Glorious Waterfalls: How I Know Wisdom from Fear

Hello all! I forgot to blog yesterday because I’m not entirely sure what day it is. I arrived home from Banff Sunday night, and it’s taken a bit to get readjusted to my actual life.

My second week in Banff was just as wonderful as the first. Overall, I managed to complete three essays and three short stories—remarkable productivity for me. This means I’m ready to start submitting work again, something I haven’t done since last summer. Of the three short stories, I realized I need to scrap one altogether and re-write it, but I’m glad I had the time to revise what I have of it to know that I need to re-write it.

My biggest takeaway from the residency is that [drumroll, please], I could be done with my book right now, if I wanted to be.

I know.

Yes, the memoir that I’ve been working on for three years and had planned to do even more work on. I could be done with it now.

One of the components of the residency was a meeting with an editor at Electric Literature, an online literary magazine celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year. I met with Jess Zimmerman, the Editor-in-Chief, and she loved the two chapters I showed her. She gave me great feedback on them and said I could include them in my book proposal (the marketing document nonfiction writers create when they’re trying to get their book published traditionally). Instead of paying someone to edit the book, she said I could start querying and hope I’d find the best agent/editor combo to help me take it to the next level.

I would argue that was a life-changing epiphany. And now I will definitely start querying by the end of the year (though not around the holidays, that would be pointless).

On my last day in Banff, I went for a hike by myself. People advocate for hiking in groups, and for good reason. You could get attacked by an animal or break a limb. But I’m a writer, and that means letting nature intrude my thoughts, and it’s hard to do that when you’re with other people.

I set out on the Bow Falls Trail, one I knew was well-trafficked by tourists and is more of a nature walk. I haven’t seen that many waterfalls in real life, so this was incredible to see and hear with my own eyes and ears:

When I saw people on the other side of the river, I thought I’d walk over there, just to see what was there. It was amazing to get another view of the falls, but also the mountains behind it.

I saw some people climb up a steep trail and looked down it. It led to the water, but the trail was, reiterating, steep and rocky, perhaps not really a trail at all. I wasn’t going to do it, but then I felt I should. I realized it wasn’t actually harmful—again, not the safest, but not harmful, either. So I went. And there was this.

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What I had to climb down to get to the water

I’ve talked about feeling closer to God in nature, but I was finally able to articulate that hiking is how I know the difference between fear and wisdom: I know where not to go because it could hurt me, but I also know where to go because I will encounter God’s glory.

Sitting on a rock by the water, I found myself praying, God, please let me take this serenity home, not the sounds of the water, but the feeling that I can do anything because I am kept by the Maker of all of these things. That, friends, is how I intend to live the rest of my life.

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