You’ll need to read yesterday’s post, “Storms that Threaten…” in order to get the context for this.
I sat on a bench in Nescopeck Community Park, looking out over the Susquehanna River. I had spent the last hour walked around town, remembering all kinds of things. I recognized houses where members of the church I used to serve lived (and may still live, in some cases); I recognized places where some of those people had died. I remembered places I’d gone on walks – and oh, I remembered so many times walking through town with my little girl. Especially times I’d brought her here to the park, to swing on the swingset.
The overall feeling I had walking around was so different than I’d expected. It was overwhelmingly positive. I expected something more complicated, messier. I expected a helping of guilt, a pile of mixed-up emotions. But that wasn’t what I got. If anything, there was some wistfulness for what I lost by leaving here ten years ago. The story I’d been telling myself for so long is that I just bided my time in Nescopeck, just waiting to get out – but the feelings I found today told me that’s just not the case.
I did invest myself in this community while I was here. I did try to make a home here. I was, in fact, of two minds when I left. It wasn’t just Superstorm Sandy that made it hard to leave. I have no regrets about moving on, but there are things I miss.
I miss being able to just walk around this little town. I miss having a playground within walking distance. I miss the quiet pride that the people here take in their town. I can name a dozen people I miss from the congregation. Each of them showed my family so much love, and taught me so much.
The bench on which I sat was relatively new – it wasn’t there when I left Nescopeck ten years ago. But the river it overlooks was. And I noticed that I was further away from the river than in my recent Revisiting Waters trips. The bank here is higher than the banks I sat at in Minersville, St. Johns, and Sellersville. Here in Nescopeck, my vantage point was higher, removed a bit more, and I soaked in the beauty of the Susquehanna, and of all the trees growing on the hill between the river and me. Such calm, quiet, majestic beauty. And I wondered if perhaps I can appreciate this town so much better from a distance. When I lived here, I felt like I was in a fishbowl, like everyone around me knew me, and was watching and judging me. (I doubt that was really true, but it’s how I felt at the time.) Now, with all this time, I really don’t care who sees me or judges me. It’s not my problem anymore – probably never was, to be honest.
Half an hour earlier, I had sat on a different bench. Behind Faith United, there is now a small prayer garden. Simple and peaceful, it’s a large cross, a bench, and some flowers. I sat there a while, and I prayed, “Thank you for bringing me here today.” The words “thank you for bringing me here sixteen years ago,” also came out, but there was a question mark at the end. As I sat in that prayer garden, looking at the church building I used to know so well, I still wasn’t sure how I felt about living here, and working here, for those years.
But at the river I started to gain some certainty. It was so quiet there, so welcoming, so serene. And I felt like I belonged here. And that was so surprising to me. I was focused on all the good things I had experienced here, all the ways I was a part of this community, not on the struggles. I saw that there was so much good here, and I was so grateful.
I watched the river glide by slowly and confidently, always moving on. I was so grateful that I walked through Nescopeck for those five years, and also glad that I walked on. That’s what we do throughout our lives. We walk on through. The river keeps flowing, bearing us on as we go. Baptism keeps giving and giving and giving. It took me ten years, or perhaps sixteen, to notice that. I pray it doesn’t take me as long the next time. I was loved here. And I am loved where I am now. The river always flows. The Darkwater never runs out.
Farewell, Nescopeck. It was good to be here today. And it was good to be here those five years. Thank you, and farewell.