It is a dull morning, lionlike for the beginning of March, with a biting north wind sharpening the edges of muddy snowdrifts. I step through the gritty crystals in my familiar hiking shoes, hat scrunched low, to take the road I always take in these before-school walks.
I have walked this particular road as therapy, as labyrinth, as prayer, and as protest. If pavement could talk, this stretch would have a lot of dirt on me. Despite its familiarity, this country lane has been the scene of many small epiphanies. It is no Zion, but I am yet a pilgrim, even to the summit I have called Drunk Skunk’s Hideaway, and down to the stream where the kids take their bikes to catch minnows in spring. A thin place, the ancients might have called it.
Grey clouds meet grey road today, and nothing feels too inspiring. I am ok with this. I pause to greet the rosebush, even dirtier now than in January, with one or two winter-gnarled hips still attached. I nod to a spruce in the field, one that still has its full top after the big fall storm. Where the road bends to go up the hill, I stop to listen to the water as it gurgles from the culvert beneath me into a pool with a soggy beer carton at its edge. None of this is particularly beautiful, but it is familiar. Loved in a well-trodden way. These simple landmarks have become friends, companions in the quest to live within my boundary lines and make peace with limitations. I know this road.
When I turn to head for home, the wind hits me full in the face, clawing across the corn field. The pungent smell of silage from the cow barns hits too. I tuck my face down and think about the days ahead. In a week I will be on a road completely different and new to me – in Moldova, a tiny Eastern European country on the fringes of war. It’s not the first place I thought I’d travel to after all these years, but it feels fitting, like the road was meant to lead there all along. I am excited to meet friends I have only seen through a screen, and share stories with women and men who are looking for the deeper meaning in their own lives.
The thing is, I’ve spent so much time and thought in the place of small that I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to walk on roads that aren’t island red, or past signs that say “slow” or even “stop.” I have made such peace with small, perhaps I am afraid to leave it? What first terrified me in its tightness now fits like an old pair of shoes.
Will I know how to walk off the runway? Will my eyes adjust to a wide new view? Will my story fit anywhere else?
A barn swallow flits overhead, darting erratically around the smoother flight of pigeons lifting from the metallic ridge of the barn roof. Even the small can fly. The sun almost breaks through the rolling clouds – I can feel the warmth for half a moment, a lamb’s defiance against the wind, the thin veil almost lifted. Then it is gone.
Will spring be here when I return? Perhaps I will have new tales to tell the rosebush and the red earth and the swallows. Perhaps I, too, will fly, and be breath-taken by what lies beyond.
This week I will be landing in Moldova along with the author Your Story Matters to share the power of story! After being involved in the Your Story Matters online writing community for almost 3 years, I am so excited to meet up in person with Leslie Leyland Fields and Tanya Onu for a week of workshops, training and ministry – serving the people of Moldova and Ukrainian refugees there. Sharing our stories is a powerful form of connection and healing. I would love your prayers – for health, safety, and that our time would be a blessing to those we meet.
S. D. G.