Stories on the edge of familiarity

World Tour, Days 37-43: Virginia is Full of Beautiful Things

Well, I’ve officially gotten to November now, for those of you keeping track of when all these events happened. I also moved from what Albertans would call summer weather and greenery to fall in the space of one flight.

Yay, Virginia!

Shanna Mann, Originator of the Bonsai Business Concept

Shanna and I met on the Puttytribe (that’s also where I met Holli). She’s given me business coaching, and I’ve taken courses from her that have helped me immensely in getting stuff done, rather than just dreaming about getting it done. Her Cumulative Effects Challenge in particular keeps on being useful every time she runs it.

She’s one my clients (I started working as a virtual assistant back in February to save up for this trip, and so I can continue to work while I travel to keep being able to pay for things. Being able to pay for things is nice), the first one, actually, so I get to read all her emails and blog posts before they go live. Which meant I learned about her creation of the term bonsai business before the general public did – and I got to make all the images for the blog post about it.

The Joys of Renting a Itty Bitty Black Car

For this part of the stay, I needed to have my own wheels, so I rented a car for the first time in my life. WHICH IS NERVE WRACKING, OH MY GOSH. But also super cool, because then I got to drive in this cute little Nissan Versa Note, which made me feel like Hiro Nakamura was about to jump out at any point telling me he needed a Nissan Versa. It was also nice to drive a car that’s younger than me and enjoy how technology has advanced since the beginning of the 90s. Let me tell you, working air conditioning is amazing.

To get to Virginia as cheaply as possible, I bussed from Miami to Orlando (after missing the bus D: ), crashed at Travis’s, woke up ridiculously early so he could drive me to the airport, sort of slept on the plane to Richmond, obtained my rental car, and then drove an hour an a half to Shanna’s place in Waynesboro.

It’s a good thing this wasn’t my first time driving in the States.

(Note from future me who is actually present me: I’m thinking I should write a separate blog post about my bus adventures. But after I get to the post about Pennsylvania. That one’s got the craziest story so far xD)

Before I left Canada, I read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, which takes place in Virginia. Naturally, I was curious to see how real Virginia compared to my mental image of Virginia from the books. Which mostly meant I wanted to know if I got the trees and the landscape right.

So even though I was tired as all get out (and wondering how I was managing so well on five hours of sleep- the least amount of sleep in a night I’d gotten previous to this was 6 hours and I was a total zombie after), I had a great drive because, guess what?

The forests of Virginia are exactly how she describes them.

And I was driving on a highway through them.

I might as well have been in the books that whole time. :)

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Visiting Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s Estate)

The second day I was there (the first day, I mostly talked with Shanna, probably entertaining her greatly with just how darn tired I was. Or, as she put it, punch-drunk xD ), Shanna took me to Monticello. Well, I drove because I have a drivers license that isn’t expired :P But it was her idea to go. I knew nothing about Monticello, and was excited to learn some history at an actual historical site.

It was fascinating. What Jefferson was trying to do was make an entirely independent estate- where everything needed for it to run was made on site. If it were a country, it would ideally be a country that didn’t need to import anything.

The whole site is full of experiments: in agriculture, technology, architecture, and philosophy. Reading about all the things that Jefferson tried out, invented, and improved made me imagine what kinds of life experiments I’d like to do. And, even with it being winter, I loved seeing all the trees, and the plants growing in the garden plots. But this was just one thing going on. I’d love to go back someday and delve into the other aspects going on when Monticello was Jefferson’s home.

Speaking of plants, one of them sparked a great moment that illustrates the differences in our personality. We’d found this huge holly tree. Yes, tree. We both started at it, commenting that neither of us had known holly could get that big. Then, as I’m thinking about how beautiful it is and how I’d incorporate it into a story or poem or something, Shanna says:

“Imagine how many wreaths you could make from it.”

Which is the most Shanna thing I’d ever heard. It was awesome :D

Book Sale-ing

In addition to her Change Catalyst business where she helps other business owners, Shanna has a business where she sells used books. The weekend when I was in town was the biggest library sale of the year that she and Chris, her husband, go to in order to get the books they would then sell. After Monticello, I drove Shanna there and joined them in checking out the books there.

I really need to stop going to places where I can buy books on this trip. I ended up buying books for myself and for Christmas presents for people back in Edmonton and, since they were less than a dollar for the most part, I think I ended up getting six or seven of them?

Alternatively, I could also not bring my wallet with me when in book places. That would be a good idea.

The Day I Got Lost

I really wanted to go for a walk while I was in Virginia, so Shanna gave me directions to a nice walking path. While she and Chris were gone at the book sale, I drove out to find this path.

The path refused to be found.

Or, rather, I took a wrong turn and couldn’t figure out where I’d done it, and when I got my bearings back, I was too hungry to consider walking a good idea.

That said, I really enjoyed being lost. It’s a fun puzzle, trying to find your way back to where you were, and you see so many interesting things on the way. (I also love driving, oh my gosh.) At one point, I drove by a rooster walking along the side of the road and wondered whether it had gotten out of its enclosure and could I help get it back? But I don’t know anything about chickens in general, so I kept driving and hoped the rooster found its way back home (if it needed to do so).

A little after the rooster, I noticed a weeping willow tree. It stood next to a little pond in a field with trees in the background. For a moment, time stopped turning. I don’t know if I’d seen something similar before, but the quintessential weeping willow image in my head is with one next to a little pond, its branches hanging towards the water, at ease with the green all around it. And, for that brief moment as I drove by, I saw that image in real life.

Hiking and Enjoying the Moment

After the book sale, Shanna and I went hiking on one of her favourite trails. The fall colours in Virginia are beautiful, and have the added bonus of staying long enough for you to enjoy them before the snow falls.

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Perhaps the coolest part of the hike was how we went about doing it. Shanna and I are about the same height, both of us short with little legs that have to take just about two steps for the average person’s one. I’m used to constantly having to keep up with people when hiking or going for a walk, so it was wonderful to go on a hike where I didn’t have to work twice as hard to go the same pace as someone.

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We also took some nice, long breaks. Not only did I get my breath completely back each time (also not a thing that happens often when I go for walks/hikes with people), I enjoyed sitting in silence with her as we just enjoyed what was around us. It really helped me soak in my surroundings. There’s something about being still that allows you to really see.

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Watching the Election Results and Questioning Travel Plans

During the whole lead-up to the U.S. election, I’d been keeping as much out of everything as I could. I’m Canadian, I told myself, there’s no use getting riled up over something I can’t even vote in.

Which is similar to how I deal with Canadian elections, except it’s “Everything that’s easy to find is designed to get me all emotional, it’s better to research everything closer to the day and make a decision based on the facts.” One day, I’ll actually do that as in-depth as I want to before an election, but that’s neither here nor there.

It dawned on me while I was in Virginia that I couldn’t remain indifferent to the U.S. election this time because, unlike previous elections, I was actually in the U.S. and emotions were high enough about this one that there might be riots afterwards. Which was definitely not something I could ignore, seeing as I was leaving the day after to go to Pennsylvania.

So I stayed up late on election night, packing while the Vegemite and I (and the lemon drops I bought at Cracker Barrel) watched the election results.

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