A Gentle Return




At dawn our little valley sleeps under a fog-threaded blanket, hidden in folds of white and gray. The hills surrounding my home drift in and out of sight, rolling over in their forested bed before opening to the day. I return from taking Bonnie out with dew-stained cheeks, kissed by the morning.

This past weekend I met up with a group of poets and writers—musicians, friends, beauty-givers—and am still mulling over our time together. We read poetry out loud, danced, and found a home inside words and laughter shared.  We were staying at a place once called the eighth wonder of the world and even the ground we walked on held stories. It was a safe place, though not always a comfortable place for this solitary spirit of mine, and I let the hard questions linger on the edge of my mind longer than I usually do. I had a tough conversation with a mentor, the woman who probably did more to help shape my writing voice than anyone. I left our talk unsettled, with no answers, only these: (1) the knowledge that sometimes life sets us in hard places and (2) the feeling that I had been seen. Wisdom challenges me to stop whining and start following my bliss in every moment. It sounds so simple, does it not? Perhaps it is when one is surrounded by artists and soul-friends. The bravery is carrying that inspiration into my every day.

During one of our conversations this weekend I shared some thoughts about this TED talk. It’s one I frequently watch with the patients I counsel at the hospital where I work. The speaker is Aimee Mullins, a champion athlete, model, actress, and advocate, who just happens to be a double amputee. The talk is entitled “The Opportunity of Adversity.” In it, Aimee says, “Everyone has something rare and powerful to offer our society.” And,

… Implicit in this phrase of overcoming adversity is the idea that success or happiness is about emerging on the other side of a challenging experience unscathed or unmarked by the experience. As if my successes in life have come about from an ability to sidestep or circumnavigate the presumed pitfalls of a life with prosthetics or what other people perceive as my disability. When, in fact, we are changed. We are marked, of course, by a challenge. Whether it is physically, emotionally, or both. I’m going to suggest this is a good thing … Maybe the idea I want to put out there is not so much overcoming adversity, as it is opening ourselves up to it, embracing it, grappling with it … maybe even dancing with it …”

Times of sharing soul-thoughts and deep conversations have a way of tenderizing the heart, heightening the senses, and opening us up to possibility. This morning, the things I have chafed up against in this one wild and precious life feel less like obstacles and more like dancing partners. In the past couple years, we’ve navigated Major Depression, the loss of treasured work, sending our eldest son off to college, an increase in the demands of other work, the illness and subsequent death of a loved one, a book release, death of beloved family dog, and a change in career paths for the major bread winner in the family. Our life is not uncommon, but it is uncommonly ours. We have been changed. We have been marked. This morning I feel the truth of this settle into my skin as surely as the fog moistens my countenance. And I am opening my heart to the possibility that this is not a bad thing. I am beginning the first slow steps of the dance.

The way the fog slowly unveils the day feels good, a gentle return.


  1. says

    How I wish I could have been with you over the weekend, though perhaps my absence created opportunities for interaction you needed far more than a chat with me. But I miss you and missed you. It was not possible to be in two places at once, and I needed to be parent first, poet and coach second. But…dang.

    Thanks for sharing all of this.

    Can’t wait to see the effects of you following your bliss.

    • says

      Why haven’t you mastered being in two places at once?? 😉 Having you there would have made it all the sweeter, but I know how the parenting must come first. Love you, friend.

  2. says

    I’ve never cared for the word “overcome”–one of my mom’s favorites–because, yes, we are changed. I like the idea of carrying those changes forward. Not quite ready to dance with them but maybe someday.

    • says

      Some days I feel like dancing, some days, not so much :). Carrying that change forward is also something that sounds good in theory but is oh, so hard to practice. I guess that’s why I have to keep learning this lesson over and over. Hope you are doing well, Megan.

  3. says

    God uses everything to change us. Everything. Sometimes it takes awhile to come to grips with that truth. I think I’m there, grasping–at least I am today. I always love to read your words, Laura. I’m glad I stopped by today. I’m glad you knew you were seen.

    • says

      I’m glad you stopped by today too, Dea! I’m with you–some days I can hold that truth more securely than others. I needed a good reminder that transitions are good places of growth, though, so I’m grateful for the learning of this lesson again. Hugs to you, friend.

  4. says

    Aimee has some powerful words about embracing challenges or adversities and the changes they bring to us. Wow. Thanks for your writing and encouraging us to dance with our challenges.

    • says

      I think she is so amazing. I’m a wee bit obsessed with her in fact :). I love how God places people across our paths to inspire and encourage. Her story does that for me. Thanks for stopping by Theresa.

  5. says

    Laura, this tender post helps me relive those “set apart” days and ushers me a little more into your mind and heart. But then, that’s what your writing does as I’m discovering in your book, Playdates with God.

    I am grateful and delighted to have met you in person and to now have the chance to learn even more through your writing! Here’s to the first slow steps of the dance . . .


  1. […] feel like my writing muscles have grown weak,” I joked with my friend last weekend at the poetry retreat. “Well,” she said. “It is a skill. If you don’t use it …” I recognized the truth in […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *