hiking the cumberland river trail

That particular weekend in January we were hoping to go camping, which took some serious commitment for me because I don’t love the cold. But, I believe in seizing the day, and this was the weekend available. Then it got all rainy and muddy on Thursday and Friday. Muddy and cold and a chance of rain. We decided sleeping indoors was a wise move. Someday maybe I will fall in love with cold weather camping. Maybe you will be the one to make that possible. For now, this is this the story of that weekend.


Camping nixed, the goal was to find a place to be outside. Breathing in nature is good for my soul, and even if I was not camping, there was to be an adventure. We flipped through a book I highly recommend called 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Nashville. There are different editions of this book for different cities, and I think they are brilliant. I am writing this particular trip up here because it is a place I wish I had known about when I was living in Nashville. We went to the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail near Ashland City and did about an eight mile walk on an old railroad path that was paved over. It was flat and easy walk, but the sky was blue, it was warmer than anticipated, and it was a new area. The trail continues for another segment just as long (though I am not sure if it is all paved). For much of the walk we felt like we had it to ourselves. It would be perfect for a bike ride, a hike, taking a stroller, just something different that is close and easy and not muddy when it rains like crazy. Besides, if you do the first part of the trail, there is this random bike welded on top of a pole. Random and odd and made us smile that day.




I often find that adventures end well with a hunt for a local diner or restaurant. It is now becoming a tradition – sometimes something grand is found, sometimes greasy locations where it is rather clear I am not a local. This time we found a Vuocolo’s Italian Pizzeria, a restaurant in what looks like a house. Inside it feels like a house and there are really only two tables. Would it be good? We had our questions, but that is part of the adventure, part of the game. It was outstanding. The owner will happily divide the pizza in half or quarters so that you can each get what you want. I think it was the best pizza in the Nashville region. Why don’t you take a trip up there this spring or summer? Go for a long walk and get some pizza, then let me know what you think. 




mosquitos in the bush

Last weekend I was sitting around a table talking with friends. The sunset had been nearly picture perfect, the night air was crisp without being cold, our hands were holding gin & tonics, and we had eaten a fabulous home-made meal packed full of fresh veggies. I was in Rwanda at a table of international friends.

Two of these friends began talking about what it would be like to return home to England where a glimpse of sun brings rejoicing and grey sky is the norm. Well, not exactly what I would be returning too. No, the place I was headed was slightly different. With the violent change of seasons, storms pop up that bring trees down on houses. It is hot and humid all summer long – two showers-a-day kind of weather. The mosquitos leave welts (though not disease). Going on hikes means that you must check your body for ticks (which can carry disease). Woods and rivers have snakes, and I regularly kill spiders in my house (in a city). I once killed a small cockroach on my table at a (nice) restaurant. I promise – all of these things are true.

As I created this list, I could not help but laugh because people sometimes express worry about me traveling to the African bush. But here I sit in my Nashville home with welts caused by mosquito bites that are driving me mad with the itching. All because I ate dinner in my yard two nights ago – surrounded by citronella candles and wearing mosquito repellent.


they filled in the pools

When I arrived in Nashville three years ago, I promptly went on a search to find a pool where I could do laps. I have always loved water, and for the previous five years had swum laps for exercise two or three times a week. I was never fast, but I was consistent. It was a place where I could get into a rhythm. A place where my mind could heal as my body went through the motions and my eyes followed the lines of the pool. I solved more than one research problem that previously had me stumped while swimming laps, not to mention the problems of life. But there was no lap pool in the part of Nashville where I both worked and lived. There was an indoor pool at the community center  and  were two pools (one indoor and one outdoor) at the YMCA – that’s it. They were short and too warm for laps. The only pool I found truly suited for laps (rather than for the young and old to play or do aerobics) was across town. It was not cheap and I would have to fight traffic to swim laps. And so I stopped swimming laps. There was no public outdoor pool in which to cool off, so I head to state parks with rivers and lakes on hot summer weekends.

Three years ago, I wondered why there were no public pools, nothing outdoors and in the neighborhood – at least for the summer. This is Nashville where the summers are long with high humidity and higher temperatures – ideal weather for lounging by the pool.  I thought it was because I did not live in the best part of town – I work in an area where disparity is the norm as gentrification is changing the face of the neighborhood (a topic for another day). But then, it did not seem as if there was a public pool anywhere in the city.

