The Trumpeter in the Woods
Chapter Two – A Brief but Meaningful Stopover (part two)

The apartment complex was an old, red-brick four-story with two buildings connected by a shared lobby. I walked up the concrete steps and saw the wooden double doors with the security locks and an intercom system to the right of the doors. This should have been a tell-tale sign to me that this was not a great neighborhood. The only apartment available was a two-bedroom in the basement, cold and dark and damp. But it looked out to a wooded area, making the place rather private with a green, leafy view instead of overlooking cars in a parking lot. There was a large screened-in porch for Caper to spend her days while I was at work. I signed a year lease and moved in 2 weeks later. I felt I was moving up in the world from the one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom!

As you can imagine, because the apartment allowed my 65–pound dog, it really wasn’t in a million-dollar neighborhood and the tenants weren’t Donald Trump. During our first week, one of my neighbors complained that Caper had barked. And each night, the person in the apartment above me got up at 2:00am and flushed the toilet, causing the pipes to play Beethoven’s Fifth. After two weeks, I’d sit bolt upright in bed and sob as the plumbing made sleep impossible. What had I done? I missed my family and friends. And imagine my disappointment when I checked out the Delaware River and found no beach, only polluting industry and abandoned buildings lining the shore. Envision Disney’s MGM Studios Tower of Terror. The white plume of steam that drifted from the DuPont titanium dioxide factory over my apartment building made me wonder when I would start to grow another limb. I considered buying Caper a gas mask but I knew she’d never keep it on.

I started my new job with the usual enthusiasm but like all newbies, I felt lost and left out. I was the newcomer, looking to fit in when there were already established cliques for lunch and sides drawn for whom to like and who everyone wanted fired. On my first day, I went to lunch with several people in my department. They chose the restaurant with the massive salad bar and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Until I looked at the woman in her early twenties sitting across the table from me with a glob of cottage cheese stuffed into her mouth.

“Where are you from?” she asked me as some of the white curds dripped from her mouth.

“I just moved from Maryland. I lived in Timonium, a suburb of Baltimore,” I replied with what must have been a look of repulsion on my face.

The guy sitting next to her said, “Oh, you’re a Balti-moron, huh?” Ha, ha. Very funny. Were these the types of people I was now destined to consort with?

Figuring out who to trust and with whom to align was so tricky. One false alliance and my career would be immediately off on the track. I settled into being acquaintances with a couple of women who were around my age, mid-to-late thirties. One woman I thought, at the time, was a little “out there,” reading books about spirituality and watching TV shows on PBS. Yes, PBS was considered to be unusual to me at the time. And she told me about a book called The Celestine Prophecy. Because I had no friends in the area, I read a lot. I devoured this book. It was a really interesting read and I enjoyed the story, but I wasn’t at the point where I understood it to be anything more than a good story.

As I look back now with new awareness, this one single book recommendation was the beginning of my life changes. My new path was being laid out in front of me with this subtle introduction to the nature of the universe. Even though it is a work of fiction, the eight insights presented in the book unfolded for me over the coming years. Appropriately, the first insight is the awakening and beginning of a process. God was knocking but I wasn’t hearing the call yet. “Get ready,” God was saying. “The ride has only begun.” The other insights in the book had yet to be revealed to me.
After nine months of disappointment in the new job and realizing that this company was not for me, I found another job in Pennsylvania, back in the telecommunications field as the Communications Manager at Wawa, a chain of convenience stores. The persistent aspirations to be a writer were replaced by the need to survive and find a place to call home, and New Jersey wasn’t it. Sorry, no offense, Jersey. My career as a writer was put away in a drawer and God took a backseat which is ironic – that was when I really needed faith. I could only trust that God was with me, just very, very quiet. It was now 1995.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.

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