Butterflies and Battlefields, Reflections of Civil War Trip – The Us-ness of it All

What is your passion? Roger, my husband, is a devoted student of the Civil War.  His eyes light up when he shares stories about his readings and discovers friends to engage in animated conversation (as opposed to the “the glaze,” what we jokingly have named the look after about .25 seconds when someone is uninterested in Civil War happenings). So, we choose to bookend a business trip with Civil War adventures, and we are off, off on a trip to the battlefields to learn and explore more.

Some of my friends were quite astonished that I would be interested in joining Roger on this excursion, as they are aware of my indifference to the subject matter. I actually ordered, as a primer for the trip, a historical fiction book, Across Five Aprils, that I remembered loving in the 7 th grade. I hoped to re-kindle a connection to the period, so I could feel more genuine enthusiasm for Roger’s passion.

Roger and I are firm believers in certain activities being “us-ness” events. Terry Hargrave, a marital counselor and amazing author of multiple books, who has counseled us through several different hurdles of life, taught us years ago about “us-ness” times. There will be times that one of us might not be totally interested or invested in a particular topic or event, but participating in the event together can be great for the “us-ness” of our marriage. We have expanded our understanding of one another and our interests by adopting this “us-ness” mindset. For instance, us-ness times might be Roger attending with me an Enneagram workshop, a ballet, a mindfulness class.... Or it might be me going to the Drake relays, reading segments of the Wall Street Journal, following the Olympics closely with Roger. We have learned we not only grow and expand our learning of various facets of life as we explore some of our varying interests together; in addition, the adventure enhances our understanding of one another in a deeper way.

So, this past week I was thrilled to watch Roger become absorbed in one of his passions – the Civil War. He did a fantastic job of planning our trip by incorporating various ways that would peak my interest – a hike up Maryland Heights at Harper’s Ferry where once atop the peak you can look out and see the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers,

tours of re-enactments of artillery and cannons firing versus simply reading about the events on a plaque, and a horseback ride on the actual trails that General Lee led his Confederate troops at Gettysburg.

As I was observing Roger’s zeal, the whole concept of “passion” struck me. Passion is defined as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object or concept. Several other passions became very obvious this week – I love it when you begin to look around more diligently through the lens of a phrase or thought, and you find the idea everywhere.

In Washington, DC, I began to reflect on how passions surface in others. Here are some of the glimpses of passion that I saw:

…the National Park Ranger who took time to show us how to best tour a specific part of Harper’s Ferry – even after her shift was apparently over – all because she cared that we know and see and understand history in a deep way.

…the hotel cleaning staff and one particular woman’s passion for cleaning and making the bed “just right.” I watched her take immense pride in her work while I was in the room studying and Roger was off working.

…the work-out instructor at Orange Theory (where we work out, both in Clive and as we travel) who showed us just the right way to do a particular exercise. He gave us nutrition advice every second he could – it was obvious he cared about the health of others in a deep way!

…the enthusiasm and care of a particular waiter at a restaurant whose diligence was exemplary. His interest in our dining decisions and experience seemed to be authentic.

…the detail in which Thomas Jefferson planned his gardens and his flowerbeds at Monticello with such precision. His love of nature and his recording of growth seasons, his analysis of plant progress and demise – all were truly remarkable.

…the love of the seemingly homeless woman who joined me for conversation one day after lunch. As we shared our stories with one another, I learned of her immense love for her father, age 93. After her mother passed away nine months ago, she chose to move back to DC from several states away – giving up her job security, etc. to care for her father.

…the Civil War tour guides who were incredibly thorough. Many hours of study, reading, preparation and love of the topic led to their exemplary level of presentation.

What does the word “passion” stir up within you? What are you passionate about? How can you deepen or strengthen a passion that may be lying dormant in your heart and may have been for some time?

One of my passions is photography. It seems that I am always looking for a “shot” – getting just the right angle of light on a subject, capturing a picture that stirs an emotion within me, allowing me to slow down and contemplate the deeper story under the narrative of an event – whether for deeper understanding of the other person or as a way to open up and explore my own heart separate from the business or “busyness” of the day.

So, it might not surprise you that, as we were on the battlefield tours, the artistry of the butterflies sometimes caught my attention. Enjoy a few “takes” of one of my passions – actually two passions combined – a love of nature and a love of photography!

While at Monticello, we discovered one of the sitting places that Thomas Jefferson contemplated.

I invite you to find your own quiet place and pause with me and reflect on where you see and experience glimpses of passion….