How is it possible that wide open spaces fill me up inside?
The above sentence is called an "American sentence". Similar to the Japanese poem, haiku, it has 17 syllables, but all on one line. My friend submitted this thought at my request for people to share a few posts ago. Her question caused me to recall the idea of a spiritual geography, an idea which I first ran into in Kathleen Norris's book, Dakota. She talks about the fact that some where in the world there is a landscape that nurtures us and brings us to peace in ourselves, a place where we can put our roots down and they will grow deep. For Kathleen, that place was North Dakota. Her family roots were there and she had grown up visiting relatives in that part of the country but never lived there until she inherited the family homestead when her grandmother died. She was living in New York City at the time, but felt a pull to that vast, open, even desolate country. And she found herself opening up, coming alive in a way that she had not experienced before.
I had always thought that my spiritual geography must be the landscape in which I had grown up. I was raised in the far southeastern corner of Kansas, just on the very edge of the Ozarks. We had gentle hills, green fields and winding country roads. But we were also just a few miles from the prairie. Whenever I go home now, especially in the summer, I roll my window down, take a deep breath into my lungs and say, "Yes, this smells like home." And it does smell like home, I have imprinted upon it. But it no longer feels like home. Home is Alaska, no doubt about it.
I am willing to put up with all the difficulties and complications of Alaska because here, I have found the spiritual landscape in which my spirit flourishes. I would never have guessed that a girl from the middle of America would find her truest home in the wildness of Alaska. Now, most of you know that I live in Anchorage, Alaska's version of the big city, not in the bush or even way out in the country. (Though as I type this, my house is surrounded by birch and spruce, I live on a dirt road, and no other houses are visible from any of my windows.) But, here in Alaska, wilderness is just outside our door. And though it's hard to put a finger on or point out to a visitor, there is a very true sense that this place is untamed and that it will not be tamed. Why would a girl like me, who has always played it pretty safe, be drawn most deeply to that?
I am deeply grateful for the twists and turns of life that brought me to this place and this time. I never would have chose it. I'm so thankful that it chose me.
What is your spiritual geography? Do you get to live there or only visit? What does that landscape help you to know about your inmost self and your ways of knowing God?