My first memory of a valley was a deep, lush place near the home I was born in. We lived there until I was seven. I never knew when the route to our destination would take us through the valley; the rising walls of trees around us always came as a surprise, and always took my breath away.
This valley was a river valley. We wound down between the hills on one side and passed a tiny yellow house that was significant for some reason Mom can remember and I cannot. When I read about Anne Shirley’s visit to the home she was born in, that is the house I picture. As we slipped down towards this otherworldly place, Mom would sing Down in the valley, valley so low… We crossed a small bridge in the middle. I twisted around in my seat to watch while we wound up the other side. The first valley I met was magical.
I recently read Come Matter Here by Hannah Brencher. Chapter five is titled Walk in the Valley. Valley days are ordinary days. They are the opposite of mountaintop days. They’re days where you can’t see out the sides of where you’re headed. You just follow the running water up, up, trying to enjoy the beauty while you set your feet and heart towards the end of it all.
I loved my little valley growing up. I love the valley I can see now; I know exactly when I’ll drive through it. I look over the edge of the range and see it while I’m raising a trail of dust on the washboard-gravel roads.
I came through a season of metaphorical valley-days lately, just like the ones Hannah Brencher talks about. Somehow I’m living physically and spiritually and emotionally with a bird’s-eye view. When I look down past the grassy range towards the spread-out city in the valley below, I think of the openness of space I occupy, the openness of heart I experience, the open-handedness of God I see. It is helpful to see things from above once in a while.
My old journals give me hope. I’m not where I was those years in the valley. For years now I’ve been writing down the almost-insignificant things I’m grateful for. They’ve given me the hope and help I needed to trust God when I couldn’t see out the lush, green hills that were walls, no matter how pretty. I understand valleys differently now. Sometimes they’re just a place you drive through unexpectedly on your way somewhere else. Sometimes they’re places you live, in a little house woven about with dreams and stories you can’t remember.
I know those days will come again in a different way. I won’t be walking in the clouds forever. But looking down from above gives me courage. Mountaintops have their place too. Valleys – everyday ordinariness – can be lovely. Maybe it just takes a bird’s eye view to see it sometimes. Perhaps it takes the gradual descent through the hills singing all the while, the slow climbing on the other side, to recognize the beauty that the valley holds.