Our morning started off right. Old dog, young dog, and “kitler” or Elsa (which is her proper name, although disputed in the Richards house)…. Tom and I are soaking up some pet love, let me tell you!

The tails are wagging and the paws are kneading. Kitler is doing so much twisting flopping, I think she and I have fallen in love!

But on with it—our morning had to continue, and Mary Lynn, our human host, met us at City Hall and took us around town to see all the amazing parks that Hannibal, Missouri has built up over the years. Sodalis Nature Preserve being the most recent addition—a conservation effort to preserve endangered bats which has turned into an connected trail system and beautiful wildlife preserve.

From there we drove up the hill to Bella’s house right at the foot of the Hannibal light house. Bella is a writer, a weaver, a woman for whom meditation guides her—but it’s a meditation of movement as she passes the shuttle with each gesture of the loom.

Every garment she weaves has an intention woven into it. A story even. I imagine that every story she writes must feel like a thousand meditations woven together, and I look forward to reading the few of them she shared with us in the book of essays we walked away with. There’s a lot to say about Bella, but what I’ll leave here for now saying is how she made space to welcome us, in her beautiful home, with great appreciation, and her spirit could be felt up and down the hillside as we came and went.

Our next engagement was very different. A room full of professionals, networking, lunching, and working hard to help the community—that is, we had lunch at the Rotary Club’s weekly meeting. They met at the local Country Club, seated in a side room around round tables all with name tags and a smattering of hand outs on the tables. Flags standing in the corner of the room and a Rotary banner with mottos as well. We were introduced and welcomed, and a speaker from the United Way lead an exercise to teach everyone about poverty and hard choices for the underprivileged.

There wasn’t any singing this week, but they did go around the room giving dollars to a moderator to have permission to say what they are happy for—Happy Bucks, they call it. The group really seems to do some positive community service, but there’s also a long way to bridging the gap between the haves and the have nots in this and other small town communities.

Our last engagement of the day was with McKenzie Disselhorst, director of the Chamber of Commerce.

She decided we’d best meet at Java Jive where we were sure to run into more folks from the community and was she right—the line was out the door as we walked in. Not only that, but another couple ended up buying our drinks! Talking with McKenzie revealed a whole side to her story that we weren’t expecting. She’s originally from Columbia, Missouri, but she’s married a local farmer and is learning the ins and outs of that industry and community, not to mention her husband Ken’s family. McKenzie thinks they might not want to talk to someone like me about their stories, so now that’s exactly our plan—to have McKenzie invite us in and pave the way for us to get to know a Missouri farm family. See the next chapter…

Later that night we met up at the Arts Council again with a nice group of folks for a family dinner of Louisiana Gulf Shrimp provided by Louisiana Seafood. Everyone around the table shared their impressions of Hannibal, why they make a home there, and also thoroughly inhaled the shrimp! It was a great time with a group that soon felt like friends. The idea of having a real dialogue about the community seemed like something in the making, something that might continue even after Tom and I continue down the road.

So our evening was almost over. Back to the Mary Lynn’s farm house for our rest and recovery.

Old dog, Kitler, young dog. Sleep.