Six years ago, on a trip to Yosemite, I found myself frolicking through the tall grasses of Cook’s Meadow with my sister. Dad snapped a picture of us from the edge of the field, our bodies shrinking under the pines. The photo looks nothing like the one below taken by Dr. Stanley—it was midday, the sun was harsh, and grass blades crept up to my waist.
Just weeks before our trip, I had ended a nearly seven-year relationship. People wanted to know, What happened? but it wasn’t that kind of ending. In fact, that’s where the heartbreak lay—in all the goodness that was left in the relationship. And still I stepped away, for reasons I wouldn’t realize or understand for several years. The hurt and guilt lasted just as long.
On this trip to Yosemite, my grief was so oppressive the only thing that kept me upright was crossing off simple tasks. Tie your shoes. Pick up your toothbrush. Zip your suitcase. Eat lunch with your family. My ex was supposed to be in that field with me, with my family. And unfortunately, that’s what I see in every picture still—me sinking in sadness, his absence.
But that’s not what I see in Dr. Stanley’s photograph. Here, the sun’s soft rays invite me out from a sheltered cove. Cook’s Meadow seems to whisper of hope and promise. Is it because I’ve never seen the field from this angle, this time of day? Or because my perspective is seven years older?
Cook’s Meadow seems to whisper of hope and promise. Is it because I’ve never seen the field from this angle, this time of day? Or because my perspective is seven years older?
If I had known how long the grief would linger, how easily it would bubble up at unexpected times, how it would manifest physically in my body, how it would catalyze years-long depression, I might not have made the same decision. But as I look at this field glazed with gentle, warm sunlight, I’m glad I didn’t know. Because when our plane landed back home, my world continued to get darker, and I would end up on my knees reckoning my broken soul with God.
As I look at these sunbeams now, I thank God for the passing of time and changing seasons, for moves and new perspectives. I may not be able to look at my own pictures of Yosemite without aching, but there are other photos, and from them I see God’s faithfulness in leading me to become the person He created.
Photograph by Charles F. Stanley