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Here we are again, and, once again time has flown – it is the middle of August. There has been lots happening in these passing weeks and months, some wonderful, some not so.

Almost immediately following my last post on this Blog, I fell victim to a recurring twenty year old injury. It has plagued me on and off throughout the intervening years. This time however it was different, it did not heal itself; four months and still I remain in constant pain to some degree. For much of the time it has been so severe that I have been forced to take extremely potent pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication merely in order to maintain some semblance of normal functioning. These have their own negative consequences which I will not bore you with save to say that you feel like you have eaten a lump of lead that refuses to budge.

The results of being debilitated are that you end up getting very little of what you desire to get done, done. Sleep is broken and irregular, sitting at the computer not easy or pleasant. Over this last month, the worst of the pain has subsided to more bearable levels. Currently I am almost pain free but have a number of numb areas and occasional ‘lightening strikes’ as I like to call them, of pain down and across my left thigh. Actually, this is pretty good compared to what was happening before. So, now I am back at the computer and back at regular work on the book which is progressing well. The enforced layoff had a certain benefit in that it gave me time to think and reflect; always a good thing! The story has taken on new elements and incorporated new ideas which I believe will enhance the end result. It is interesting that pain and debilitation can have salutary effects.

During the time I was unable to write Joan and I travelled to the USA; something we had planned and paid for months earlier. I have to admit I was very fearful of travelling. I kept myself heavily medicated when actually on the move and therefore did not experience the level of discomfort I anticipated.
000017 Barry and Joan Wedding
Staying with Joan’s family, within a week of arriving in the US we were married in a lovely informal ceremony. Heading off to Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee we started the first part of our honeymoon. We very slowly wandered the trails and took in the sights, which by the way are magnificent! The apartment were we stayed had incredible views across a large lake with the entire back wall being a huge window with sweeping views into the distance. One evening a massive storm wracked the lake and the surrounding forest, from our vantage point we saw wave after wave of sheets of rain sweep across the lake’s flattened surface; not a living thing could be seen moving in the whole expanse of our view!012657 Fall Creek Falls, Tennessee

Next a family reunion in Dallas, Texas introduced me to one side of Joan’s extended family. We had a great time in Dallas meeting everyone, and visiting the Dallas Zoo, by accident, on one of our excursions. I have to say, I was surprised at just how hot the southern states of the US are; quite comparable to Sydney, Australia my hometown. Tennessee too is hot, but worse still is very humid with little respite. No relieving sea breeze as in Sydney; no ‘doctor’ as in Perth.

Returning to Tennessee from Texas we spent the following few weeks resting up and taking smaller day trips here and there, still heavily dosed-up mind you; the only way I could travel in any approximation of comfort. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee were eye-opening experiences as Joan introduced me to the more ‘commercial’ flavours of country USA [only in America!] located on the fringe of the Great Smokey Mountains National Parks.013561 Great Smokey Mountains National Park013601 King Kong on Building, Pigeon Forge, outside Great Smokey Mountains National Park013859 Gatlinburg, outside Great Smokey Mountains National Park013632 Mist on the Water, Smokey Mountains013951 Great Smokey Mountains National Park
Fortunately, we managed to avoid entering too deeply into the temptations of commercialism and eventually made our way to Cherokee, on the opposite side of the Park, for a dose of mountain country small town normality – much to my relief! The Park itself could only be described as awesome – an overused term for sure, but truly appropriate in this instance. We toured the park, took in the sights and had a relaxing time; not much walking to do so that was good for me.014005 Sequoyah, Inventor of the Cherokee Alphabet, Cherokee, North Carolina014030 Elk, Great Smokey Mountains National Park014055 Elk, Great Smokey Mountains National Park
One highlight was the spotting of a huge elk by the side of the road; apparently an uncommon sight. Hundreds of cars were rapidly pulling over to take advantage of it. Cameras were firing away from every angle, as was mine; I’ve counted the number of shoots I took: seventy three! I could hardly believe it when I downloaded them from the camera to the computer and counted them.P1010404 Old Stone Fort Archeological Park, Manchester, Tennessee
Our last stop in Tennessee was The Old Stone Fort Archeological Park, Manchester. I have to say for me it was the highpoint of the trip in the eastern states. Green, serene and soothing to the soul; beautiful streams and waterfalls and a gentle walk through it all; it was the perfect way to conclude our time in Tennessee.

Colorado was the next stopping point. Again with other members of Joan’s family we stayed there for four days in the mountains, two hours drive from Colorado Springs. Sugarite Canyon State Park, New Mexico, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, the town of Stonewall and its incredible natural stonewall formation, the San Isabel State Forest and its gorgeous lakes, and the little mountain town of Cuchara, all remote and beautiful, lifted the spirits and made you just want to breath in very deep breath after very deep breath.014533 Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado014923 Part of the Stonewall, Stonewall, Colorado015004 San Isabel National Forest.015038 San Isabel National Forest.

California was perhaps the one place that turned out to be very much as I expected it to be. The countryside, the profusion of gum trees, all made me feel like I was visiting a part of Australia – a very remote part, connected however tenuously, but connected all the same.017174 Australian native Gum Trees take over California
Over the next week we took in the sights of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, The Japanese Tea Gardens, Cannery Row, Monterey, the Monterey Peninsula and its beaches, and the Lone Pine at Carmel, and one of my favourite places of the whole trip, Santa Cruz County Big Trees Park – home of some of the largest living things on the planet: the giant Redwood trees, some being around two thousand years old! Truly one of the most awe inspiring sights to behold!015359 San Francisco, California015674 Japanese Tea Gardens, San Francisco015727 Japanese Tea Gardens, San Francisco015854 Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco015870 San Francisco across the Bay016429 Cannery Row, Monterey [the subject of Steinbeck's novel]016440 John Steinbeck Memorial, Monterey, California016762 The Lone Cypress, Carmel, Monterey Peninsular, California016925 Santa Cruz County Big Trees Park017022 Santa Cruz County Big Trees Park017049 Santa Cruz County Big Trees Park017082 Santa Cruz County Big Trees Park016939 Santa Cruz County Big Trees Park [German tourist on his Alphorn

California felt like home…. San Francisco, what a town! It all came to a sudden end after what seemed like a journey that would have no end; a few days shy of two months. A truly wonderful holiday that began with the best of it all: our wedding! Back in Antigua, Guatemala we are very glad to be ‘home’. Now the work of writing has started in earnest and Joan is back doing volunteer work with a children’s charity. Hopefully I’ll find a resolution to my health issue in the not too distant future.

In the challenges and in the joys of all we have experienced these past months Joan and I have been very aware of the presence and support of the One who loves us and gave His life for us. Thank You Lord, for your care and love, for the special time we had in the US, and for your daily presence in each of our lives.000097 Joan & Barry