This weekend a friend told me why there are no public pools. When public spaces, pools included, became integrated, the pools were filled in with cement. The white population preferred to fill in pools rather than share the space with their black neighbors. Really? Yes. My heart breaks at the loss, the hurt, the fear.

I am thankful that a part of me is still surprised by such things. I am thankful that I do not immediately suspect such hatred and fear playing itself out. But, I am not surprised by it, and am increasingly coming to expect it. That makes me sad. No, segregation is not the law today, but we are still reaping the repercussions of that time. It is rarely talked about, but racism is still alive and ‘well’ in America. It makes me sad. It is unfortunate that there is no good place for me to do laps, but if I wanted to fight traffic and pay the fee, I could. Instead, I chose to live in my neighborhood. What makes me sad is segregation and racism. In my dreams, I am forever shocked by it, but I think the shock will eventually where off. I hope that I am at least forever deeply saddened by it. In that, I will have maintained a piece of humanity, a piece of the sanity that I have found while doing laps in a pool.


**As I am traveling, I have not done the research to support what I was told, but a quick internet search did turn up this article discussing a pool that used to be.


60 hikes within 60 miles

A few weekends ago I found a treasure while chilling in a bookstore, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Nashville. Ironically, I was in the bookstore with friends precisely because the weather was blustery and we needed to get out of the house so as to not feel like caged animals. I hesitated in buying the book, but my friend wisely asked why I was hesitating (aka: a mental kick). Last weekend was the first use of the book – a beautiful 6 mile hike off of the Natchez Trace. We had the trail to ourselves as we hiked through forest and beside a stream (where we caught a turtle). Then we sat on the top of a hill where we spent hours reading in a hammock. In a day, this book became a favorite. I do not think that there is anything revolutionary in the book, but it takes away the excuse, or makes easy, the quick escape into nature. In the future, I shall hunt for such a book when I move to a new city.



fall leaves and friends

Hello internet. It has been a while – life has been stressful, there is a side project, and some gatherings of family and friends have required some fun planning. If all works out, I will tell you about the side project within a few weeks. But today, I want to celebrate friends and fall leaves.

Last year I waited and waited to bag the carpet of leaves that fell from the trees in my yard. You can read abut me carrying what seemed like endless bags on my head up a rather long lawn here. The experience made me think about the grand irony that I love big, old trees and the deep, varied colors of fall, and yet the raking and bagging of leaves made me want to live in an apartment surrounded by cement sidewalks.

This year I had grand plans to attack a piece of the yard each weekend until it was done. (Yes, if I had true perseverance, I could work hard and finish it in a weekend. But I don’t.) And so two weekends ago I did about a half of my front lawn. 12 bags and I was impressed with myself. The next Saturday, Elizabeth and Joel volunteered their help. In three and a half hours we had raked the rest of the front and all of the back yard, took a break for smoothies, bagged 25 bags of leaves, and somehow managed to fit 33 bags of leaves into 3 cars, and empty the bags at the city compost. And the rest of the evening was filled with Trader Joe’s Chinese food, Blokus, Scrabble, and laughter.

And that is the power of friendship. Three strangers might have been able to accomplish the same task, but there would not have been laughter. There would not have been camaraderie, and there would not be hearts full from having worked alongside friends. This was one of those afternoons in life that lived up to the cliche expression, “many hands make light work.” Thank you dear friends for teaching me how I can continue to love those big old trees and fall colors.





pita bread

Today, thanks to a colleague, I discovered a little hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean restaurant. Which means that, for the first time since arriving in Nashville, I had really good pita bread. When I asked if they would sell me some of the pita bread, the owner said sure, but it was kind of expensive. Matter of fact, he said I could buy pita at a store for about a $1, but he had to charge me $10 for the bag. I said that was just fine because the other pita was not the same – it would not be as good. As he rang up my bag of pita bread, he decided to charge me $8. And tonight I had one of my favorite comfort foods – a melted cheese sandwich made with pita bread. It was perfect.

a little bit of africa in nashville

Last weekend I started to work on the leaf situation in my yard. For all of you thinking, “Why in the world is Pam raking leaves in January?” — Keep the comments to yourself unless you plan on taking care of them for me. That is not what this post is about.

In a mad dash before the sun set last Sunday, I raked the front lawn into piles and bagged a couple bags of leaves. On this most gloriously sunny Saturday six days later, I did a little more raking and got most of the rest of the leaves in the front lawn bagged – another 8 bags. Then came the task of moving the bags to one place.

