A Year of Learning to Fly

Vermont View

I look back and can say 2015 was quite a year. It contained far more growing and stretching than I could have imagined. That was a hard year. It was a good year. The two statements are not contradictory. Hard things often produce the deepest and richest forms of goodness.

My one big regret is that I didn’t exercise the diligence to spend more time writing down my thoughts and experiences as the year unfolded. 2015 was one of the most change filled and growth filled years in my life–and most of it exists merely in the folds of my brain. For some people that is the only place they carry their history, but as a writer it feels unusual for me, almost wrong. I put life to paper. It’s what I do.

But sometimes life does burst the seams of paper and the confines of words, then runs before us faster than we can keep up and crafts things bigger and more sublime than we have words to find. There are parts of the past year I can’t capture now with the vividness I could have rendered in the moment. Still, there is much I could write down and yet even for what I could write words feel inadequate.

The first half of 2015 I spent preparing to launch a book out into the wide world. The second half of the year I spent traveling around the country–an expanse in total from Vermont to New Jersey–carrying my words and speaking my story to some thirty places. I met friends and I met strangers, I learned and I taught. I had successes and I had failures, and I saw a lot of beautiful country. I gave interviews and counsel. I met people in the tears of their sorrow, and gave moments of laughter and comfort. Sometimes I saw such great good in what I was doing that it felt impossible to contain. Other times I wondered what I was doing, and if there was any meaning in all of it.

Breath-taking seems the one word to describe it. Little moments stand out in flashes that point to something larger. One moment talking to a woman distressed over her ailing husband. Another moment with a crowd staring intently at me as I speak. Moments of conversation with friends, moments of brilliant countryside framed in the pictures of my mind. So much wide world with peace, and so many lives filled with living and hurting. It is all overwhelming, and enough to feel swept away.

The world is big, the needs are great, and I am so small. I felt overwhelmed going into last year, and I feel just as overwhelmed going into this year. But I have seen great and good things come–not because of me, but in spite of me. And so as I face my overwhelming smallness I can still have hope facing the mountains of this coming year.

This is life. We live suspended in space, going forward carried on a wind we cannot see or control. We are learning to fly. It is thrilling and terrifying and at times a struggle which for moments can seem effortless. Here I am, and a story is being written, and it is not by my hand. Even so, I play my part here in the midst of a wide expanse of mystery and wonder where I can have joy if I will take it and marvel at the story being written in the fabric of all creation. I am not the author, but I am here to read and listen and learn in the very fabric of life, and also to share and teach in the measure I’m given.

It is a good mystery, if we have eyes to see.

On The Mountain