Our daughter, double majoring in music & psychology, called on Monday and said, “I think I forgot to tell you that my recital isn’t next week, the 8th. It’s tomorrow night. So I called my husband, who was in Bakersfield, CA at that very moment and said, “You up for this?” Being the world’s best dad, he was all over it! So, he drove from Bakersfield, to Eugene, Oregon to drop off some family members, then home to Bend, Oregon. He got home about 1:30 am, slept a couple of hours, got up and went to work. We left at 12:30 pm and drove 5 ½ hours to Boise, Idaho. We got there about 7:00 pm and went straight to our daughter’s recital. I believe there were 9 recitalists (is that a word?). The music was lovely and they all did a beautiful job, but of course my daughter was the best.
After the recital, we went to dinner with our daughter and a few of her friends. The people at the restaurant graciously let us hang out talking an hour past their closing. Around 11:00 pm, my husband and I said goodbye to the kids and went to check into our hotel. We slept for three hours, got up at 3:00 am (2 a.m. our time, it was too short of a trip to switch to mountain time!) and headed home again. Whirlwind to say the least.
My husband drove the first half of the trip, but eventually he admitted defeat. I drove the last stretch of the long, boring road, but I didn’t mind because we had been listening to Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Between Shades of Gray is a powerful story of the people of the Baltic nations who Stalin sent to camps in Siberia and the Arctic.
I love finding the title of a book within the text. I feel as though I’ve uncovered a secret that I can share, or keep to myself. The moment the title was revealed in this novel happened to align with my trip in an evocative, thought-provoking way. I drove westward. The road stretched and undulated forever toward the horizon. The breaking dawn revealed sagebrush crowding together in a rolling desert terrain. A coyote ran across the road in front of my car. Grazing antelope, camouflaged by their arid coloring, only revealed themselves with a flick of an ear or a raised head. A red tail hawk perched on top of a fence post, patiently awaited the scurry of a field mouse or a baby jackrabbit.
“I began my walk through the snow, 5 kilometers to the tree line. That’s when I saw it. A tiny sliver of gold between shades of gray on the horizon. I stared at the amber band of sunlight, smiling. The sun had returned.”
I glanced in my rearview mirror and the sky behind me was alight with gold and orange and pink. I was struck by the hopefulness of that moment. The sun cresting the horizon behind me shone an apricot spotlight on the theme of the book.
The message, wrapped up in gray paper and tied with a thin gold ribbon, was so full of a dire beauty that only the suffering can appreciate. I instantly hoped that I already have or someday will present such a gift to my readers.
My husband snoozed beside me. The book ended with an inspiring epilogue from the author and her father. The miles droned under my tires. And I continued to hope. Hope that I can touch a reader so profoundly that it gives her strength or awards him confidence he hadn’t believed in before. Hope that my words resonate like the sunrise in my rearview mirror or the sun returning after an artic winter.
There are some really beautiful moments in life. Be sure you acknowledge them.