A note before I dig into my story again… The events in this story were a year ago. (Almost exactly a year ago, as it turns out, although that was not deliberate. Sometimes I’m a little in awe of the power of my subconscious.) I saw “Bryson” once during that year. Once, until I started blogging about him. Then he sat in the row in front of me at a show. I saw him on the street afterward. I ran into him again at a movie theatre last night, again in the row in front of me. As soon as I finish this blog post, I’m meeting him for coffee, one year and one day after our last walk. Weird coincidences. I hope you’re enjoying the show, dear reader… For what it’s worth, I composed this blog post yesterday, before I knew we were getting coffee.
(This is part four of a story. To read the rest of the series, go to Waking Desire.)
Emmy had been learning not to believe in coincidences. This particular confluence of circumstances–God speaking, other people’s stories, a sexy viking on her favorite trail–was impossible to ignore. Was it really possible that, after writing about walking a relationship path with God before you walk it with someone else, she’d met someone on the bike trail where she liked to talk to God? There was a poetry to that too beautiful NOT to be true. Animated and a bit dazed, she told her friends at the party about Bike Trail Bryson. Most of them thought it was a lovely story, but one friend’s response stuck in her head, “That just doesn’t happen. Are you sure he’s single?” She didn’t know, but she felt certain. With all of those signs, how could he not be?
Bryson texted the next day inviting her on a walk. “Meet me by the Narnia light?” She knew exactly where he meant–the surprising street light in the middle of the wooded trail, the one that shed a small and welcoming pool of light onto the snow in the middle of the wooded darkness. Whenever she encountered it, she half expected to hear the foxes that haunted the trail begin to speak English to her. She’d called it the Narnia light to herself for months.
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” C.S. Lewis
He texted again two days after that. Before long, they were spending most evenings pacing the several miles of wooded trail by their homes (he lived about half a mile away). She learned that he was an engineer by day, but while he was furloughed during a recent layoff, he’d gone down to Washington and started an orchard on some property he owned. He’d selected trees that would last a century or more. And some exotic trees… did Emmy know that farmers had grown tropical fruit high in the Swiss Alps?
He called her Sunshine. Sometimes he greeted her with a wolf whistle, sometimes with the Norwegian word for “hello” and a nod to his beardless Viking hat.
He loved all trees. He told her the story of the trees on their trail and how they’d come to grow in Alaska. There was a birch that had split, its top half bent and hanging from the base by a thread. After days of grumbling about the city’s neglect of tree maintenance every time they passed it, he brought his own hatchet on their walk. Jacket off, muscles taut, he hacked the last bit of connecting fiber away. It wasn’t that warm out, but when he didn’t put his coat back on, Emmy didn’t complain. If he wanted her to watch his manly hands turn blue from showing off, she was happy to.
The summer before, when Emmy complained about the dating pool in Anchorage, a friend had reassured her that someday she’d find an intellectual lumberjack. It was only a matter of time and patience. It appeared the friend was spot on with his metaphor.
The moments on the trail were magical, even though Emmy wasn’t much for trees and orchards. She could converse intelligently with anyone about almost anything, and talking with men about things they have a deep passion for is always interesting. But it wasn’t just a deep personal connection, or even his beard and sparkling eyes that captivated Emmy. What really enchanted her were the God moments that jumped out when they were together and the fact that Bryson seemed to be seeing them, too, at least at first.
She felt a little crazy when she told people stories like how God had given her red boots, but the fact was she didn’t really care if she was crazy. She would talk to anyone who would listen about what God did in her life. She told Bryson about hearing God speak to her on the trail they walked, about the beautiful and loving things He said to her there. A few moments later, as they were passing the precise point on the trail where God had told her He had made her part of a new family (a story she hadn’t shared), Bryson stopped. “Did you hear that, Emmy?”
“Hear what…? No, I guess not.”
“There it is again!”
“Still didn’t hear anything.”
“The splashing?” (The creek alongside the trail was frozen)
“Huh. Maybe I’m beginning to hear God on the trail the way you do.”
Silence. They turned around.
On their way back, they noticed something they’d been too engrossed in conversation to see before: someone had stuck fresh flowers in the snow with handwritten quotes and poems hanging from the stems. They were an odd and beautiful sight, these frozen reminders of a season of warmth. Bryson and Emmy stopped to read the signs. The significance of one in particular stood out to Emmy. She took a photo:
To feel God brush against her soul, and to share the experience with someone in the moment was something unprecedented in Emmy’s romantic relationships. Was this even possible? Her relationship with God and her conversations with Him were deeply personal. It was like the inner dialogue we all have with ourselves, except with another person inside the echoing space of her head. Was it possible that the ineffable beauty of God in her life was something the two of them could share with a third person? That would be something. She said goodbye to Bryson on the trail with a sense of awe and wonder.