Lately, I’ve been going on hikes to prepare for an upcoming road trip. On the weekend, no matter the weather, I spend my morning at my local state park. There is a five mile loop that goes along the river and up into the bluffs. It’s a great place to train and an even better place to think.
This morning, rain was in the forecast and I had the trail all to myself. One of my favorite things about hiking is the way the cadence of my footsteps pushes my brain to places that feel high and rich. As I scrambled over rocks, past trees, and up high hills, I found myself deeply moved by spring.
In Minnesota, spring comes slowly. It comes in waves of warm and cool weather, rain and sun, green grass and sticky mud.
On the trail, most of the forest was still brown and dead. The leaves were just starting to peek forth–a green blush against the rainy sky. The ground was scattered with little flowers–pink and white and purple and yellow.
What a miracle it is, that life emerges from the bare earth. It reminds me that there will come a day where there will be no more crying, no more pain, no more injustice.
Spring comes forth in quiet radiance, whispering of life and peace and, best of all, hope.
My coat wasn’t quite warm enough, but I hardly cared. Perched on my rock, it was not the bite of the wind that took my breath, but the blue of the water stretching for miles before my feet.
Duluth, Minnesota is an old industrial town. Perched on the Westernmost tip of Lake Superior, it’s an important harbor and port for ships bringing goods and services across the Great Lakes. Before settling to soak in the view, I had the pleasure of watching one of the enormous freight ships slip into the harbor, skirting gracefully under the iconic lift bridge. Strolling along the boardwalk, old manufacturing warehouses and mills (now hotels, shops, and restaurants) on one side and, on the other, the endless lake. I’ve been coming to this city since I was a little girl. The boardwalk, the worn brick buildings, the lake–they’re all part of me.
My nose was beginning to run, but I perched along the shore anyways. In that moment, soaking in the beauty of the sunlight glistening on the waves, a deep peace settled over my spirit.
The past few weeks have been a torrent of upheaval–from persisting unhappiness to my job to arranging to leave the country in January to terrorist attacks and political strife.
It felt so good to get away, to sleep in a bed twice the size of my own, to eat pizza in front of a hotel TV as my brother gushed about Star Wars. It felt good to look out my window and see city, not forest or fields. It felt good o walk along the boardwalk, to sit on the rocks, to watch the ships come into harbor.
It blows me away how crazy this world is. Things are always changing and I am no exception. I don’t know what the adventures ahead have in store. I don’t know how my experiences will shape me and who I will become. This both terrifying and liberating.
I can’t help but think of the quote from which this blog is named:
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien
Moments like these ones, silently dwelling in the places that have known me for so long, give me the courage to take that leap. The peace that dwells in my innermost being gives me the strength to see what’s out in the world and discover who I’m going to be next.
If we were having coffee, we’d probably be lounging on a blanket in my backyard basking in the sunshine. I’d be favoring something cold–an iced mocha or frappuccino–behind my floral sunglasses. An occasional leaf flutters from the maple tree above us.
In Minnesota, we usually have one last day of summer before the season shifts. I think it’s today and am very thankful it fell on my one day off. I’ve been ready for Fall to arrive for the past month, but can’t deny that today is absolutely perfect. The air is fresh, no humidity whatsoever. The trees are just starting to change colors. I actually spent several hours on the aforementioned blanket alternately reading and napping. It was absolutely glorious.
If we were having coffee, I’d tell you all about the concert I went to last week in Minneapolis with a friend. Maddie and I met during our semester abroad in London and she recently moved to my area and has been aching to go to a show ever since. We went to see Ivan & Alyosha and Noah Gundersen. I wasn’t overly familiar with either band, but it was a wonderful show. Musically, both bands were a real treat. Ivan & Alyosha were my favorite act (I’ve been listening to them nonstop ever since). They’re really peppy with a California vibe. Noah was much more serious–his whole band wore black and oozed angst. I like his earlier music, but he mostly played stuff from his most recent album which is really existential. It was hard not to be depressed after the show as I drove the hour home well-past midnight. But I cured the overflow angst by listening to peppy pre-pop Taylor Swift songs.
