the highs and lows are not at war. and on the completion of each year at college this became truth to me. a truth I held on to to pull me from the lows to the heights, and a truth that steadied me in the tumult.
you start new experiences with vigor and high hopes, sprinkled with fear. sometimes a lot of fear. i wrapped myself up in a blanket and slept for the rest of the day after my parents drove away from my freshman dorm. Ohio- even the state itself had high hopes, but my heart was broken and i didn’t feel strong enough to step over the edge, to let me faith lead me to a borderless horizon of hope. the valleys were deep. the ache throbbed, the lessons felt like stepping over gravel in your bare feet- sharp, cutting, and yet refining, renewing, the stabbing hurt was relinquishing the old to make room for the new. my heart of stone became a heart of flesh. quivering and weak, but whole. my mind was renewed right alongside my heart. i learned what degree i wanted, and a signed slip of paper landed me in the English program. I discovered capabilities I didn’t know i had, i learned how to avoid too many commas, learned how to lean closely into a text and pull out all the meaning you can.
so i climbed to the heights. but soon the valleys were near. year second and all possibilities were dashed. no boy, no health, no team, no race, no money, no passing grades. but friends were near, prayers uttered, and soon bills were payed, fractures healed, and the hardest class was passed. professors said “thank you for your kindness” and I drove off in awe.
with a heart always being rebuilt, now with a plethora of moments filling my soul to the brim, i was given twenty-six beautiful lives to live with and to quicken bright purpose with, each and every day. each moment leading to this moment of:now was taken, emptied, used, shared, and hearts were strengthened. unexpected, undeserved gifts appeared that swept my heart up when i wasn’t even looking, and after three years i could see the valleys were good, the pain is good, because it all just quickens the heart to the brightness of the sun on the peaks.
but sometimes the valley seems too dark to believe that the sun can awaken. stress was riveting my days with sorrow and darkness. i had to slam my car into someone’s Honda on I-70 in Columbus in order to wake up. and the trauma of standing on the side of the highway alone and the throbbing whiplash in my neck opened my eyes to the truth that all things work for good. all things. all was well.
I remember admiring the lilac bush in the front yard of 85 West Elm street. I remember waiting each month after the snow melted for the purple blooms to appear like they always do- quietly, sometimes unexpectedly, but quickly, and filling the air with their delicate scent. these days of these four years of these mountains and valleys are almost over. when i stepped off the porch one morning, i noticed small buds, dark red and cocooned still. i came back that afternoon and the blossoms were bursting in color and scent and beauty that only the spring can offer. each day more bloom, and they bloom bigger than the day before, almost covering the dome-shaped bush taller than me. tomorrow i will put on a black robe, a square cap, and a blue hood will drape my shoulders. it will be one final cocoon of these years before the blossoms grow. my footsteps across the stage will feel like the deer’s feet on the high hills. it could be a mountain peak, the highest of all. or it could feel like neither mountain or valley, light or dark, sunrise or sunset.
all I know is, the lilac bush will bloom on that day, and the day after, and the day after that. and the air will chill and the bush will turn to branches. this chapter will close, but the heart will beat on.