Last summer, I spent a day hiking to Abiqua Falls in northwest Oregon with my dear friends Sue & Rockelle, a day Sue captures perfectly in the stunning piece below. I'm honored to share it with you here, but more honored to call this wise soul friend.
"Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls;
All your breakers and your waves have gone over me."
"By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life."
Psalm 42, ESV
Sometimes, you’re given a real, genuine red-letter day. A day you can bookmark for reference later when the Bad seems to outweigh everything else. A day that reminds you what’s Worth It, and by proxy what isn’t. A day that exists, stubbornly hopeful, in the midst of overwhelming doubts and unfixable circumstances.
We wind down the hot asphalt toward Scotts Mills, Oregon. The arched canopies of hop fields and rippling sea of wheat lend this countryside a certain melody, one that reminds you to breathe and leaves you breathless all at once. The curving roads take us past fallen-down barns, held together only by rusty nails and the country that surrounds them, fixtures of this simple, stunning patch of earth. The air this time of year is heady with the fragrance of wild blackberries ripe to bursting, the one season of redemption for their wicked vines. Mingled with the plump, golden scent of ripe grass and the wild, cool aroma of fir forests, this is the smell of Oregon summer, and the smell of home.
With the sun on our skin and the wind blowing in our hair, we banter back and forth, of dreams and future, friends and past. Our light conversation belies the weight of the present- the unspoken hurts balled up somewhere behind our throats meeting the precious space in which we are together and all is well. We are welcomed into the little town of Scotts Mills by the magic drowsiness of a place time has passed by. A few wooded miles further, a perilous trek in the car and a scrambling descent on foot bring us to our destination.
At the sight of the falls, the banter stops and we enter a silence which none of us break for a while. I guess you could say deep calls to us.
I stand on the rocky shore, hands on hips, soaking in the silence with these two women I have the privilege to call friends. Rockelle, with her tenacity and stubborn determination to wrestle meaning and life into and out of and around this space of breath she's given. Sarah, with her fierce persistence to love and keep loving, to call things out as they are and as they could be.
I take an inward glance at myself—my soul still shrouded in the wisps of grief, the shadow of death. At my quiet resolve to endure.
We are strong ones, I think. Dreamers. Impatient with the disingenuous. Always seeking.
We are strong ones, I say.
We peel off our sweaty workout tops and plunge into the water. The chill shocks me at first, then fades into the background of my senses as I stand there and let the mist of the waterfall dance over my skin. We stand there, arms outstretched, wondering in silent unison if heaven might simply be this.
I peer up at the stately rock face surrounding the waterfall. Steadily eroded, carved with a story of time and life and happenings, of tree roots and bird nests, of water and wind. Scoured and scarred in turn, existing and serenely proud of its existence. Rock made beautiful by its edifices, its inconsistencies, its story.
I glance down from the rock face to my less-than toned core, my thighs scratched and bruised from brushes with nature. In an unconscious moment of insecurity, my hands drop to my sides.
I'm not usually one for storytelling. My own story is not one I usually care to drag out into the spotlight. It lacks orderly narrative flow and (as of late) any deeper sense of purpose. Just a whole lot of futility with a good portion of unresolved pain. But here I have remained these past months—struggling through this story of mine, trying to find a cohesive thread in it for myself, if not for anyone else.
As I stand beneath the mist of this constant, pulsing, powerful wall of water and rock, I realize. This story—tangled, bizarre, incoherent narrative that it is—is far from perfect, but it is mine.
We are strong ones, I say.
These stories of ours are sacred. Stories of courage and wit and and sacrifice and all of their antitheses because we are first, and fully, human. Stories rendered sacred by the Imago patterned across our flawed and blemished bodies, streaming through our tired souls like the stained glass of the the grandest cathedral.
What reason do I have, now, not to choose my own story?
So I stand there under the waterfall, and I choose. I choose to be wrapped up for a rare moment in the wild and fleeting present, arms outstretched. I choose to halt long enough to live in my story, to breathe in it. And I choose to keep going, to keep searching and fighting and believing that dreams can earn their keep, that hope still has feathers and that someday my soul will offer it a welcome perch once more.
Wrapped up in the present, arms outstretched.