Toward the end of my time in Texas, I began having significant health problems. What started as gastrointestinal issues and major weight loss turned to emergency room visits and cardiologist appointments and heart tests. I thought I might have cancer. I began obsessively scanning my skin, mouth, inner eyelids, fingernails for strange moles or signs of growths. I watched my bowel and bladder habits and kept meticulous track of my weight loss, of my heart rate and blood pressure. Every small nuance and change was cause for documentation. If not cancer, surely a heart defect. I could visibly see the tip of my heart beating out from under my rib cage, my veins grossly distended, heart rate in the high hundreds. Mom would call, and I’d inform her of my findings, and upcoming appointments. Time and again, she’d offer just this: “maybe you’re stressed?” I pushed back. NO. I am totally chill. If I was stressed, I’d do something about it! I’d ask for help! I’m totally fine. I have something WRONG WITH ME, MOM. I AM SICK. I was flying back to Oregon for a job shadow, then back to Texas to graduate and be in two weddings and pack my loft in a day and help a friend pack her house in two and making preparations for getting all my stuff shipped to Oregon on pallets and making sure my car was up to speed for the week-long journey home with dad and saying goodbye to my kindred-spirit Baylor friends and coming to terms with the fact that I was young and single and jobless and moving home to a town of 2,000 with seemingly zero prospects for either husbands or jobs and working on diplomatic explanations to offer the many well-wishers who felt the need to continually remind me of those two facts, and, and, EVERYTHING WAS FINE. Except me.
It’s been a full two months since moving back to this little town, nestled ‘neath the mountains I love, and my health problems have vanished entirely. Not a single issue since the day I left Texas. You know what I think? Mom was right. Though I didn’t notice any psycholgical feelings of stress, my body and psyche were being put through the ringer. I had been living for fifteen months in a place that provided NO peace. I had been out of my element, far from my family and close friends and mountains...and I was strained.
Might there be something profound to be said for places where we are more connected with the earth, with creation? It has been said that we go to cities to see the work and power of humans...and we go to the wilderness to see the work and power of God. Man, I’ve gotta tell you--if I have a choice to wake up every day to see either the work of humans or the work of God, I’d be a fool to choose the former. Infrastructure is important, and I realize I am a product of its benefits, but can’t there be too much of any good thing? When the earth sighs, and concrete skyscrapers turn to rubble, do we realize that we don’t have as much control as we’d like to think? When we become rats on the wheel of progress--racing and racing and climbing higher only to realize we have become anonymous cogs, do we stop and reconsider?
I can walk these mountains, this high desert, and see my way in the dark--under starlight alone. I know the paths, and I am still learning them. I want to be here until I’ve learned and followed them all, and then teach my children and grandchildren to walk them, too. I don’t want to hasten to places because they’re tagged on Instagram or because a Facebook video says they’re the new hot spots. I want to be taken by friends, and by those older and wiser and more well-walked than I. I want my hair to silver and skin to wrinkle in the shadow of the mountains under which I once frolicked and flew kites with Dad, as a child...because it is by re-visiting places that never change that one realizes how much she, herself, has.
In these glacial lakes and between the ponderosa pines, I can breathe deep and reflect. I recall memories--of times long-gone, when I “came here with” this friend or that friend or those people. Here, the seasons mirror life and remind us that change is coming--that new life is on its way but winter must first bring the cold.
I walk into the market, across the street from Mom and Dad’s little house in town, and Melvin gives me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. He’s watched me grow, and he’s owned that little store since I was just a babe. It is in places like this, small places...intimate places...that we are best known and loved. I used to think how nice it must be to be anonymous in the Big City...and then I became so and realized that all I’ve ever wanted, all any of us really want, is to be fully known...and loved anyway.
For now, and I do hope forever, this place is where I am most at peace.
Coming down the mountain a few mornings ago, Pocahontas’ words played their melody through my mind:
You think you own whatever land you land on
Find somewhere where you wake up and think, my goodness Someone must have perfectly orchestrated the natural world to create all this beauty. Where you can look out at the created order and realize that Someone will always love you, and always has. And where, if you lay real still under the twinkling night sky, you can hear the voices of the mountains and the wolves crying to the blue corn moon.