If we were having coffee, you would know that I’m frustrated. For the most part, things are going very well for me right now. I have a job, a roof over my head, and get to spend lots of time with family. But a big portion of my life, my Christian faith, hasn’t been doing well. I’m not struggling, but I’m not thriving either. One of the problems is that I feel like I have too much history with the churches in my area. Most people my age go to the church I grew up in, which I no longer attend for some very painful reasons (which I discuss in this post). My family usually goes to a mega-church in the cities, which was great for in college for weekend visits and long breaks. But it’s not the kind of church I actually want to go to long-term. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s just not the right fit for me. I’ve looked into trying some other churches, but I either know too many people who go there or have been turned off by hearing about people’s bad experiences.
The thing is, Christian culture tends to be extremely conservative. And I tend to be more liberal. When I’m around other Christians, even those I love and admire, I generally keep my opinions to myself. Usually, this is because it’s not the time or place. But another factor is that most people will strike up an argument. I really dislike arguing–it does more harm than good. In arguments, people tend to spend most of the time defending their own perspective without actually caring about what the other person has to say. I don’t mind if someone thinks differently than I do, but it bothers me when others don’t respect my perspective in return. So I don’t go there.
I’m in a bit of a rut, you see. My relationship with God is one of the most important things I have. I long for Christian community who will accept me without judging me based on the way I think. I long for supporters who will spur me on in faith. I known it exists–I’ve had it before in Morris and at camp. Here, though, I feel very much alone.
If we were having coffee, though, I hope we don’t argue. Because I’d love nothing more than to spend the afternoon sipping cool drinks on that blanket with you. How has your week been? Anything you’d like to share in return?
If we were having coffee, we’d be lounging on my couch watching rain dribble down the large windows of my living room. My hands would be cupped around my favorite mug covered in Shakespearean insult typography and yours would hold a mug shaped like a large, round penguin. (I hope you like penguins.) Our chat would be a quick one–I have to head to work soon.
After exchanging pleasantries, I would probably spend a great deal of time complaining about the heat. If you live the tropics or desert, you’d scoff and roll your eyes. It’s perfectly justified–eighty-five degrees and humidity, no big deal. But, you see, it’s September. September means sweatshirt-and-shorts weather–the best kind. I don’t think it follows the rules of fashion, but there are few things more satisfying than wearing a sweatshirt and shorts. Is this a Minnesota thing? Or do people where you live do this too? Anyways, as much as I love summer, I am ready for the weather to cooperate with the season. The time for heat is past.
If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my younger brother, Sam, went back to college. In typical little brother fashion, he’s really annoying and drives me crazy most of the time. I would tell you about the weird/creepy things he does, but am reluctant to post such things on the internet for the sake of privacy. So, if we ever meet in person, you’ll just have to ask. I’m going to miss having Sam around. This summer has been the most time I’ve spent with him in four years, since I started college. We worked together every day and now I’m the only child in the house. Who am I going to fight with now?
If we were having coffee, you would hear all about the kittens we found this week. When you live on a farm you usually have barn cats. Our resident mama cat, BooBoo, is pushing fourteen years and has stopped having babies, which means childbearing duties have fallen to our other female cat. She’s had multiple names over the years, but we’ve finally settled on Gollum Kitty due to a cough that persisted most of the summer.
To say it nicely, Gollum Kitty isn’t the most intelligent feline out there. She’s also quite small, despite being two years old. When I heard little mews coming from the bushes by my house, I was shocked to find not a kitten or two (which is usual for Gollum Kitty), but SEVEN. They’re only a couple of weeks old, but their eyes are open and are just starting to explore. Five of them are white with different colored spots, one is sandy with white feet, and one is all black.
When I visit the kittens, I feel like a little kid again. All I want to do is pet them. Last night, during the groggy moments between sleeping and waking, the kittens were always on my mind. I woke up this morning to a thunderstorm and my first thoughts were devoted to their safety. (It turns out, my dad got up early and moved them from the bushes to one of our cat houses. So they’re safe.) It’s only been a day and my parents are sick of hearing me gush about how much I love the little fur balls. They’ve charged me with taming them–a task I’m a little too excited about.