These are relatively big, awkward, slightly heavy bags, and I have a long front lawn. Tiny house, big lawn. I grabbed the first and held in front of me. I imagine this is something like what it feels to be 9 months pregnant. I imagine this is what other Americans do, and this whole lawn experience for me is about embracing the American experience because I do not naturally gravitate towards lawn work. The second bag of leaves was carried the same way, and I as I tossed the bag in the pile I thought it was just stupid. Why would one choose to carry bags in the most awkward method possible that was simultaneously not kind to one’s lower back?   

Bags three through eight were hoisted onto my head and easily transported up my lawn. Having some very white DNA, I still do this best with two hands as stabilizers, but there is enough Africa in my blood, that this was 100% easier than the method that simulated pregnancy. I do not live on a busy street, but I still wondered if anyone drove around the block just to see what was happening. My natural inclination is to leave the leaves where they fall and let the land return to its natural state. However, if you have to perform this arduous task, I highly suggest using one’s head to transport the bags. So much better!

it’s beginning to feel a lot like christmas

I’m not talking about the temperature outside or what form the water falling from the sky is taking. If that mattered, I would be sorely disappointed by the cold rain falling from the sky or my childhood beach Christmases. Rather, it has everything to do with the atmosphere, the mind, and the heart. 


My tree is up. Yes, it is fake, and I love it. My parents (mom was the key character) got me an ornament every year of my childhood and young adult life. Now these eclectic ornaments decorate my little tree. Last week a friend asked what was at the top of my tree. An angel of course. Only she lacks oversized wings, glitter, red lips, and the general stateliness that characterize angel tree toppers of the country I currently call home. My unassuming angel of plain cloth was created in the part of the Holy Land called Jordan. The white lights on the tree provide beautiful light–and they are on whenever I am both home and awake.


My nativity scenes are out. Scenes. Right now I have four–one of which is at the office. It is my hope to slowly gather nativity scenes from around the world. My childhood has etched into my head what I think the scene might have looked like. This image was developed during my times wandering the streets and markets of such cities as Cairo, Jerusalem and Damascus. I imagine the characters had olive skin tones and wore long dresses. Everyone’s childhood has impacted how they imagine the story of Christ’s birth. And that is why I have no problems having a nativity set with white characters. It will just not be my only set.


What else is there? Christmas music on the radio, the advent wreath and stories at church, preparations for celebrations and feasts to come, and general merriment. It is a good season. It is a merry season. And the temperature has so little to do with it.

rubber duck race

Rubber Duck Race. Yep, that’s right. Today I bought a raffle ticket in the body of two little rubber ducks to race down the river all in the name of a fundraiser. I named them Bill and Bob; I figured they were my southern ducks. Unfortunately, in a sea of over 7,000 ducks, Bill and Bob did not win any prizes. But…my souvenir duck is making a new home of my bathtub.

iron mike

day to day
lost in the mundane,
which is really the wild.
sometimes it takes unusual inspiration
to shake me out of the day to day.
inspiration from another’s sacrifice,
inspiration from america:
iron mike.

I hurriedly wrote the above after a staff meeting earlier this week. Mike is an average 55 year old man from Elizabethtown. He became ‘Iron Mike’ when he biked from coast to coast to raise funds for Blood:Water Mission. He found something worth fighting for, bought a bike a couple weeks before the ride began, joined the team, and rode his bike for the better part of 9 weeks telling people at gas stations, parks, churches and concerts about the men, women, and children who needed clean water in Africa. Iron Mike and his team raised a fairly impressive sum of money and impacted thousands. Beyond that, they were and continue to be inspiring. Iron Mike stopped in our office earlier this week and he encouraged our staff to continue our work and to work towards excellence.

I love what I do, and I love Africa. America is comfortable, but I let my guard down in Africa. The stories of hurt and happiness, of pain and perseverance, and of trials and triumphs of Africans are my day to day. In America it is in the pictures, proposals, and reports that I read daily, and in Africa it is all around me. It is wild and lovely, but is my day to day. In America I am surrounded by shiny windows, smooth roads, fast food, and blinking lights; consumerism. It is a constant sensory overload and yet it is uninspiring. And that is why I found Iron Mike so refreshing and incredibly inspiring. I am grateful to be in a place where I have the privilege to regularly be inspired and blessed by the Iron Mike’s of America.