My true baptism into living-alive-in-beauty happened upon landing in Kansas five years ago to this very day.
Every morning in this new-to-me place, I woke up to the endless possibilities of mud on the trails and backwoods barbed wire fences just beckoning me to cross. I laced up my 15 year old hiking boots, and just walked far, wherever they would take me.
I spent a year walking through every season, trekking through the forest. I walked off old hurts and injuries, strength returning to the broken places. I came upon venomous snakes, had a few stare downs with seemingly rabid opossum, turkeys, deer, beavers, more snakes, old barns, and a mysterious house that only revealed itself after our first autumn here, so cloaked it was In vines, ivy and shrubbery.
I startled at the site of a coyote one day, and his primal gaze on mine, two feet from me forged something new in my being of wild adventure. Fear had no place here on this new pathway. I had lived fear for my whole life. Fear abandoned me and clung to the mud, sticking there, covered up now by layers and layers of Kansas dust and wind.
Shame had always left me winded, until it blew away one day while walking across an abandoned open prairie while I strayed as close as I could to the embankment by the river. I picked up a feather, held it to the sun, saw the light through impossible networks of lines and colors. Illuminated, I let the feather blow on the wind, twirling and swirling through the air, then landing in the river, mysteriously carried along with it my shame and regret. Gone, and I hardly understood why. How could a moment of my whole being alive to beauty change me so deeply?
In the evenings, I’d venture across the prairie to the Sunset Tree, holding up the western sky In all of its glory, strong arms, carrying the weight of the glory that comes with Kansas sunsets. Marveling upon colors new to me, golden leaves clapping and slapping in the wind, the sunsets stretched from sky to sky, as far as my eyes could see. Down, down the sun sunk, the color of the sky changing moment by moment. Each breath a new color, a new tone. Mesmerized, I stood up in the glory of the most alive beauty I’d ever known.
My anxiety set with a hundred of those sunsets, carried with the sun to an unknown place, far from here, away from me, I now walk in the glory of that sun. It is my secret strength, the mystery of it, the glory of it wrapped in new grace forming around the edges of my heart.
Joy sprung out at me with an echoing surprise one day as I walked down the muddy trail. A Storm siren waled in my ears annoying my solitude, until I heard something I had never heard and maybe never will again. A pack of wild coyote pups howling and howling, matching the storm siren in loudness and favor. I stood dumbstruck as I listened to the patch ahead of me, to the six pups howl away. I never realized I had been passing their den within a few feet day after day. I laughed with joy so deep down in my spirit, something new like life awakened me. The sleepiness of my weary soul, finally alive to joy and beauty, unexpectedly.
I miss the wildness of the Kansas we came to, the wide open plains, the wildflowers stretched from east to west, the sun setting behind the sunset tree-The owls hooting at me as I passed their secret spots in the woods, sneaking up on to beavers happily swimming for joy in the pond.
The prairie is cleared now, mud paths now asphalt. There are tractors swiping lines of dirt day by day. Piles of mulch ten feet high stand where the barn and old house used to be. The old well I found, that was so very mysterious is now filled, gone forever. A deep sadness with the loss of these images, my mud path that lead to so many adventures. But it is a new day….
I finally wore down my old hiking boots, sunk way down into the thick Kansas mud one day, the tread giving way as I lifted up my foot, ten pounds heavier with mud. I got new boots. They’re sturdy, have walked new miles, excited to find new horizons.
I am alive and bold and strong and good. God is great and he is the Lord of the Prairie. His sun shines in me and echoes of joy are now mine, and I am happy.
He walked with me as I became Alive to Beauty.