Everyday Wonder

The Star … & the Stardust on the Sidewalk

This is how it happens:  we drive up Mill Mountain, the Xterra snaking a black ribbon of road through the green.  

At top, there’s the Star.

We have two special friends from DC with us, visiting for the weekend, and we know that no trip to our little city is complete without at least ten minutes on the Star Overlook, leaning on the rails, taking in the view and snapping photographs. 

So that’s what we do.

We stand there gaping at the view:  range after range of blue hills disappearing into the distance, smudged and softened into cloud.

We gape at the Roanoke Star, too:  that big neon contraption that glows white in the night, seen for miles and miles.

After we’re done happily gaping, I take all the usual photos that one takes at the Star.  Like this:  


And this:  


And then we head back down the trail to where our cars our parked.

But just before we get there, I stop right in the middle of the sidewalk.  My eye is caught by a single clean circle grooved in the pavement — inexplicably round as a dinner plate, perfect and precise.  The light catches in the grass nearby, and I think:  this.

My husband makes a joke about the way I’m dawdling behind, taking photos of leaves on the sidewalk.  And I’m okay with that — being the girl who lags behind, finding beauty in damp asphalt, dry leaves and bits of green.

Because as much as I love my little city and its great-big beautiful star (and I do) … I love this shot the most:        


Happy seeing, friends.  Hope your eyes are open to all sorts of ordinary wonder today. ❤

Secret Messages

An Invitation, Left on a Picnic Table on Top of Mill Mountain: Day Nine

This post is part of the Secret Messages Project.  Every day for thirty days, I’ll leave my words in places where they might be found — or might never be found at all.  I hope you’ll join me. 

Have you ever hoped for a sign?

Me, too.

Yesterday, though, I felt a different kind of hope — an urge to become someone else’s sign.

So I drove to the store and bought a composition notebook — you know, the kind with a stiff cardboard cover marbled in black-and-white.

Then I clipped back the first few pages with a fresh ballpoint pen, and I wrote in strong, hard lines the kind of invitation I thought a hungry heart might respond to, if she needed an invitation to tell her story:

Consider this
your calling
to begin–

right here,
before the moment
is lost.

(You’ve been asking for a sign.
This is it.)

As soon as I’d written the words down, I knew they were right.

So I got back in the Xterra and climbed to the top of Mill Mountain, not far from the famous star overlook.  If you’re not familiar, there’s another overlook there, a little smaller and farther down the hill, with fewer footprints surrounding it, but still, the view of the city is just as stunning.  And right there on the platform is a picnic table.  You could sit down at that table and see all the way out past Salem, past Dixie Caverns, almost to the New River Valley.  If you were seated there to write, you could glance up from the page and take it all in with just the briefest flick of your eyes. You wouldn’t even have to pause your pen.

That was the best spot I could think of to leave a notebook full of blank pages.

When I first got out of the car, the wind nearly took me off my feet; it must have been one of the coldest and fiercest days of the year.  That meant I had the place to myself, which is what I wanted.

I stepped onto the platform, opened the notebook and placed it right in the middle of the table, where anyone could read the words.  I weighted it down with a rock.  Then I snapped a few pictures and turned to go, breathing a prayer as I went.

I was praying for the right person to find these words.

But in a way, I was praying for you, too.

Whoever you are, whatever dream you’ve been dreaming or story you’ve been hiding — let this be your calling, to sit down, take a deep breath, and  begin…


Do it now — I dare you.



A Last & First Look at the Star City: Day Forty

(Sometimes it’s tough to feel at home in your own city.  Which is why I’ve given myself a challenge:  each day, for forty days, I’m going to find *one* thing I love about this place.  And then I’m going to tell you about it.  If you want to follow my journey, start here.  Today is Day Forty). 


This morning, Thomas and I climbed in the Volvo, drove to the top of Mill Mountain, and stood on the overlook with all the other out-of-towners.

I shot photo after photo of my city unfurled beneath me, just like they did.

I wanted to see this place from above:


And then we got back in the car, followed the dips and curves of Walnut Avenue into downtown.

We hiked up the staircase in the Center in the Square building.  We took the elevator up to the rooftop overlook.  And I stood there with my body pressed to the railing, taking in the train speeding past the Taubman Museum, the afternoon sun winking off the top of the Wells Fargo building.

Because also, I wanted to see this place from within.

I guess that’s what these last 40 days have been about.


If I’m honest, I feel like I’ve been living in a dark garret bedroom for the longest time, and someone has boarded over all the skylights.

And maybe that person was me.

But now I’m hauling the ladder to the center of the room; I’m climbing the rungs; I’m lifting the crowbar.

And at first pressure, nothing gives.  But I angle the bar in harder; I use my whole body for leverage.

Put your back into it, kid.

And suddenly I can feel the creak of the nails coming loose; suddenly there is a splintering crack and the wood falls away — a clatter of boards and dirty gray light flooding the room; dust spinning in the beams.

I take a breath, unsure of myself.

I unlatch the skylight.

I pull myself up to the roof.

I stand, pale and soft-bodied, blinking in the blinding light…


Maybe this is where gratitude begins.