I’m sitting at a coffee shop with my feet resting on a metal grated chair, ankles crossed, right heel acquiring the tiny pattern of the seat.
There’s a breeze as tiny as the metalwork of the chair and I feel it more on my warm, poised fingers than in my hair. (Strange.)
I have a feeling in me to write something about having been here a year now, and I’m prepared to sound quite cliche but none of the things I’m thinking of are cliche except that nagging little phrase that, in place of actually being able to express all the things that have happened, prompts me to say “what a year!”
Yep. Sorry. Cliche happened.
In July I packed up my minuscule hatchback so full and heavy I lost all the distance between the wheel well and the tires. I took the rather violent hugs of my sisters and the enveloping hugs from Mom and the semi-stoic, choked words of Dad and the warning from my little brother not to hit any speed bumps with all that crap in my car, and I drove away.
I’ve admired things like sunsets and gravel roads and the faces of laughing passengers in my rear view mirror before but putting home in that mirror is a lot different and I kept a roll of toilet paper tucked in the center console above the parking brake, since I couldn’t find any kleenex.
In August I felt the call of God on my heart to really sink in, to dwell in this strange, beautiful new land with all the strange beautiful people whose names were hit-and-miss for a few weeks, and who all called me G because my name was hit-and-miss for a few weeks too.And I got a tattoo pulled straight out of Psalm 37:3, with lines that came out of my own fingers, and now if I ever stop listening to God’s staying voice, I have no excuse (but all of August was learning to live with the loneliness and stay through the awesome, and the heartache.)
September was a little cooler, finally, and I was getting all sunk into my small group so when we set up a table at church to introduce our group to the church, I was there, representing. I shook a lot o hands and smiled a lot of smiles but the one guy who came by was super tall (I watched him coming through the crowd, actually) and he doesn’t remember shaking my hand but I remember hoping he’d show up the next night at our study.
September was also when I hiked Pikes Peak and learned that the altitude is not always just a strange spirit on the high slopes but a bit of a rude jokester who’ll make you throw up if you hike too high, too fast. So I puked and grinned and I still hike but I do it more carefully, cuz you gotta appease the things that thrive on high, rocky places if you’re gonna go climbing around their neighborhoods.
October was the sweetest, wildest month and work started going a little crazy but so did the colors and the city burned in a riot of leaves. Gold and orange washed down the mountains in a tidal wave of glory and the city swelled up in a fire of autumn that leapt and danced and faded and clung all the way into November. That tall fellow DID come to study that week, and the next week, and the week after that we got engrossed talking about books for an hour after the closing prayers, and I didn’t need much more than that to fuel a crush, but crushes come and go and so I settled into the pattern of our friendship with a happy soul.
November I had company. Bestie time – five full days of paid time off and did beautiful things. A road trip to an old mining town and coffee stops and book stores and church and then we had another coffee date but that one guy was there and we finally both kinda agreed, as I took her up to the airport, that he didn’t really like me that way, just friends.
Three days later he asked me on a date and she said to ignore everything she’d assumed about him not liking me and I went on a date and then by the end of November we’d been on two dates and sent a looooot of text messages.
December was an outside month because the crazy snow hadn’t started, and it wasn’t cold like Minnesota and I went for a long walk and had a deep conversation with that cute guy and when we got back we were officially a couple. I went home for Christmas and spent every waking moment with the people who’d been watching the horizon since I left. Mom watching for me, my brother watching for Mourning Doves, then upland game, then waterfowl, then deer. I think he glanced up when I came in the driveway too though. I learned the extroversion of being the outsider coming back to your hometown, and the necessary coffee dates and regrets and the way you spend every waking moment either with your mom, or making your mom jealous. And then she keeps you up for extra waking moments because she loves you, and promises to spend all her moments praying when you leave (which you do, and she does.)
January I flew home to CO and I landed and my boyfriend hugged me, and held my hand. The dusky mountains stood up and wrapped around us as we drove back, and all the gentle memories and feelings began to crowd warmly around me, and I felt ok, even if I was sad underneath.
But January didn’t stay ok. My sister’s heart and mind were hurting and she turned around her in desperation to find somebody safe, somebody who could keep her safe and I wanted to but none of us could heal her heart. We all began to turn to places of refuge. It was a month of confusion and survival, and learning to hurt together without hurting each other.
In February people warned me about the blizzards and the blizzards got bad, but (Minnesotans, you will understand me) the blizzards were warm compared to MN, and I got good tires and laughed at the furious, sparkling mountains. But I cried to myself in the nights, when the blizzards were safe and pretty and I had hot chocolate, because all of the good things around me could not make good the hard things that were biting into the hearts of my family.
All through March, the cute guy (named Grant) and I started realizing that we thought we were dating, but God thought we were getting married, and God usually thinks bigger (and more accurate) thoughts than we do, so we began to figure out whether we agreed with God on that particular point. It wasn’t a disagreeable thought by any means, but when God thinks big, it’s way big, and it took a while to adjust to.
April had it’s due showers, and my parents and my brothers poured right on down through South Dakota and Nebraska and spilled out on mattresses across the floor of my tiny room, and Grant got introduced on his nicest manners. Then the next weekend when they were gone, I hobbled to Grant’s place on a sore knee and discovered the surprise Bestie had been flown in to meet me and, sore knee or not, I jumped on her and we savored the whole weekend together.
Almost the whole weekend. There was a tiny part where Grant took us for a pretty drive and stopped in a field behind the mountain and he took me a little aside and she took a camera and he asked a question and I said yes, and there was some kissing then, and some laughter, and a lot of shaken-up, fizzy joy that we couldn’t keep inside. We celebrated by eating nachos for lunch and pizza for dinner and grinning non-stop and sighing with big memories and big plans.
May was chaotic. My mind was planning a wedding and my fingers were counting cash and resetting online banking passwords and my heart was missing my sisters (because sisters should be able to plan weddings together) and loving this man who wanted to have me forever. And all that time I was hunting for the joy I figured I should know how to feel, or create, or something. But I couldn’t feel or create it, and the something remained a mystery and May passed in that kind of a blur. I got a trip home in there, and it was lovely – a little island of blurry happiness book-ended with long stretches in the car.
June brought summer and I began to officially count down the days interfering between me and my wedding. I flew to a humid city and celebrated the wedding of Grant’s – heck, my! – sister, and met the sweet extended clan that I’m marrying into. And June stretched on, hot, and poured warm and sticky into July.
It’s July again. The same month where I learned the tragedy of putting things in rear-view mirrors, and saying hard goodbyes, and not going over speed bumps with a car so fully loaded.
July. Not yet the wedding-bell August, not quite the month of severing, but not quite the celebration I’d thought it might be this year either.
I thought maybe in July I’d have a mental party with pine-cone confetti to commemorate the day I’d moved to this spectacular place, and to nod towards all the home-people I keep dear.
But it isn’t like that. It hasn’t been the year of slow establishment and flourishing that I saw it could be, and it hasn’t been the year of rapid growth and huge friend circles that I expected (and set to work on, back in August, 2015.) It’s been one hell of a ride. Sometimes when I think about it, I want to curl up and give in to all the feelings that have wrung me over the past twelve months.
But today, this week, I’m better. I’m laughing more, and reading more, and writing and dreaming and planning things, and feeling the random squeeze of a smile on my face nearly all the time.
*And that is where that blog post ended. Apparently the business of life and wedding planning dumped my blogging aspirations down the drain for a few weeks, because I discovered these pretty little words languishing in the draft folder of my site.
So there ya go – a month late but an update, none the less!