by Julie Leppert
I watch my friend’s back now turned toward me as she boards the Amtrak passenger train in downtown Cumberland, MD.
In the heart of the Allegheny mountains, she steps up into its entrance as I call out her name.
She can’t hear me.
The word “timeless” hangs lost in the sound of the idling locomotive as I mouth it into the open, vibrating space between us.
As she boards I notice her long, colorful skirt accentuate the colors of the floral-purple pack hugging firmly her back.
Step. Up. She goes.
Her curls peppered through and through with wisps of gray fall against her neck and shoulders, and she tugs her cocoa-brown suitcase decorated with stickers from Ireland, England, Wales, Australia, South Africa, France, and Germany onto the carriage floor.
I remember when she bought the suitcase two years ago.
At 55 she has traveled the world. And now I see her anew, like a timeless wondering soul.
Today she is off to Alabama.
Gathered around a familiar and comforting table just two days earlier, she shared snippets of her experience traveling and living abroad, and, suddenly, I saw her as if she were a soul externalized — suspended in a moment and space as she sat beside me, as she exclaimed over delights and tales and people she met.
And I know her for the first time. In. That. Moment.
The friend who within time has learned to transcend her own impulse — to be scheduled and planned and detail-oriented, to be slowly growing old, wanting to control her world, yet rising above the cadence of time, her body’s own story — and to be forever young.
She has touched eternity.
And my next realization was this: Awe and wonder is how she lives life forward.
How in moments spun together like a whirligig toy, like a loom weaving colorful strands, she stops and wonders.
“Wow!! Look at that!” She says. And in doing so, she touches eternity in the present space, around the shire-table with kindred sisters and a meal of love and blueberries; along a South African beach upon a train as her cottage; inside a Parisian hotel seeking accommodation on a whim for a weary band of travelers; or sitting down to an elegant, Parisian meal with thankfulness; or upon a country porch making a meal of cheese and crackers.
“Nobody I know has done what I have done,” she says, with simple amazement, as if suddenly self-aware. We sip coffees and eat a breakfast of creamy chocolates from the local country market owned by those simple, plain people, who once were Mennonite, yet have found their own steady way.
I nod. She’s right.
Among the moms who have raised or near-raised their children in our small corner of the world growing more ominous, nearer to violence, every day
she is the first to launch into the wide world as a life-plan, a hope-plan, to be whirled into the great unknown of trans-cultural breakfasts, navigating markets, finding toilets abroad that you do not have to pay anyone to use (making a game of the hunt— really!), of seeing sunsets upon the Indian Ocean, of serving homeless humans in Berlin at a surprisingly quaint but elegant bakery, of reaching to cherish displaced Muslims in a foreign land, of teaching English to Koreans, Brazilians, Japanese, and others who had found themselves in a small community an hour or so from Cape Town, South Africa.
And so it is true. She has found it. A way of life. Made to wonder — at the beauty.
It takes courage to snip the strings of deep and dear attachments and to launch, to explore the world.
Yes, it takes courage to wonder — to see beauty.
It takes courage to sell your stuff, to pack what’s left, to cart it to storage for an indeterminate time, to wonder, to travel, to explore — and, sometimes, it takes courage to stay rooted. To learn to see and then to see anew the space and place in which we dwell.
We talked about the contrast between her chosen path and the hill upon which my life sets, deep roots, as deep as the slate-rock beneath my feet, as deep as the generations of my husband’s family (and my family) run in this little hamlet of rolling vales in southern Pennsylvania. (We are German stock, and she is my SoCal groovy friend. We make quite the contrast, generally.)
And so in her timeless style, she has helped me to realize it is with the eyes we behold.
It is with the seeing that we touch eternity. It’s with the expression of awe and wonder that we, as women, transcend the attachments of time.
Time to do laundry. Time to cook supper. Time to bathe the children. Time to make the beds. Time to drop them off at school. Time to rush to the board meeting. Time to mop the floors. Time to pluck up weeds. Time to wipe a runny nose. Time to mow the lawn.
Time to plant a moment of hope.
Or a rose garden.
We are timeless — as women, when we wonder.
And when we touch wonder and turn around and pass it to our children on their lunch plates — with smiling PBJs — or our spouses whose shoulders grow rounded with labor and care, we help them touch eternity.
To remember a bit of who we really are; offspring of the everlasting Father who is whole and complete with simplicity though we are not.
When was the last time you gazed at a blazoned sky at eventide?
And sat under its spell?
Or tasted the rain in spring as it ran down your face?
Or smelled the pungent odor of sweet-hay laying heavy and damp upon a mowed field?
The world of complex and varied life depends on your courage to wonder. For in wonder and beauty we find God is near.
Let’s join each other; join me and my timeless friend; join your Best Love or your Son or Daughter, or a neighbor losing hope-sight, and begin anew to see, to wonder, and to cry holy to the God who brings us goodness and righteousness.
Yes, at moonrise and morning’s dew.
Julie Leppert — Loves to listen to the narrative of people’s lives, and she loves seeing and honoring the image of God reflected in those she encounters. She is committed to encouraging others to live brave and sing well the song of grace sung over us each day through the good news of Jesus Christ. She loves meeting her readers at Heart Working Women events.