That Wild Road


We were standing together on the southern slope when she showed me where the roof came clean off of her neighbor’s barn. Her own barn had lost just a bit of trim, she said. Though it did clock her mother-in-law on the shoulder as they came out to check on the animals. Still. They were blessed. 

I had no words. I lived in a yurt, just sticks and canvas, through that same stormy night. Except that I had no idea. The wind was loud, we noticed, but we didn’t realize the strength of it until we drove out the next day and found tall trees laid down across the road. Maybe it wasn’t so powerful where we were; we’re lucky to be tucked into the shoulder of the mountain. But then again maybe we were just a little dumb. 

My favorite storm story out there is my mother’s. She was a young girl, in a Montana blizzard, on a horse named Shorty Bill. When she realized she couldn’t see the road, she put her head down and gave the horse his head. She thought she would be giving it up for lost, until she lifted her head and saw that the horse had brought her home. 

Storms ask for this, dumb, animal intelligence. And trust. Put your head down. Follow guts or faith into the dark. 

Figure it this way. You can worry about it or not worry about it, but what difference does it make? If you can’t control the winds? The midst of the storm is not a place for nerves. 

This is what I think of, when I think of Jesus being able to calm the storm. Or of that sometimes shaming call, “Oh ye of little faith.” I think of putting my head down, and giving the horse his head. I think of shaking off the nerves, because at that point what does it matter anyway. I wonder what would it be like, to live my entire life this way.

Oh, I’m not saying let’s call up all the storms. I’ve been there, too. And many of us, I think, know that particularly wild road. Some of us are good in crisis, and that makes us feel strong. Some of us love the crisis because it makes us feel alive. We’ll find them, or we’ll make them, or we’ll borrow other people’s. Ultimately, those cycles never satisfy. 

But the part where you release all the layered tensions of self-obsession, and all the related concerns for appearance and propriety and positioning? The part where you are focused on what really matters, and just plumb not worried about the rest? I wonder what it would be like to live my entire life like that

Would I trust more? Would I rely more heavily on relationship and community? Would I remember what it means to care? Would I be less defensive under criticism? Would I be less numb?

It isn’t the storm part of the storm story that calls up my heart, or makes me hope for my best self. It’s the faith part. It’s faith right through the storm. And realizing that from one view, every moment of this crazy life is weather.

I don’t call up the winds, although I have at times pretended to. And I don’t calm them, either. But I can always loosen my grip. I can reach out into the chaos and confusion with my heart feelers, trusting that my own mute heart knows its way home.

Esther Emery