These photos are courtesy of Tammy Seibert, be sure to stop by her blog.
It was the summer of 1998. I was fresh out of high school. And had an incredible opportunity to travel from Oklahoma to New York in an RV filled with babies, friends, mentors, and my pastor. I found this rough draft of an essay I wrote (I think I wrote this piece for a comp class, so pardon its roughness.) I’ve spent much time thinking of Tammy and her family and how they have shaped me. I am still so grateful for this journey and New York and for all the lessons I have learned.
It is the kind of place where angels come and seem to anoint the very place in which you walk. It is the embellishments of childhood that stand alone and it is here where I begin to sort through my own recollections. These memories, tainted with hate or those that seemed perfumed from sweet exotic fragrances that wisp through the air, capture me. This special place is where I begin to find solace. I have dreamed of a place like this to where I could travel on two levels while discovering and experiencing the fullness and richness of freedom. This freedom now envelopes me and I let go submerging myself in the light weight of its glorious burden. Until this summer I have only dreamed of this place, but upon arriving in Arcade, New York realization set upon me that this in fact was the place. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” The words of Robert Frost echoed in my thoughts, for in this place was my turning point where I found my identity and did not pay heed to the expectations of those around.
The entrance to my haven was marked with an ordinary street sign labeled Seibert Lane. Turning onto the unpaved road the trees seemed to silently await my arrival. The branches stretched forth, curving over and bowing down as I passed through. I felt like a queen returning home after a long journey and just the view revived my senses, giving me the strength to carry on. A man-built lake comes into view as the road bends mourned. The lake is absolutely beautiful and is the color of greenish-brown, completely silent except for the ripples of surfacing fish. Behind the lake are gentle, sloping hills that round off into a wall of infinite blue spruces. Trails wind in and around the lush greenness. Located near the dock of the lake is the house where I will set up my camp for the entirety of ten days. It is a modest home with few signs of the increasing technology available. The house does not impose on Nature’s vast greatness. I settle in with my “adopted” family, the Seiberts, who from the moment I am introduced, accept me for who I am. I lapse into total comfort and can imagine no place greater that I would rather live.
The Seiberts and this land hold a strong connection for me. They both allowed and I guess in all actuality released in me the confidence to walk away from the monotony of everyday life and seek the simplest, truest form of realization of joy not happiness, and contentment not greed. Basically, for the past three or four years I had began to believe that I was here on this earth only to somehow please my mother and become all the things that my dad had at one time hoped for me. I had fallen under the trap of perfection and did not understand that this is my life and I must choose for myself what I will and will not do. I must remember that I am responsible forever for what I have ‘tamed’. With the opportunity to visit these friends in New York, I was given a way to escape for a few moments and decide what in all certainty I was going to do with each day of my life. From the moment I arrived in New York the Seibert family covered me in a positive atmosphere, exhorting me, and helping me find that which had been buried for such a long time. My passion for living and writing. Being out in the cool air, the welcoming silence, the calls of the birds and rustling of the grasses, awakened my perceptions and I fed on this gnawing desire. I learned to just be. By being able to sit, I learned to become one with what was surrounding me. I learned to breathe in and breathe out the sweet beauty, the sweet and sometimes bitter lessons of each experience thus far in my life.
I also discovered that life is not just about me and for me to truly enjoy experiences and those around, I must learn to give. Simple acts of kindness leave a mark on those you have aided. Selfishness only ignites a deeper need for what others could do for me. By being a part of the Seibert family I learned the importance of communicating, expressing my ideas and beliefs whether or not these opinions were the exact same or not of those I talked with. With my family at home we have mastered the art of bottling up what needs to be said, so for me to see people arguing, listening, discussing, I sat in amazement. The Seiberts became a prime example to me that laziness is not an attractive quality. Each member of the family was always doing what need to be done and yet they understood and practiced the art of relaxing and just being.
In just being away from my normal environment I had to act responsibly. I was in charge of my own money, food, and how I would spend my time. This, in itself, was a challenge for I am used to asking and just simply receiving from my family. Here, in New York, I had to interact with strangers and be able to express to them what I wanted or needed. My time at home is usually spent in my bedroom, within my own sheltered world, but here in New York I was not given that comfort zone.
The Seibert’s home in New York and those that I can call friends and family gave me a sense of worth. I returned home from my trip with my own thoughts in my head not someone else’s word that I came to believe as my own. What others thought of me did not matter–for who am I to judge and who are they to judge? In the land I connected with a part of me that had been dead. I learned to listen to the birds and even the nagging mosquitoes, appreciated the shade of trees, the warmth of sunshine rays, and to see what beautiful world God has created.