A friend gave me twenty-six seashells. Each is beautiful, complex, and unique. They are unexpected gifts found in unexpected places to be received, treasured, and shared. The twenty-sixth shell. The last shell.

The twenty-sixth shell...

One year.

An entire 365 filled with joys and pains, goodbyes and discoveries. It seems like a lifetime that’s passed in no time at all.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of my leaving New Mexico. In the alone moments during these past few days, I’ve found myself telling the story of this past year to myself in so many different ways – as though seeing from one angle then another and another will help me to understand the purpose of this time. As though I could sum it up, pin down the “moral of the story.”

It’s been far too…much. Too much to reduce to a three-point sermon or some moralistic fairy tale. I find that simultaneously delightful and maddening. Delightful because I do not enjoy reading or being told moralistic, predictable stories that follow hard and fast lines form Point A to Point B. If I do not want to be in the receiving end of such a story, why would I want to live one? Maddening because the stories that do not follow a predictable plot to teach me an obvious lesson are most often messy and take me in odd directions to lead me in unexpected ways to unknown places (Case in point: read Fiddler’s Gun and Fiddler’s Green. Please. Do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and read these two books.).  They keep me on the verge of discovery and are, thus, always somewhat (or utterly) out of my control. If this is the kind of story I am to live…yes. Maddening. And beautiful.

There is so much that has taken place this year that is so…ordinary. I keep looking back, allowing my imagination to carry me back: “At this exact time last year…

At this time last year…
I was rearranging the boxes in my PT Cruiser and eliminating precious stacks of books from the “must come with me” pile to make room for three people and the entailing luggage for a three-day road trip to Indiana.
My mom and brother were getting their things packed for the trip.
My dad was pondering life from his old reclining chair (that looks entirely uncomfortable in the thrift-shop-recliner sense of things but is actually quite cozy). I don’t know what exactly was occupied his thoughts at that moment, but I know the ache in my heart as I watched him there, knowing it would be a good while until I’d see him again.

The flip-side...see why I saved this one for last?

I don’t know exactly what my expectations were then for the coming year. I thought it would be easier. I thought it would be harder. I thought it would be completely other than what it has been. But what has it been?

So many images and sounds. Conversation and then words exchanged that passed for conversation. Music and church and God – and whatever variation of those that I encounter that takes my feet out from under me, induces panic. It has been far from home and back home again and wondering where home really is in the fist place. It has been so many, many things.

On the whole, though, it has been what these seashells have represented to me. It has been that elemental truth that Fin Button reached out and woke up in me (again…if you haven’t read Fiddler’s Gun and Fiddler’s Green, well…yeah. You need to.)

Pain. Brokenness. Darkness.
And beauty.

If anything has become more real to me in the past year, it is this reality: That beauty and pain are inextricably bound together.

A closer look...