuring everlane stylewiseguide.comminimalist featuring everlane stylewiseguide.com
Outfit Details: Top - Everlane / Skirt - Thrifted / Shoes - Sseko (straps c/o Hannah) / Necklace - (of)matter on etsy

Life the past few days has been a tremendous adventure. On Friday afternoon, we embarked with two other passengers to an Episcopal camp in the Shenandoah Valley for a weekend retreat. About an hour into the drive, Daniel noticed a loud clinking noise coming from the car. As I attempted to accelerate, we heard a dull boom from the back of the vehicle. I pulled over, then we waited for 45 minutes for AAA to come tow it to the nearest town. Fortunately, a mixture of friends in the nearby town and other members of the congregation spotting us on their way to the retreat ensured that we all had safe passage to our destinations. After a nice dinner with friends at an adorable co-op restaurant, we heard the news that there was a 6" hole in the engine. My car, dearest Goldilocks, was a goner. 

Despite the bad news, we journeyed on to the retreat where we enjoyed ourselves immensely. I went on a hike with an ecologist and geology aficionado and learned a lot about central Virginia terrain.

On Monday afternoon, my grandfather in Florida generously agreed to sell us his car, so we're headed down there shortly to pick it up. I've been asking for rides and taking the bus to get around town. I also have a cold, likely a byproduct of stress and too little sleep.

The past few days have been full of the sorts of things that should make me cry, but I'm oddly encouraged by the whole experience. I know I have friends and family who watch out for me when things get tough. I know I live in a world full of wonder, full of bubbling creeks and baby deer and a Capella music and the harmonies of hearty laughter. 

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