My brother's band, The Mulligan Brothers, recently came out with a live album in which they cover the Civil War's song "From this Valley." I might be biased, but I love the cover. I have been listening to it non stop over the last month or so. The chorus says, "Won't you take me from this valley to the mountain high above..." While belting out this chorus, I started thinking about how unfamiliar I am with the physical landscape of mountains and valleys. In southern Alabama, we have a lot of coast and a lot of flat land. It wasn't until I moved to Haiti that I saw true valleys and mountains.
About a year ago, we were invited up to a church in the mountains run by our current landlord. We were so excited to be able to go to see a new part of the mountainside, and we packed into our truck like little sardines. In the middle of the ride, the road became extremely narrow and I pushed up against my side of the car, screaming out in fear (dramatically). When I looked down, I saw a lush patch of grass and trees below us. Trying to take my mind off of the narrow road, I said, "Look at that beautiful greenery." To which my friend and I began to notice that it was a valley below.
In Haiti, there is a large amount of deforestation. It is still the Caribbean, tropical looking and all. However, there are a lot of dusty, barren roads and it surprised us all to see such a lush part of Haiti.
"I guess there's something special about a valley," I thought.
Here's the deal: I have to admit, that while I can sing the song about wanting to be on the mountaintop, I don't really get the imagery. I have been thinking about this landscape of Haiti for over a year now, and I am still thinking about it. Here's what I do know, though:
1.) The valley is lush. Things grow there. I know this sounds crazy, but I never fully put together the way rain must collect in a valley. Seeing the rows of banana trees and mango trees down below reminded me of the importance of rain. Those rain storms, both expected and totally surprise, create the lush and amazing scenery that I see in the valley.
2.) The valley is surrounded and safe. One thing I noticed about the valley is that it was surrounded. Man, mountains are just gorgeous and I realized that the valley was surrounded. Without it being surrounded, it wouldn't be a valley anyway, right? I thought about how safe the people there must feel, to look up and see these amazing mountains surrounding them. They are big, and safe. So, while things are growing in the valleys, while the rain runs downstream there, there is also a feeling of safety.
3.) The mountaintop is nice, too- because it provides perspective. The difference between the mountain and the valley on this trip was the perspective. I don't know that the people in the valley even know how lush their landscape is. Before, I have walked through a field of banana trees and not thought about the growth of these trees. But, on a mountain top, it is hard to not see how lush the scenery is in the valley below. The perspective is important.
This year has been a doozy. We did not anticipate me spending so much time in the US or having health problems that lasted this long. We did not anticipate having to really restructure our lives for the foreseeable future. We also did not really know we were in a valley. We just knew that the trees were thick, so thick we couldn't see. We knew there was a lot standing in our way. We knew that there were a lot of new and challenging situations.
It wasn't until we started coming out of it that we realized how much we were growing. We didn't realize that the valley is hard, but it's where the growth comes from. It's scary, but it is worth it.
Haiti has taught me a lot, but this is one of those unexpected lessons. A valley is beautiful. It's full of life (and mangos). It's where the growth happens. And even though I am not familiar with mountains and valleys in the most basic of ways, I am learning what it means to embrace both seasons from gazing up into the mountains in Haiti.