Almost a year before I walked the Camino, my brother had sent me a link to the Wikipedia article about the route, this ancient pilgrimage through Spain. The article was a terrible summary of an experience so beautiful and real and expanding that there no words to describe it, really, and no ways to prepare (even though I tried).
My group was a mishmash of people I knew and people I didn’t know, including a young woman who interned for a few quick weeks at my job at the time. We didn’t know each other well, but she heard I was going, prayed about it, and asked to come along (we are good friends now).
In some ways, she became my walking partner, this young woman and my sister and I talking about everything under the bright Spanish sun (but mostly boys, probably).
At one point I said, “What is that smell–it’s so pronounced, but not unpleasant.”
And we realized: it was eucalyptus! We were walking through a eucalyptus wood in Spain! How odd–I thought that they would only be in Australia! What madness! What beauty! What wonder!
To this day, the scent is a blessing of surprise and goodness and God’s provision on the weird and unexpected travels of life.
One hundred years ago, a young woman messaged me out of the blue and said, “I know someone who you know and that person thinks that we should meet.”
And so, we did. (This is actually not that odd. Many times I am introduced to new friends through other friends!)
This young woman had felt in her heart that God wanted her in Michigan so she had moved here from the south, she shared over dinner…but, she wasn’t sure why to Michigan.
“You’re probably going to meet your husband here,” I said, matter-of-factly, I who roll my eyes hard at romance novels and kissing scenes in movies.
We became better friends. I watched her cat. She bought me socks for my second Camino (I still wear them, my favorite socks).
Not two years after we first met, I pulled a navy bridesmaid dress over my head and stood in her bright wedding–she married a Michigan man, a friend of mine.
My bouquet held eucalyptus. It was a pleasant surprise (bridesmaids don’t select the flowers), I held the bouquet to my face through the night and inhaled the scent of the Camino and autumn and this wedding. Life is unpredictable, but often full of good friends and sometimes, even, deep love. What a reason to dance! What madness. What beauty. What wonder.
Yesterday a woman I have never met before walked into my office with a bouquet wrapped in brown paper and gold chevron tape, tied in a pale pink ribbon. She gave it to me warmly, wished me well, and left. I read the tag and opened the paper–local autumn flowers: roses, chrysanthemums, snapdragon, each exhaling the spicy scents of sunshine and surprises. But, then, also (also): eucalyptus setting them all off with its soft-edged draping stalk of deep green.
It’s been one year since I’ve been…what’s the word? “Dating”? It’s long distance, I’ve seen him ten times. “Discerning”? Maybe? “Talking on the phone every night”? Who knows. But. There is this one guy who tells me to do things like rest and drink fluids and sleep when I have a cold (like I do right now). We see each other every month, pray night prayer together every evening. Sometimes he reads my blog. I just sent him The Westing Game in the mail.
To know the future is more grace than we are allotted, mostly. Who knows why eucalyptus grow in Spain, why God calls people to move cross-country, why any number of people come into our lives or how long they will walk with us.
For us, it is enough to walk ahead, eyes and heart open to the surprises that exist all around us.
Life. What madness. What beauty. What wonder.
Happy anniversary, I guess, of this one thing.
And happy anniversary of all the others.
And happy anniversary to you, eucalyptus, who I encounter in unexpected but happy ways. I hope to see you again soon…but never soon enough.