It is just before sunset and ribbons of bright orange streak through low puffy clouds.
I am walking on a foot bridge across the breathtaking James River in downtown Richmond, Va. Water courses over barely visible boulders. Mama duck paddles her babies to a stand of weeds to search for bugs. An osprey dips and glides overhead.
A dramatic flash of lightning in the distance prompts me and the three teens I am chaperoning to head back to the open field where we pull out our picnic dinner.
Soon, they have kicked off their shoes and are dancing in the grass. They leap and giggle and shout. So carefree.
A loud grinding sound turns our heads back toward the river. We confusedly see a train snake across a set of tracks we thought were abandoned.
It’s so unexpected we watch for a long while as the dirty, graffiti-covered cars chug across a broken-down trestle.
In that moment, I realize: I can’t remember the last time I felt surprised.
My day-to-day in my small mountainside city is a good one, filled with friends and ease and more than I need and privilege. Even in the midst of a pandemic, I have felt fortunate to have a paycheck and a home with enough space for everyone and a backyard for us all to stretch into. We live in a walkable neighborhood with hiking trails nearby and good health care down the street.
But just because something is good doesn’t mean we shouldn’t leave it from time to time.
That’s what I’m starting to see as I begin week four of five weeks settled three hours east of my longtime home. Months ago, I signed on to be the parent-in-charge for three dancers who are overjoyed to spend their summer immersed in their art.
Even though I was expecting this get-away, it’s been harder than I anticipated to uproot.
Here in Richmond, I have to calculate everything: how to get where I’m going, how the house where I’m staying functions, how to organize my day under new parameters.
I have mourned the loss of my well-stocked kitchen and peak-of-summer garden. I have staved off loneliness, missing friends and family left at home. I have felt shaken by the loss of routines perfected over years of trial and error.
But I’m discovering there’s value there. That by blowing up my carefully constructed everyday, I am creating a new clarity — and the opportunity to imagine new possibilities.
I am realizing that — perhaps for too long — I have craved sameness, predictability, familiarity. These weeks have taught me that I cling too closely to safety at my peril.
And that comfort can sometimes cancel surprise.
So, in my short time left, I am vowing to embrace my insecurities. I will be okay with being lost — yet again. I’ll not feel anxious at having to try to find the best place for a burger or a latte or a bagel. The view out my window might not be as pretty as it is at home. And there may be no backyard garden or even front yard flowers.
But there will be other gifts — if only I open my eyes to see them.