A postcard from Memphis 2 October 2019

Dear friends and family,

On Monday last week, we had a whistle-stop tour of Chicago. An Amtrak train deposited us at Union Station and Mary, a Chicago greeter full of enthusiasm, walked us around the city centre in glorious sunshine. Here are some of the buildings we met.

Guess the nicknames of the two cylindrical ones on the left and which famous store is housed in the flat one on the right

After catching our breath in the Amtrak lounge, we boarded an overnight train. The whistle hardly stopped all night. We inserted ourselves into the sleepers, dreamt of trains and arrived soon after sunrise in Memphis.

There we were embraced by another wonderful family—Heidi, David, Rosie, Marilla and Edward—into the patterns of their daily lives. Neighbours, school drop-offs, homely meals, laughter, puns with groans, family bedtime stories, Saturday soccer, walks in the park and over the bridge into Arkansas, conversations about all manner of things and especially the state of the world. We joined their church community in all sorts of ways from worship to a discussion about reconciliation to a concert given by a world-class classical guitarist.

Eating Memphis-style food at a local eatery with our hosts

The Tennessee Ornithological Society (TIS) stepped up to help us meet the local birds. Geoff scribbled like mad to keep up with the list of new birds we met at Shelby Forest with TIS members, Cliff and Dick. Later, at the water’s edge, we gazed at a barge slowly making its way along the great Mississippi.

A couple of days later, Heidi and I (Chris) joined Cliff and a group of bird-banders just over the border in the state of Mississippi.

Hooded Warbler, White-eyed Vireo and Wood Thrush duly recorded, banded and released

Geoff slept in that day and caught up with stuff on the back porch. Our friends live in what is called a four-square house with chickens and squirrels in the back yard, okra and tomatoes growing out the front and Yellow-crowned Night-heron’s nests in the tree above. The post person collects as well as delivers mail. Take note, Australia Post!

On our travels, we have mixed success with keeping up with the details of current affairs at home, here and around the world. But we are constantly reminded of the critical times we live in. The weather reminds us. It has been unseasonably hot on our journey so far. The scars apparent in the faces of people doing it rough and of buildings boarded up tell stories remind us. And messages like these ones, slipped in with spices bought at a local shop, demonstrate the passion that many here have for change.

May you too embrace hope today and always.

With love from Chris and Geoff.

PS We don’t know the name of the purple plant above we found in the forest. Maybe you do?