I just glanced at the clock and it’s time to head to work. But before I go–what would you share if we were having coffee?
The opening lines of Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body have been ringing in my head. They don’t particularly fit the situation at hand, but still they persist. I walk across the sunlit campus, under the apple blossoms, across the grassy mall, and the words continue to resonate.
Why is the measure of love loss?
A boy from my neighborhood died this weekend. He had been out drinking with friends and simply disappeared. His body was found yesterday in a river.
He was in the grade below me. His family has a farm a mile from my own. I graduated with his sister. My little brother played baseball with his little brother. My best friend’s family is close with his–they call each other brother and sister.
I didn’t know him well. In fact, I barely knew him at all. But twenty year old kids aren’t supposed to die.
Just last week, his sister posted a photo on Instagram of him in front of a poster. It was captioned: “Pretty proud of my brother today!! He developed an ice cream at UWRF for part of the URSCA that substitutes cream with dried buttermilk! Make sure you save me some! #proudsister”
That was five days ago. Now he’s gone.
I can’t help but think–what if it was MY little brother? What if it was me?
This is the time of year when everything is growing and the sun is shining and the future is ours to grasp.
Once again, I find myself at the end of a year of school. And, once again, this has put me in a reflective mood. So much changes in a year, I cannot help but look back and see who I have become.
It’s funny, actually, how much changes in just a few days. Just two days ago, I was submitting the last of my essays, working my final library shift, and savoring the last few hours with my friends. Today, I found myself back in the orchard doing manual labor–hauling brush, mopping out the apple cooler, uncovering fields, that kind of thing. In such a short period of time, my life is totally different from what it was.
This year, though… this year was tough.
The thing about life changing adventures is that, when you come back, nothing ever stays the same. I knew that when I left for London. A year ago, I knew that the Morris I left would not be the one I returned to. And, although I was prepared, that didn’t change the fact that coming back was hard. Old friends had left, new friends had come, and the friends that had kept me grounded for so long were no longer available. Things smoothed out eventually, but all semester long I could not seem to bridge the gap that a semester in Europe had caused. There was a lot of loneliness and uncertainty this school year. There was enormous frustration–with myself, with my professors, with friends, with everything. The frustration ate away at parts of me, especially the part of me that writes. For most of the semester, I could barely pen a single word. I wanted to badly to fit right back into the seam of Morris, to settle into my niche and take on the world. But the problem is that I no longer fit into the space I once occupied. I’ve grown and changed too much. All I wanted (and still want) was to find that one place where people needed me, where I fit like a puzzle piece. But, as much as I waited and waited and waited… it never happened.
Yes, it’s been a year of frustration, but it’s also been an incredible year of growth. All the change, all the uncertainty, all the pushing and pulling have rendered me stronger, deeper, and more confident than I have ever been. I understand this dark world so much better. I got to meet parts of myself I didn’t even know existed.
Despite everything, it’s amazing how my love for my school grows every year. What is it about such a tiny town on the middle of the Minnesota prairie that captures one’s heart so? I love being an environment of intelligent, passionate people who strive to make a better world. I love the wind turbines, the mall, and the sketchiness of the Bent and Dent. I love the caring, flawed, wonderful people who are my friends. I love the kindness of the professors, the spunk of the librarians, the wisdom of the spiritual teachers and mentors. (However, I have no kind words for the wind. And the winters. Those can die horrible, miserable deaths for all I care.)
The past few weeks, I’ve been extremely restless. When I left Morris a couple of days ago, I packed up and left as quickly as I could. I can feel the seasons changing inside of me. After months of sitting and waiting, I’m ready for something different, something new, something exciting. When seasons change, I often mourn the loss of things that are passing. This year, though, is different. This time, I’m ready. This summer is going to be a special one, and I can’t wait to find out what’s coming next.