The Stories We Need to Hear: Travels with Josh

Young Adult Friends

Hello my name is Joshua Ponter. I am a member of Haddonfield Monthly Meeting in South Jersey’s Philadelphia area. I have embarked on a year-long mission to travel around the country collecting stories about the founding of different meetings and looking at the way we practice Quakerism today. I will be blogging about my travels on the PYM website. Find my latest entry below. Please email me at if there is anyone from your meeting who would like to sit down with me and speak to some of your history — or if you would like more information on me or my project . Thank you!

Read Part 1 Here, How Deep the Water Is

Read Part 2 Here, Pipe Creek

Read Part 3, Frederick

Read Part 4, Herndon

Read Part 5, Happiness

Read Part 6, Wilmington

Read Part 7, Change

Read Part 8, What does being a Quaker mean to you?

Read Part 9, Tallahassee

Read Part 10, Fairhope

Part 11

At special request by Ken Park and the Travel and Witness Granting Committee, which provided the funds for this adventure.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

So, you are driving for hours through red arid plains. From atop of one rise you see another far off in the distance. Like a hazy ghost of a thing, you are not quite sure that it is even there or a skeleton like mirage created from your imagination, to give you the illusion that you are actually getting somewhere. In every other direction are fields of red dirt, cows, and cotton. It spills across the road like an avalanche of fluff, lacking any substance or vertical dimension. Wisps of dull green vegetation and brown plants speckle the dry soil. The odd brazen road-runner stares you down as if something is owed. Perhaps a lineage-old resentment driven by post-traumatic stress and my resemblance to a specific scheming coyote?

All at once, the world splits open as a gash slices through the earth. It brings forth a spectacle of colors. Like layers of dermas, lipids, and muscle, it cuts its way through a timeline of spectral sediment and into an epoch that exists long before life as we know it.

It is from the bottom of that gulf that I write this now. I have been here for 5 days and have walked many more miles than I had planned through this cathedral of time. Here, I am isolated from the world in a way I have never before experienced. No wi-fi, cell service, or radio wave can penetrate the earthen embarrass of this monastery. It’s fun to think about just how it was not really all that long ago that google wasn’t a pocket-size-passenger. It’s fun to think about how I remember when “Prodigy” was a fairly new and novel idea. It is also fun to think about how easy it was to get used to the idea of doing without these conveniences. Seriously, a clown in office or a game show host could destroy the world today and I would never know until I made my nightly climb up the cliff face to check my email or the infrequent conference call to PYM’s grant committee; a commitment I took initially only out of idle curiosity yet has become an abundant source of inspiration and joy. It is one of the things I really look forward to participating in while on the road. On one hand it gives me extreme pleasure in a philanthropic sense, on the other it gives me an affiliation and connection to all those things back in the place from which I came.

I am curious to hear what I might have missed in my week long escape. At the same time I know the news doesn’t tell me the stories that I need to hear. So, I leave tomorrow towards the general direction of El Paso. I was not planning to travel that far south but given some of the things going on in our country, I feel there are stories from the border I need to hear. It is with these thoughts I prepare to leave my prehistoric temple and head off again into the future; into the unknown.

Read Part 12, Texas and Louisiana