I was fairly certain, as the Captain of the ship gently maneuvered the substantial vessel into port, that the lush little island flanked by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea was a world of both exquisite and menacing things. I struggled a bit as we headed ashore trying to contain the unhinged excitement of my young companions. Overwhelmed at the arresting tropical vista I stood for a moment to simply linger in the in between, belonging, for just breath, nowhere.
Startled by the grinding approach of the tattered bus meant to usher us to the day’s destination, I hesitantly stepped onto the vehicle and strapped myself into the makeshift bench seat. Feeling the familiar swell of apprehension I quickly channeled my disquietude to the white sand of the coastline that would no doubt welcome our arrival. Jarred from my thoughts at the lurch of the bus, I quickly realized that while I was prepared for the diverse coral reef and brilliant blue water that would mark our stopping place, I was unprepared for the mountainous interior of pine-forested hills on the wildly remote east end of the island. It was an area just begging to be explored and yet even as the trees called to me, urging me to abandon my destination, I tightly closed my eyes and sank down into my seat. It appeared, much to my dismay, that once again I was frightened by the journey.
I am a destination girl. There is something about arriving in new places, wandering storybook streets and giving in to the far-away pull of something I simply cannot define. In many ways I am free in my wildness, a wanderer without borders, a woman of passion and drive. But grief is a burden. It anchors us to the places and the things that we are sure of, and once again I find myself in the delicate balance of both holding on and letting go. I am a destination girl, but I am fearful of the journey. This is a by-product of loss I suppose. The acknowledgement of the futility of my attempt to control the world around me and the unwelcome understanding that in life both beautiful and terrible things will happen. Fear is a consequence of grief and an adversary of life. It is shrewd and merciless, pinpointing our most vulnerable places with unsettling mastery. I have accepted pounding fear as a part of life.
But in all of this, I know that human beings do not spring from the soil to be rooted like a tree. It is a gift of the Creator that we should have legs meant to journey, and there is something much greater than fear that I long for to feed my soul. It is that otherness that seems to define me, eyes that see beyond limits and an introspection that lends itself to thoughts that tumble beyond borders. It is the knowledge that as paralyzing as grief is, we almost always survive it with the understanding that the world is no more or less unassailable than it ever was. I know that one day I will forget to be afraid and I will go ahead in spite of the quiver in my heart that screams for me to stay.
When I cautiously opened my eyes as the little bus navigated the steep incline of the mountain, my sense of dread remained but the view from the narrow window proved stunning and the destination was momentarily forgotten. Life is so much more about the experience than the destination, and as much as I would prefer to know my path it is the twists and turns, the detours and dead ends that provide for the most stunning views. It is in those unexpected places that God Himself is revealed, a reminder to His children that there is no need to fear the journey. And so as I ease into the idea of letting go of control and simply allowing life to unfold, I can take in the scenery, the people, the memories and most importantly…the journey. It is the path unknown that I am learning to trust, pushing through fear and relentlessly pursuing the wonder tucked masterfully in the places in between, for the journey is the true reward.