January 14, 2007
I travel alone by car a lot, and Mapquest has always been my guide. I navigated Wyoming with routes I printed out before I left. From time to time there are snags — directions to a hotel in Arlington, Virginia set me down precisely in the parking lot at night during a driving rain, but the return directions, undertaken on a sunny day, had me going in circles for a while.
Back in December, on my way to a program at a church in an unfamiliar neighborhood outside Lancaster, I missed the turn off the main road. I’d gone about fifteen miles farther than the directions said I should when I came to an intersection. A sign pointed the way to Morgantown, and I wasn’t sure for a moment if that was Morgantown, Pennsylvania, or Morgantown, West Virginia. I had to call Ron, who went online to get me directions and talk me back to New Holland.
And that’s how he was inspired to get me a GPS navigation unit for Christmas. I now have Street Pilot, “the ultimate traveling companion and guide.” When I turn it on, the voice that will be my audible navigator says, “Where to?” I put the information in through a touchscreen keypad, the unit searches its database and assembles the route, and then my friend says, “Let’s Go!” It’s like being on an adventure just to go to the grocery store!
So far I haven’t gone anyplace I wasn’t already familiar with. This past week I spent at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, a spiritual education and retreat facility where I have been a frequent guest since 1981. I tested out the unit’s ability to redesign the route when I opted for a different approach (my companion advised a direct but uninspiring way to get from here to there, while I favor a slightly longer but more scenic trip through Berks county farm country). And it helped get me from the retreat center to the Historical Society of Berks County, where I renewed my long-lapsed membership as a prelude to taking up my 19th century work again. I missed some turns in busy downtown Reading, as I do every time, but my navigator helped me get back on track quickly.
I went to Wernersville for a four-day program on using art techniques to generate images of one’s prayer life. Something keeps pushing at me to put more color and image into my work, to keep an illustrated journal, not just lines of black text on ordinary notebook paper. I got my hands into watercolors and acrylics, colored inks and iridescent gel pens on black paper.
But more than that, I got my head clear of some of the sludge of inattention to my artistic endeavors that I’d let accumulate while I attended to Lynn’s field hockey season and the holidays and all the projects and interests that, while I love them, take me away from the very inner world of fiction writing. I reconnected with my spiritual self and got ready, two weeks into 2007, to move into the Best Year of My Life.