We’re driving narrow roads down valleys and up sloping hills, through trees budding green to our campground. Nestled in a historic part of Minnesota, this is where we plan to rest for a few days, right next to a clear cold water creek.
Three days of furtive glances from curly-white haired Mr. Watson trying to sneak food from our picnic plates and the large, pleading eyes of Ervin to throw the ball, just one more time, hiking up steep mountains, soaking in the sun, sleeping in, reading all those books stacked in the back of the car.
I step out of the car, breathe deep, then deeper yet. My heartbeat slows. Life starts, it seems, when we finally ask it to stop. I stare at the towering hillside, the way the pine trees seem to hold the jagged rocks from falling down around our feet.
After plugging the RV in to electric and water, we chit-chat with the neighbors who stop by. He’s a UPS driver and I gush awkwardly, tell him he’s my favorite person ever because he brings me books, lots and lots of books. Thank you, Amazon… you are this introvert’s best friend. He’s pleasant of course, like all UPS drivers have to be, but he shuffles away quickly.
We drive into town, then, to an old A & W drive-in and we sit under neon lights, eat burgers and fries and talk about nothing and everything all at the same time, all those tiny little thoughts that make up a life. And I watch a chubby girl in white sandals and a red sundress ask her dad something and he walks to the jukebox, selects a song, and she dances. Her hands held high, her face relaxed, eyes closed, she gyrates across the floor, kicking her feet high, her dress twirling and I stop talking, watching her, the way she so unashamedly moves, how she feels this moment, loves this moment. Her breathless excitement ignites something within me and I’m tempted to throw the rest of my fries to my dogs in the backseat and dance next to her.
I want that. I think about hitting the button on the panel next to my window, wishing I could say, I’ll take the #6. Yes, contentment. Yes, a large. But I don’t. Instead, I hit the button and order a turtle sundae, which is kind of the same thing.
Stomachs full, we putter to our home away from home, and I’m quiet, turning the thoughts over and over in my mind while I build a campfire. The brook, a thousand tiny tongues, laps nearby. Southern Gal hands me a mug and I clench its warmth between hands, take sips filling a soul so thirsty. Ervin hufflepuffs his way around the camp, convinced our neighbor from Wisconsin who’s whistling is surely a horrible man intent on pillaging our camp and stealing our marshmallows. Out there, in the grass, there’s a chorus of insects singing while they crawl. And out there, somewhere in the trees, two owls yell at each other about whose turn it is to catch supper.
Southern Gal settles next to me, wraps her arms and a blanket around me and we scoot close to the crackling fire. I watch the moon rise, imagine hidden strings holding it, hidden strings manipulated by a God above, this great puppeteer slowly raising it, white and full, to the heavens.
I see Him up there, holding the strings, and maybe He bends his ear, listens to some eight billion hearts beating, this symphony of humanity, this collective rhythm of sleeping and breathing and eating. Does He hear mine? I lift my face to His, soak in all this goodness, praise Him for such beauty. It’s easy to be contented, I think, when everything is perfect, but what about the hard times?
And then I feel it, just a drop at first, then more.
Rain. It falls down around us, each drop hissing as it hits the fire.
We run for our camper.
We play a game then and argue about who really won because why did you drop that card worth three points on the floor or should it be in the discard pile? The winner takes her shower (yes, she did win) and I step outside into the drizzle with the dogs and the grass is wet between my toes and the moon is gone and it makes me lonely, the way it went away so suddenly.
Tomorrow is another day.
Tonight, I will take the rain, take the pattering on my poncho, hear its melancholic drip and maybe I’ll let my eyes drip too.
I think back to the previous year, the many days how my broken mind would bustle within my skull, my heart would race, how I would simply take the medications, lie down, turn my head slowly to stare at the blank wall and wait till the dizziness passed, wait till the chemicals in my brain neutralized, how I would pray a little harder and hold a little stronger.
Life is unbearable sometimes. It’s so broken; so terribly, horrifically broken. And it’s okay, I think, to open oneself up to feeling its rough, jagged edges. Bad days happen. Maybe, if for no better reason than to make us grateful for tomorrow when it’s different, to remind us to always cling to hope that the next moment might bring joy?
There is a quietness, a calmness, even contentment in accepting that not all things work out in this moment but all things do, however, work together for good. (Romans 8:28) This I believe.
Acceptance towards all things, good and bad, is the key that unlocks truest contentment.
I push my chest to the heavens, breath deep, feel the rain against my face. My heart beats wild, free, content. I know God is listening. I thank Him for the good. Even the not-so-good. I thank Him for this beautiful, chaotic experience called life. And most of all, I thank Him for having me along for the ride.
The trash bag whips in the wind and Mr. Watson growls, all eleven fluffy pounds of him ready to fight while Ervin, the seventy-five-pound dog, runs terrified for the camper.
Life. Isn’t it simply the best.