Mining for My Soul and Discovering the Souls of Others

I had a hole in my heart. I could feel it. The world was getting back to normal but on a personal level I didn’t know what that meant for me. Was I suffering a form of PTS? I felt numb, aimless. I had great ideas for my blog but after many attempts to write them down nothing was working. After several drafts, I gave up.

During the pandemic, I dreamed of the trips I would take when the nightmare was over. I knew I would have to proceed cautiously, not going abroad until things were more certain. I planned to take road trips not too far from home at first. All I knew is that I desperately needed to explore again. I have always felt that every place in the world offers a story and every person I meet along the way offers me insights. My curiosity is insatiable. The need to travel is in my nature, my soul’s longing. I felt a emptiness after a confining year and a half.

After appointments and family obligations, I finally left for New England giving myself enough time for a two week vacation before The Fourth of July. I headed to Burlington, Vermont and on the way stopped at a flea market that I remembered enjoying before. I was free, no set destination, no goals, no deadline. Serendipity. The kind of adventure I love. I had no idea that this stop would set the theme for the trip. I had become interested in geology. I wondered about masonry, how did people with no high powered machinery cut the rocks to make the old foundations in my area? I was curious about long abandon iron and pyrite mines not far from my home. And I wanted to know if the majestic ledges in my backyard were granite or gneiss.

And as fate would have it, I found two old books to take with me on my journey. Little by little, I would learn.

I crossed into Vermont with excitement.

I spent two nights in cosmopolitan Burlington and was constantly startled by life-sized cutouts of Bernie Sanders. I drove south to The Shelburne Museum to get a dose of history. I worked at it all day making sure I saw everything.

I was blown away by the museum’s collection of automatons from the 1880’s. They were amazing mechanical creations that could imitate human movements.

I made sure to travel back roads.

I always love finding bits of history and insights into lives in cemeteries. Behind all the plots at the very edge of a final resting place, I found this grave almost hidden by leaves.

I wondered if I would be able to find some really old tombstones. I came to the conclusion that many of the older markers were made of wood and were long gone. Slate seemed to have been the next oldest choice.

I was moved by the sight of three stones that might have marked the deaths of people who could not afford grander stones. Maybe they were something else but just in case I picked some flowers from a nearby wild rose bush and placed one near each stone.

And then there was this metaphor for the passage of time.

New England has a character of its own. I loved the numerous bookshops with volumes of used books, out of print at reasonable prices. I poured thorough stacks and acquired wonderful books on history, famous thinkers, and sociology. I hoped that they would reveal the answers to the things I had questioned before the trip.

I loved the quaint coffee shops and had the best cinnamon roll I ever tasted. It was made of flakey pastry dough. The cafes gave me a quiet place to read and relax since I spent a lot of time on the go.

I was thrilled to find the Kitty Cafe in Barre, Vermont. I had heard of such a thing but never dreamed I would actually be able experience one. For $5, I was allowed to go into an adjacent room with my coffee and spend 30 minutes in feline heaven. All proceeds went to an animal shelter and all cats involved were available for adoption.

I crossed over to northern New Hampshire, The Granite State.

,In the White Mountains I spent 5 days in a little cabin with a tiny screened in porch, a place where I could read when I needed a rest from sightseeing. The owner was born in India and I told him about my travels to New Delhi and the impact The Ganges River had had on me. We had a nice chat about karma and the frivolity of worrying.

When I was a little girl I had visited this area and appreciated it enough to mourn when I learned, decades later, that The Old Man in the Mountain had fallen to earth.

Everyday I hiked and took in all the magnificent rock formations that had been sculpted by weather and time.

I kept up my wandering and was rewarded in Franconia, New Hampshire with something very special to me. I had become fascinated with the iron industries of the 1800’s since a historical tour in my area where I was able to see an old smelting furnace. It motivated to learn more about the history of my area and to do some local exploring. I was so happy to see this one that had been built in 1805.

I’m a bit of a scavenger. I collect beach glass so it was natural for me to walk along Gale River and see if I could find any tangible remains of this historic place.

I found nothing along the river but not willing to give up, I dug among the rocks and tree roots directly across the river from the tower. I found slag (waste materials of the smelting process) and an actual piece of finished iron in the spot where it had been left over a hundred years ago. I was thrilled.

Pieces of slag
Finished iron verified by a magnet.

My trip was almost done. I needed to get home before the holiday rush. During my two weeks away, I had witnessed the geological struggles of some of the earth’s most beautiful landscapes and had come to know the stories of long ago souls. I was able to hold some pieces of it all in my hands. The connection was made. My heart was full.

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass and brooks.”

Copyright 2021 All rights reserved.

8 thoughts on “Mining for My Soul and Discovering the Souls of Others

  1. Terry Drake

    Joyce, Tried to comment as I always do and for some reason it wouldn’t let me. Said the page could not be found.  So I’ll comment here: I so wish I had the independence and live free ability to travel like you do. I hope someday I can just get in my car and leave with no destination, no responsibilities, no clock, and no worries.  Your appreciation for details that you see in the world is special. I look at your pictures and I so appreciate the beauty that you see…beautythat I don’t see except through your photos. You have a knack for that and I can experience it through you! As always, thank you!Terry 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Autonomous Traveler

      Thank you so much, Terry. It was a tough day. I have so much trouble with editing. I always miss something and have to go over and over it. Then I became tech challenged. “Wine, please?” Our area has a lot to see. Go on YouTube and research things and then hit the road. The world is fascinating, every bit of it.


  2. I can relate to your blog post so much! I was feeling the same way during the pandemic and was also dreaming of my trips as soon as it was over. I’m so glad you finally got out of the house and were able to explore again. The feeling of being able to travel and meet new people again is so freeing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Autonomous Traveler

      Thanks so much, Zoe. I haven’t been aboard since I went to Israel in 2019. But I’m making lemonade out of the pandemic lemons. I’ve been exploring local and NYS state history. Please subscribe to my blog. It’s free and I think you will like my true life adventures. Travel is travel, sometimes to far off places, sometimes right around the corner. I do plan on more long reaching trips in 2023. Stay tuned. And again, thank you for your interest and safe travels.


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