We Were Here; We Are Here

Hello beautiful WordPress editor. Hello beautiful laptop and Photoshop and Chrome and all the other ingredients needed to craft a blog. I know it’s only been a month, but I’ve missed you like crazy. I’ve missed coming up with Inklings designed as trail heads to guide my lovely audience down their path to a complete piece. I’ve missed compiling my thoughts into introspective essays about my own life journey. And most importantly, I’ve missed you — my blogging family — and the always-encouraging remarks we all share with each other.

I’m a fan of short reintroductions, so instead of dwelling on the tamper-proof past, I’d prefer to jump right in, flip all the switches back to their online mode, and get to work!

What is it like to truly know a place completely and move away, only to come back later by choice? When we moved from Montgomery, Alabama to St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., I knew almost everything about the “Gump,” as it were. That’s the coolest nickname for Montgomery of a city fraught with uncool nicknames, so that will be its frequent designation on Normal Happenings. The history, the culture, the roads, and the geography of the place were second-nature to me, even if I spent most moments pushing against them with stubborn resilience. I never caught an American Southern accent — honestly my syntax fits far closer to that of an STL-native.

Still, the rolling topography of Central Alabama was my home, and among the historical infamy of the place, I also had history with the people. Family and friends had built their lives, core values, and houses upon the green hills, and, it seems, so did I despite myself. Before I knew it, I had become respected nonconformist who questioned established norms. I’ve been reminded frequently of late how “liked” I was — something I couldn’t really validate in the moment.

I carried those feelings with me to STL; but honestly being away from it all was a breath of fresh air to me. Sure, it took a while to find my footing in STL, but once I did I enjoyed being away from everyone I knew. We began making friends, and found ourselves being appreciated much quicker than before.

So, when this opportunity in Alabama came up, we were notably torn. On the one hand, this was a solid career-move for me, with better benefits and markedly lower cost of living. On the other, it would require us to leave the place we loved — STL offered us a place to heal from past wounds, and we did so with us much grace as we could muster.

Oh, and, it was the birthplace of Normal Happenings… so there’s that.

There is one thing about Alabama, however, that makes things not-so-bad anymore — and it’s not about the state. At the end of the day, home is not a place. Humans have moved beyond the need for the protection of a village, and the world is a lot smaller than it was even a century ago. Home is your values, your experiences, and the people you bring with you. Home, for me, is making an impact in people’s experiences and spreading positivity to those you meet as travelers through this life.

And so, though I would honestly rather be in St. Louis, I can say with sincerity that it’s good to be home.

That’s a wrap! | Completed 7/29/19 11:07 P.M.

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Glad Topographies: Finding Abundant Optimism in the World Around Us

To find optimism, all one must do is look around. 

Over the next few days, we are really going to attempt to strengthen our Instagram game. We’ll have a big announcement early next week — a little project Nikki is putting together.

However, as for now, I think I am ready to truly introduce you to my super secret Instagram. It’s called Glad Topographies. Some of you already follow, and I really appreciate it! But for the rest of you, well, I think it’s something you’ll truly enjoy!

In the past, I had been taking direct inspiration from the legendary @sadtopographies — with their blessing, of course — and finding only super happy place names.

Alas, there are only so many Oh-be-joyful Creeks in the world — and if I kept it up for too long it would reflect insincerity. There’s so much more to life than that.

Therefore, I’ve since simplified the premise, scouring Google Maps and finding cool, pretty places that reflect optimism. Included are amazing pictures credited to Instagrammers who have visited these interesting places. Follow to receive perhaps a jolt of wanderlust without all the touristy trappings common to the emotion.

That lends itself to a new weekly feature on Normal Happenings, which I’ll be calling This Week in Glad Topographies. I’ll simply be compiling the posts for that week, and reflecting further on them here on the blog!

This week we’ve attempted to discern the mystery of Agloe:

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Agloe, New York, U.S. 🇺🇲 — Where no one has gone before. Agloe is perhaps the most famous of the "paper towns," a concept made popular by the YA novel of the same name. It's simply a cartographer's trap, designed to ensnare counterfeiters trying to take advantage of the hard work of map makers. Like a fantasy world, Agloe only exists in our imagination. — So many Instagrammers tag Agloe to be ironic, but @emmaswanders and @nickaustin7 are the real deal for making the journey to Agloe. Full photo credit goes to them. — #agloe #newyork #notreal #fiction #fantasynovel #johngreen @johngreenwritesbooks #papertowns #papertown #books #maps #map #topography #geography #nowhere #imagination #ny #upstatenewyork #glad #contentment #gladtopographies

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We’ve ridden horses across the dunes of Tolowa:

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Tolowa Dunes, California, U.S. 🇺🇲 — Perusing the satellite view of the west coast, a certain flat terrain caught my eye just south of where Oregon and California meet. Tolowa Dunes and its collision of ocean side grassy dune and wooded ridge immediately obsessed me. Turns out many visitors ride these trails on horseback — no doubt an incredible way to enjoy an otherwise ordinary day. — Full credit goes to @chrishalsted and @nicolejeanhill for these incredible photos! Thanks @north_coast_redwoods for taking care of a place like this! — #california #pacific #pacificnorthwest #dunes #park #tolowadunes #coast #westcoast #leftcoast #oceanside #horseback #trail #trails #hiking #pines #ridge #peaceful #calm #happiness #glad #gladtopographies

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We’ve hiked the mountainside trails of Gladstone:

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Gladstone Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada 🇨🇦 — Glad Topographies makes its triumphant return! We're going to do things a little different this time around. We're not so much going to focus on finding the overtly happiest place names in the world, rather we're going to venture beyond the topographies. We'll be going to amazing places and seeing the sights of these epic life explorers who adventure to them. The world is beautiful, and anything is a Glad Topography in its own way! — Images of this beautiful park on the shore of Christina Lake are fully credited to @glendularfever and @johnsoda1234! — #hiking #hike #trekking #trek #lake #christinalake #wilderness #wanderlust #scenery #scenic #forest #outdoors #landscape #canada #britishcolumbia #trail #joy #gladtopographies

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And we’ve rounded the famous cape where two oceans meet!

Where will the future take us? Only time will tell — specifically, next Friday, and the one after that, and the one after that… Go follow Glad Topographies on Instagram!

Did you know we’re part of the best community of bloggers in the world? Now that the Normal Happenings Starry-Eyed Discord is up, we’re having incredible conversations every day! You can join us right now by becoming a Patron of Normal Happenings!