We have been back in Southern California for 1 year. In honor of our Re-entry Anniversary, I thought I’d post a reflective essay of sorts that I wrote months ago. It draws from my initial post on Footpaths but encapsulates more of my experience and reflections over the 3+ years of taking the time to go on solitude walks throughout our time in England.
Footpaths are one of my favorite things ever. We lived in Durham, England for exactly 3 years and 4 months and loved every beautiful, awkward, stressful, freeing moment of it. The footpaths were a major highlight for me. They created the space and invitation I needed to sink deeper into the slower paced life that we had gladly signed up for. There are tens of thousands of miles of them that reach out across the country. And, on Saturdays after our pancake breakfast, I would go explore some of them.
I could exhale and get lost (sometimes literally) in the multitude of options. I would wander and wonder and not be in a rush. It was fabulous, and I could tear up just thinking about how much I miss it now.
One of the best parts of the footpaths are the way markers and gate posts.
There’s something about them that felt comforting. Maybe it was because they reminded me that I was still on the path. Many times, I wouldn’t know where the path led. But, I was on it. And, that’s all I needed to know. This was reflective of where I was in life and where I continue to find myself. I’m not entirely sure where this crazy, windy path is leading, but the view sure is beautiful (if I stop to pay attention to it) and the journey is rich. So, I keep going.
Around bends and through gates there are open meadows that you come upon. The first time I approached one I cried. I am pretty sure I gasped. Expansive views feel spiritual to me. Often times it’s where truths settle more fully into my heart, perspectives are broadened, or it’s simply that my spirit is given the space to unravel a bit. A fabulous view can do that.
There were also the little things along the way that God used to whisper into my soul. One day, I found myself on a path of trees that were in the early stages of their Autumn transformation. I found a leaf that was in the middle of turning. Half of it was green and it gently faded into a lovely yellow with hints of orange. I picked it up and tears welled up as I thought about how perfectly this little leaf depicted my reality. We were in transition – in between homes, countries, communities, churches, schools, everything. We were eager for the welcoming hugs, meals, and conversations. Yet, we were grieving all sorts of wonderful places and people and experiences that made up our life in Durham.
Then something happened on that same walk. It began to rain – no surprise in Northeast England. But, as my face was showered upon, it also felt the warmth of the sun beaming down on it through the breaks in the rain clouds. I closed my eyes and felt in every part of my being that this was a significant moment of feeling known right where I was. Life is in the tension – at the intersection of joy and sorrow, life and loss, laughter and tears. There’s a depth there. A richness. That day, as one of my friends put it, I was grateful and grieving. We can do both, because we were designed with that capacity. What a glorious thing. I can feel it all at the same time, and instead of that throwing me into a spiral of emotions that spins me off my axis, it can free me and center me. Free me from my tendencies to control, worry, blame, whatever. I’ve learned better [a little bit] how to embrace the process and not be overly concerned about the answers and destinations. Turns out life for me is easier that way.
Thank God for footpaths.