I’m impressed to admit the angst I regularly feel about the dichotomy between my blog’s lofty endeavor and the fact that I live in Suburbia.
I’ve only recently discovered the fun times of Instagram, where I’ve been inspired by the likes of the Boyink and Longnecker (#bareneckers) families who have sold everything and are #ditchingsuburbia for life on the road. Perhaps my biggest Insta-hero is the man whose gallery really made the app click for me: Nate Croft, a guy I actually knew about 9 years ago. When I ran across his feed, it was immediately clear to me that this scruffy guy road-tripping across the country and rocking #vanillatothegrave was an adventure-magnet version of the young man I’d met that summer of 2006.
The confession gets down to this: All the varied, breathtaking shots on Instagram strike a chord with something that has been growing in me for some time. Tragedies and misadventures have a way of making you evaluate your hours, and the year I’ve just traversed has put me in such a place. One night last autumn, I sat on a patio in Fairview, TX, and made a list:
This page was folded up and shoved to the bottom of an unused pocket in my purse. I found it again in the new year, glossy and creased from the time spent in the chasm that I call my fathomless leather accessory. It might be hard to read, so I’ll rewrite #2 here:
Nature! – Sunsets, Mountains, Blue Skies, Walking, Hiking, Stargazing, Tennessee in the Fall
More than ever, my heart feels an ache for the wild mystery found in places like the Great Smoky Mountains. I want to stand once more victorious at the top of the Chimneys. I need to find myself again surrounded by the silent, sparkling thrill of fireflies and lie shivering for hours under the stars arrayed.
There are probably many people like me who, for myriad reasons, can’t just up and ditch suburbia. The sweet ache haunts us, however, when we drive past a field dipped in sunset rose and gold. We search for pretty little patches of green for our walks, pretending there isn’t a concrete jungle on the other side of the trees.
If you are like me, I can only offer the words of hope that bring me comfort when my search for beauty begins to feel like a desperate need: Keep searching. Even in the small moments. Even if the beauty emerges from the mundane, the broken and worn. It is certainly there in the hearts of your loved ones. Its elusive flame can sometimes be felt in the inner strength found after the last mile ran. Devastating beauty can even rise triumphantly out of the ashes of tragedy. In My Bright Abyss, Christian Wiman tells of how incurable cancer shaped his search: “When my life broke open seven years ago, I knew very well that I believed in something. Exactly what I believed in, however, was considerably less clear. So I set out to answer that question, though I have come to realize that the real question – the real difficulty – is how, not what. How do you answer that burn of being?”
Wiman also writes, “There is an enormous contingent of thoughtful people in this country who, though they are frustrated with the language and forms of contemporary American religion, nevertheless feel that burn of being that drives us out of ourselves, that insistent, persistent gravity of the ghost called God.”
I do not peddle religion, but I do pray for you. I pray that the ache that drives us all will help us find the source of all beauty and bless our hours with meaning.