To begin this post, I jotted down my first thoughts while drinking coffee at a neighborhood coffeehouse:
a slowing of breath, of heartbeat
a calm pond, serenity
a ceasefire – global, political, or between lovers, friends, family
breaking of bread – via religion or a shared meal
a clean bedroom
gardens – in all their stages – mirror of the peace process?
an empty church in the middle of the day
a book, a blanket, a glass of wine while it snows outside
fresh snow- clean, without footprints
a cup of tea late in the afternoon
a hand held by another
Where have I gone to fine peace when I needed it for a larger issue? The Badlands – stark, vast, empty – a canyon ready to receive that which I needed to purge. Holy air.
And now I’m home, sitting at the keyboard, pondering peace in so many forms. I’ll take one of these and free write, right now (free writing being the technique of writing without editing, without worry about mistakes, letting it rip), and we’ll see what happens.
The Badlands is a magical place for me. I was there many times as a kid, sitting in the back seat of my dad’s car as we inched forward in a whole line of cars that contained families who could only travel together in the summer when school was out. Dad loved the place, simply had to drive through there whenever we returned to Minnesota from one of our road trips out west. As a kid, I didn’t fully get it about the stark beauty of the place, the way the bands of colors weave a tapestry through arid lands that have been sacred for millennia. I knew there was something special about it, but my connection was more to the other kids I could see being bored in the back seat like me. I was delighted if we stopped and got out at one of the turnout lookout spots, and even more delighted if we went on until we found a tourist trap of a gift store where I could buy a trinket that meant nothing to anyone but me.
How things change. As a grownup, the Badlands called me when I was struggling single parent. They were there, seemingly unchanged to the naked eye, when I drove through with my eight-year-old son over a fall break from school. The silence, the emptiness relative to those summer trips, the sharp angles of the shadows in October sunlight all pierced me with unexpected sharpness. No, not sharpness, precision. Yes, that’s it. Precision. A cutting away of the extra crap and a reminder that permanence may be an illusion. Marriages fail. Love shifts. People leave. Fathers have to give up driving their kids, let them find their own roads.
Years later, a short bout of depression sent me back there to hike, to look at the stars, to remember that the vastness of things can make problems seems like such small obstacles. The hills, the cliffs, the rocky terrain crumbles slowly, its sediment creates new formations at a pace that begs us to redefine patience. But peace lingers over all of it, over the harshness that still manages to nourish those who live there, who visit, who understand that removing the clutter brings a clearer vision.
Peace can follow me from such a place. It can linger inside my bones, hold itself quietly until I give it an opening.
Here, it says. Here is what you have always been able to find if you just remember where to look.
Did I expect to tell you all that this morning? Not really. But from first thoughts through free writing, here I am at the other side of a story, one that could be filled in with all kinds of other details. But not right now. Right now, I’m going to linger in these little (and big) ideas of peace.
What does the word peace call up for you? Let me know.