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Overheard at the Salon
I was getting ready for a walk Tuesday afternoon, having waited for a break in the rain long enough that I was now facing dinnertime and possible darkness. Finally I just had to go for it. I layered up and topped off with my hot pink rain jacket, opted to leave my headphones at home this time, and had the thought: I should bring the clippers.
I never take clippers with me on my walks, and I didn't do it on Tuesday, either, even though I just wrote last week about paying attention and listening to my intuition. Please know: everything I write is a process I am going through, rather than one I have mastered. I didn't pay attention and I left the clippers at home.
Something phenomenal happened on my walk though, and like most phenomena I will not be able to accurately explain it. The pictures I took with my cell phone won't do it justice and trying to capture the experience in words will be as useful as the mounted deer on our wall.
Knowing all this...
As I was walking the trail I've been using for over a month now, I noticed silvery-green movement off to my right, reaching through the firs. The trail opens up to a clearing where I've been watching the wildflowers, but I'd never noticed this feather of light—a completely different green from the trees around it. I tramped through the tall grass and wildflowers, soaking my shoes and making the dogs nervous, and wishfully thinking the whole time that I knew what it was I was heading for.
The silvery-green was the foliage of three ancient eucalyptus trees; the same ones I’d been talking to my daughter about the day before; the kind in my friend’s front yard I take cuttings from; the same species of eucalyptus tree that friend bought me for my birthday, because she notices.
It must be an old homestead, but I didn’t find any other evidences—no broken down foundations or domestic flower bulbs springing up, and no other non-native trees nearby. Not that I was looking very hard. I was grinning ear to ear like a slaphappy sailor, taking pictures and pulling branches from the peeling trunks. I didn’t need clippers for the pliable young twigs I could reach, and I knew the trees were hardy enough to appreciate a little impromptu pruning. I gathered a handful, still grinning dumb, and texted pictures to my friend and my daughter.
I made my way back to the trail and continued on my walk, just thinking thoughts about the voices in my head and ideas I have and all the things I don’t act on, and about random eucalyptus trees in the middle of a Doug Fir forest. And I thought about how Scripture says Moses turned to the LORD and spoke, as though they were simply walking along together.
I hiked up the muddy trail to the top of the hill, where I can look out over the end of our dead-end road and see the three houses of my quiet neighbors, with family names that go all the way back to the beginning our valley. Their homes glaze the base of this little canyon, and the mountains rise up behind them—"as the mountains surround Jerusalem" I thought to myself.
When I reached the lookout I started the grinning again, this time with tears.
I was enjoying everything: the rain, the path
wherever it was taking me, the earth roots
beginning to stir.
I didn’t intend to start thinking about God,
it just happened.
I had this handful of eucalyptus and a renewed belief in the goodness of God specifically to me. I had this thought that I should have brought the clippers; somehow that was more than a coincidental idea. I was in and out of the rain, lugging wet shoes and muddy pant legs, and fully attentive to the trail and the woods and the sounds around me because I’d left my headphones at home.
At the top of the hill were these yellow sunflowers (arnica) growing wild, out of nowhere. I had been to this spot just a few days before and the dogwoods were spectacular, but there were no sunflowers. Out of nowhere I had tears and that dumb grin again and none of it really means anything big or monumental, no revelations, no flashes of understanding; just that God is good.
Is that a small thing?
I didn’t intend to ever stop thinking about God but every time I am surprised by something beautiful—when tears come out of nowhere to someone who maybe prides herself in not being a crier—I am reminded that I must’ve stopped. I must’ve had a voice that said bring the clippers and I ignored it as a coincidence, an inconvenience, a casualty of synapses. I am shocked again and again by my own stupor and the goodness around me. The clippers weren’t even necessary, but they are now one more metaphor in my bag of tricks to help me stay awake.
I alternate between fear of losing beautiful things and guilt for having them, but I don’t actually have them. They have me, and I must belong to the flowers and the trees and the trail that is changing every single day this May. My husband asked me this morning what I thought beauty was, before God made the heavens and the earth. The Sunday school answer is correct nine out of ten times, and Jesus, the Word an eternity behind and an eternity ahead with God, is this beauty I find in the world. I didn’t intend to start thinking about God, but I went for a walk and paid a little bit of attention and there He was.
Anyway, this was my delicious walk in the rain.
What was it actually about?
Think about what it is music is trying to say.
It was something like that.
~Mary Oliver, Drifting
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