Traveling south this week heading to a family reunion, we were able to stop in one of my favorite places, South Carolina’s Low Country. Less than four hours from where I grew up, this place has many similarities and has jostled some memories. Homes with big wrap around porches, grand oaks with hanging Spanish moss, palmetto bushes, and of course the marshes that go in and out of view are only a part of this beautiful area. We can forget the nasty mosquito, big enough to take you to Forrest Gump’s shrimp boats without your feet touching the ground!
In North Florida, we called the marshes, “swamps.” Of course, I went to a college with its famed, “Swamp”, as it’s centerpiece . The Spanish moss made for all kinds of play. In kindergarten, my friend, Amy, and I would run out to sit on our “nests” of Spanish moss with small granite rocks that we had collected for our “eggs”. The mama birds were coming out to take care of their chicks. Day after day, week after week, this went on until we learned about the red bugs, who were not our friends. Palmetto fronds were perfect when I was a Brownie to make a “sit upon”. We tore the strips, then weaved them together so we could sit around the camp fire and eat s’mores. There was much to gather and see from the world around us.
I have been reconnecting with memories here, but one huge similarity is the air. Today, I feel I could cut the air with a knife and then eat it for supper. While in South Carolina, I have been rereading the book, Lords of Discipline, by one of my favorite authors, Pat Conroy. I love how he describes places, peoples and situations. When I initially start one of his books, I want to hang on every word and sentence. I ask the question, “How can he nail it so perfectly?” He describes the humidity and air in the late afternoons of August, in the Low Country, “like walking through gauze or inhaling damaged silk.” I must have swallowed the whole bolt!
Sometimes it is easy to ignore the reality of this thick air. My first day here I went out for a run too late in the day and afterwards, did not drink enough water. When I walked into a gift shop later in the afternoon I felt dizzy and bumped into a couple of mannequins. It was slightly embarrassing. I had ignored the physical limitations of the air, humidity and breathing.
I have been thinking about the physical, emotional and spiritual concept of “breathing” a lot the last couple of years. How do you take in a good breath, especially when you are having trouble? There are times of gasping. There are other times when it is hard to get into a rhythm of inhaling and exhaling. Many times it has nothing to do with the physical air and humidity, but with the soul and spirit of our inner being. It could have been brought on by confusion, trying to understand what was happening, feeling hurt or not knowing what to do or where to go. In my situation, I needed to breathe. I needed air on the inside.
My answer did not come from an oxygen mask or putting my face in front of the window air conditioner. It came from God. He wanted to be the, “breathing room for my soul.” I wrote in my journal last summer that “breathing room” requires us to wait quietly. If I try to breathe too fast or too hard, then my breath and life constrict. I can even hyperventilate and be in a worse fix. God promises to give me the air I need to face whatever he puts in front of me. This air causes me to breathe freely, easily and with satisfaction as I wait on him to provide and supply all I need. Trusting Him is not one of many options, it is the only way that I can walk, when the air is so thick. It can help me to stop strangling on the gauze, the damaged silk or the “air” that I desperately need.
I’m going to be in this thick air for another week as we continue the southern journey. It will serve as a reminder of my true supplier of breath and life. I will be responsible for drinking water and coming inside when I need to, but I know that The Lord is the one who gives me the air I need to walk in this uncertain world.
“He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul. An impregnable castle: I’m set for life.” Psalms 61:2 (The Message)