The City that Built Me

i thought that when i moved away, i would slowly begin to stop missing the city i left behind. so far, that has not been the case.

i knew i’d given my heart to those mountains, an exchange that happened effortlessly. it’s almost as if a part of my soul belongs to that beautiful scene and i only discovered it being there.

it was the place that built me up and the place that held me as i fell apart. {i wish it had been the city that put me back together} often the work of building and falling was happening at once, parts of me coming together as others fell away. it was the place where i felt safe taking risks. it was the place where i was forced to come to grips with the unknown. where i realized, sitting in lectures and watching videos that my beliefs had changed and i was ok with it. where i sat in the passenger seat of a gold car, driving into the mountains. or in a small red car singing and feeling free. or a white suv having dance parties and laughing.

(it was the home to so many things and so many memories. i’m still deconstructing it all, learning the freedom to take the good and the bad. at some point i will flesh out the detox letters, my way of coming to terms with my faith and the way it has changed.)

i wouldn’t be the strong woman i am today if it wasn’t for that place. those trees. those mountains. those halls. that tunnel. that beat up hotel we called home. the downtown filled with hipsters and church steeples and endless steps.

someday when i find the person who i’m ready to commit to, i know i’ll have to take him there and show him. the city where the stories coming from. the cemetery that was the number one attraction for the city on yelp (true story). our hideaway in the woods. the coffee shop downtown. that spot in the woods just off downtown i fell in love with.

i don’t know when i’ll be back next, little town, but thank you for the gifts you gave me. you still have my heart.

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There used to be a tree here.

blooms

On this hallowed ground, this refuge, there used to be a tree. We gathered on cool spring days, to admire her budding flowers. To find comfort when troubles were many. But the blooms made us forget our troubles, and in those moments, we remembered the good. Some days, I’d taking a flower, to go with the grace in my heart, I hoped. There used to be a tree here.

In the summer, we took refuge under her branches or climbed up into them to survey what was around us. She provided us with something we couldn’t provide for ourselves. She welcomed our laughter and held onto our sorrows. There used to be a tree here.

In the fall, we felt new again. We mourned as she began to lose her leaves fell but welcomed the time when they’d come again and bring us the blooms we loved so much. In those prior months, this place had become ours. Her open branches welcomed us to a place where tears were shed, laughter was shared and our friendships grew roots of their own. She had given us a new kind of hope and with grateful hearts, we kept coming back to her. Because now, her presence felt like home. We’d still come and lean on her back ‘til the frosty cold came.  There used to be a tree here.

In the winter, all was barren and cold. The cold kept us inside, longing for warmth and refuge. And yet we would still long to be at that place, under that tree, under her branches. For a brief moment, I would sit on her roots with a chai tea until all I could feel was bitter cold. We would pass by, on our way to somewhere else and long for the warmth of spring. We’d look to her and remember how to be resilient as she stood through the snow, through the bitter cold with bare branches.

There used to be a tree here. But they cut in down last year. We remember the blooms and the joy she gave us. And a hiding place to come together in the seasons. She brought us together. And I miss her more than words can say. There used to be a tree here.

flowers on flowers

When Nature Heals Me

I didn’t grow up in a place with seasons, not in the traditional sense. We did not have the glorious blooming and flowering of spring. The rare leaves that color themselves and fall don’t appear til January. We never have a white Christmas.

When I moved away from my home, up to the mountains, I learned just how much I needed those seasons, how much I thrive with this organic change. To look out my window and see the grandeur of tall trees and looming mountains, to walk in the midst of the color. How much the blooming of the flowers made my smile and their colour amazed me.

mountains

Though everything was not perfect then, nature changed me. It gave me an appreciation for a place I’d never lived in before. I had stayed in the mountains, but now I lived in them. Whether covered in mist or the hazy purple of the sunset, they stood out there, in my backyard. I grew to love walking, because the air was cooler. I grew to really like hiking, because again, the air was cooler, affording me less exhaustion. I saw little salamanders, hiding along the trails for the first time and feel in love with them. I could drive from the city into the nearly empty country in five to ten minutes, depending on the root. I’d never experienced this and home. City and wide open space being neighbors so effortlessly. A community who was not anxious to settle every open space around them.

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the problems that surround me. For the oft slow process of change or quick rattling to unsettle me, for a day. When I lived in the foothills of the mountains, I walked among glory and being in nature, it showed me what truly mattered. Problems are solved, change is adjusted to, things happen in time. Beauty surrounds us every day and this planet we live in is filled with glorious things. I am small but I belong in this world. We are surrounded by nature to enjoy, to delight in. To sit on a lawn and watch the colours of the sunset, a few precious moments unbothered by responsibilities. Phone only in use to capture that sunset and maybe upload it to instagram (okay, definitely upload it to instagram, let’s be real).

skyonfire

To the nature I lived in for two years, thank you. Thank you for being constant and beautiful. Thank you for your refuge. Thank you for making my spirit come alive. I miss you everyday. And I can’t wait to come back.

An Understanding: The Impact of Story

In November 2012, I found a webseries called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It’s a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, with Lizzie as a 24 year old grad student. I happened to tune in for the first episode to feature Darcy (the proposal scene in the book) and was so impressed that I kept watching…and fell in love.

One year ago today, a video called An Understanding went up. It’s a really touching scene between Lizzie and her youngest sister Lydia, showing depth into the character of Lydia and the strain that separated the sisters. (If you follow the book, they adapted Lydia and made some different choices, but grew her into a fully fleshed character, while remaining faithful to her book counterpart. Someone I loved and cared for, rather than misunderstood and pitied) In this part of the story, Lydia is dealing with profound hurt and the way she talks about it connected with me instantly. I’m trying to avoid spoilers in my description, so bear with some of the vague description.

I remember, I was sitting in the quiet computer lab that day, just finishing up my homework and eager to watch the video before grabbing lunch with friends. Halfway through my eyes filled up with tears and at the end, I couldn’t push them away anymore. Initially I had been excited because at eight minutes, it was one of the longest videos to date. But those eight minutes were filled with some of the best acting and storytelling I’ve seen. The last lines of Lizzie and Lydia connect with me, through the heart and emotion given. Rachel Kiley wrote most of the Lydia arc and I have to give credit, her writing made Lydia beautiful. She wrote An Understanding and it definitely showcases her talent.

I’ve only been able to watch this episode a few times since it aired. One time, I made the mistake of watching it when I was early to an event and I wept in the hallway of a church (those last lines y’all, they do me in). Ultimately, I love what it shows me about the value of love, that there is no mistake too large for love to not hold us.

Mary Kate Wiles, the actress who plays Lydia wrote up a reflection about that day which you can read here.