Lifetimes in Landscapes
His wide gait pulled him across the threshold and into the room bathed in soft blues and yellows filtering through the stained glass window. Quietly, he shuffled towards a back seat.
He grew up in the foothills of the forest. Where the horizon disappeared behind the blue ridges. He’d spend his days with his eyes lifted towards the clouds that kissed the forehead of the mountaintops.
The same clouds would later spit out the sparks that consumed the life below. He’d drive through the winding roads through a tunnel of spruce-only to catch a glimpse of a purple flower amidst the charred ash.
Across the pavement, a woman smooths the folds of fabric draping over her legs. The click of her shoes shadows each step towards the building ahead.
She grew up near the coast, where the sound of crashing waves lulled her to sleep. Afternoons she’d totter atop the rocky crags, exploring. She’d search for shells and new friends—giggling at their tiny eyes poking out from their sandy home.
The same waves that brought peace also advanced with terror. She’d hide beneath blankets as the water beat against the shore. She prayed she wouldn’t slip out to sea with the sand.
My feet trail after the small concrete walkway that winds up toward a door hidden among brick. Puffs of cool vapor proceed my mouth with each exhale as I close the gap between the chill of fall and the warmth waiting inside.
I grew up where the horizon stretches its arms for miles. The landscapes were ordered by geometric shapes, and the world operated by seasons. This year, beans—next year corn. And you better believe they’ll be knee-high by July.
Fields of green tassels swayed in the wind until the day they started blowing too much. I’d take cover in a basement while the wind blew her whistle over us. Once passed, we’d stand before the bent corn and thank God for another chance to see the pink and orange masterpiece stretched across the sky.
He grew up in the foothills, she by the seaside. But each Sunday morning, he’ll slide into a seat behind her, and I’ll sneak in beside him. Together we’ll sit and sing. She’ll cry about the waves that haunted her past. He’ll marvel at the wildflowers that poked through his blackened forest. And I’ll worship over the sky that doesn’t end.
We’ll open the Word, and together we’ll read. He’ll mull over the words while thinking about the mountains, and she’ll remember the beach.
I’ll turn my head and smile at them both. I’ll thank the Lord that he grew up in the foothills and that she grew up by the seaside, because I need to see how God preserved his mountains in the midst of the fires and hear about his blooming flowers in the rubble. I need to listen to the awful and wonderful waves and how God held her in that blanket. And they need to hear about the beauty of my horizon that stretched for miles.
Three people sitting in a sea of more. One hundred different landscapes scattered across the pews. One woman was reared by the bitter desert winds, another learned to walk crunching the snow of a sun-less climate. They may have been born and raised in the same town, but the contours of their histories rival the geography of the globe. Each one full of dips and crags—yet stunning for the beauty He grew.
The One who fashioned the stars in the sky and called the mountains from the ground wound each landscape back into this one place—this one family.
What kind of dirt have your feet raced across as a child? What flowers have you seen bloom amidst your own storm-tossed climate? The one sitting next to you Sunday needs to know.
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