Dear Strong Woman,
It’s been two weeks since I spent a breathtaking weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. It was one of those trips that you didn’t realize was so needed until you were there. Where you felt yourself exhale – truly exhale – for the first time in weeks. Truthfully, maybe months.
So why has it taken me so long to finish this post about it? I remember chatting with a few of my girls while there, trying to find the words to describe the peace this place gave me. It naturally inspired me. All I wanted to do was write. And yet, two weeks later, I still hadn’t found the exact words.
Until Thursday night.
So thank you, G, for hitting rock bottom, going to the grocery store after a five-day no-shower streak, explaining to the cashier that you may be cursed, and for hearing that angel tell you just how fortunate you were if that were true. This is for you, that truth-teller, and the rest of the light-workers ready to roll up their sleeves and dive in.
I sit in my happy place as I type this. My porch. This space was the reason I chose this apartment. I had been living across the hall for about six months when I noticed to door left ajar on our way back in from a dog walk. I peeked in and noticed it was completely empty so I took a look around. Clearly, I had lucked out with the better apartment. For one, it was bigger. Being an old Victorian House and on the front of the building, my dining room was a part of the turret, charmingly round. One wall of my living room was also a giant window seat with beautiful built-ins for all of the books…I planned to read…one day.
I made comparisons as I snooped. Our bathrooms and bedrooms were about the same size, just with the reverse layout. But the living room was noticeably smaller, the “dining room” was really just a nook in the corner of the living room, and the kitchen was the size of small half bath. Maybe. I have yet to see a smaller kitchen anymore.
But off that tiny kitchen was a door that led to the biggest asset this apartment had to offer. A porch. A covered porch. A covered porch with a green view. In the city. Sure, you could see the backs of houses, but all of the trees surrounding and separating made this feel like an oasis. An escape.
I said it out loud to the pups: “We’re moving.”
It’s been three-and-a-half years since then, and this porch has been a much needed escape from some heavy, heavy stress. I swear my students got better grades on their assignments when I did my grading out here. I’ve worked out, eaten meals, even taken naps out here. More importantly, it’s been my means of recalibration. My place of peace and quiet within the tiny concrete jungle of Wilmington.
Until this northern girl went south.
We arrived in Blue Ridge for a family wedding…barely. Flying in the day of always has it’s risks, and we made sure to test that. The morning of our flight I woke up 45 minutes after I had planned to be on the road, bypassed a much needed shower, and sped down I-95 like Lightning McQueen. Have you ever been running to your gate and heard your name being paged on the intercom at the same time? Damn.
We landed in Atlanta and began our drive up north to the mountains. We hit traffic, and my mind was suddenly full of calculations and compromises. How quick can I shower? What steps do I need to skip? Can I forego shaving my legs and just consider myself a true mountain maiden? When we arrived, it was a quick hello to my second family followed by a mad dash to the bathroom to try to hide the fact that I had been sweating since I woke up that morning. By the grace of God I was wedding ready in 30 minutes, but my heart was still racing from the race I had been running for hours. I felt on edge and antsy.
Until I saw this.
God is good, and in this instance, he was surely showing off in an attempt to shut down my overworked mind. Suddenly, the roller coaster ride that had been the last month of my life… STOPPED. I was in pure awe of the beauty, the quiet (despite a house full of wedding guests!), and the relief I felt when I finally exhaled. It was a relief similar to when I see the ocean for the first time in a while. I could literally feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders, replaced by His hands as if to say I am here.
When you experience a moment so breathtakingly beautiful as that, you don’t want it to end. Throughout the course of the rest of the weekend, my time was divided between much needed rest and hopeful research. How much does a house here cost? Where could I work? What are the schools like? Is there a music scene my Strong Man could break into? Question after question after question.
And then I thought about my kids.
(Perhaps you hear teachers refer to them as students, but where I work, we are family and they are our children.)
I thought about the ways in which they have stretched my mind, my heart, and (let’s be real here) my patience. I thought about the injustices and dangers they face daily, the love and structure they so desperately crave, and the woman they have forced me to become.
I thought about their futures, I thought about mine, and realized what was the truest story written on my heart:
I am meant for the valley.
The mountains entice you with their beauty and ability to shut out the noise by being so far removed from the problems below. Escaping the racket is necessary at times to hear your own thoughts, but those moments are meant to refresh you, not retain you from your mission.
The valley…is where the fruit grows. Where the river runs. It may be the bottom, but the bottom is where we are open to the most crucial potential for change. It’s where the rebuilding takes place, and where the most fortified foundations are built.
Perhaps in time, when I reach my resting season, I can make camp in the mountains…but the most beautiful view comes only after the hardest of climbs.
So for now…
I am a valley girl.