Editor’s note: Do you love poetry? Have you recently come to appreciate the beauty and creativity each line of prose offers? Well, we’re hanging on every line of Morgan Harper Nichols’ new book, How Far You Have Come. Morgan’s heartfelt storytelling and desire for experiencing the most authentically human parts of life are both relatable and inspiring. It’s more than just a book of poetry. Morgan shares personal stories from her own life’s journey. The good, the bad, and all the growth in between. Morgan describes it like this:
In this book, we’re going on a journey through 8 landscapes inspired by a road trip I have taken many times in my life: Georgia to California. Whether it’s the plains of Texas or the mountains of New Mexico, each chapter holds art, poetry, and an essay to inspire you to consider how your history makes you who you are today. See full explanation on Morgan’s Instagram >
We hope you enjoy this sneak peek of the poetry from Morgan’s newest book!
The Texan plains go on forever, and then forever finally ends, and the west starts again with New Mexico. There was no sight of the sun yet as we left the hotel. I slid onto the cool, gray leather seats of the Volvo and struggled to pry open my eyes as we headed around the bend into downtown Albuquerque. With the windows down, at seventy miles per hour, the wind roared like water. In the pitch black, I lost myself in its sound. Who knew air could hold such power? Back home in Georgia, the wind sings, but it somehow always gets tangled in the arms of the pine trees. Out here, in New Mexico, there are no trees to hold it back. Unrestrained, the wind twisted through my fingers and made every hair on my head dance. I pressed my arm out the window, resisting the wind’s throbbing pressure, and I curled my index finger to my thumb to hold a little ball of wind. I knew I couldn’t take it with me, so I closed my eyes to memorize the way it felt on my skin. With every mile we traversed, the wind traveled through our car with a heavy force, a reminder in the quiet of the desert that this world is far bigger than me.
Forever. I want to remember this forever, I thought to myself. We were just passing through, another day, another journey in these hills of Albuquerque. I wanted to know: How do you capture wind and take it with you?
The wind coursed through my car once again. Decades later, she is as faithful as ever, sweeping in and out of Albuquerque with the same power and force that she showed me as a child. Traveling down this stretch of road always makes me think of my younger self. The wind carries me back to who I am. I’m very aware that this does not make sense, and I’m content with that.
As I drove, I surrendered to the beauty of the glorious Sandia Mountains climbing high around me.
I looked at creation, and I saw God’s majesty unfolding all around me and within me too.
In the shadow of the mountains, I was reminded of my lowliness, knowing that no matter how many library books I would read, these mountains hold secret stories that I will never know. I respected them, for I knew they were much grander than me. I had never actually taken the time to stop here and explore. I was always pressing toward the next destination. Family was waiting. Work was waiting. Someone was always waiting.
I felt an impulse to get out of the car and touch the earth. I had read about the La Luz Trail, thirteen miles of rocky paths twisting around ridges, lined with green shrubbery and piñon trees. Hikers printed their footprints into the path day by day, only to be erased under night’s heavy shield, as the dust and wind conspired to cover their tracks. As I sat behind the wheel of my car, I imagined myself placing the palm of my hand on the dawn-drenched face of a rock in the mountain. Does she have a story? I wondered. What is her name? What has she seen? Has someone mistreated her, left her, abandoned and forgotten her with time? Have the years made her wiser and stronger? I wanted to slow down and listen to the stories in that mountain.
I wondered how long she would be here, in all her natural beauty. The heat blazed hotter, and the cracks in the earth ran dry. She was resilient under the pressure of wind and sun, but even so, I knew she could not escape the cruelties of time. I wondered what she looked like hundreds of years ago, without wrinkles and weather-worn skin. I wondered if her trees would survive this decade. She struggled to maintain her natural beauty, under attack, with no one to defend her. Why weren’t we defending her? If I don’t stop my car and pull over now, will I miss my opportunity? These hills had seen so much and come so far, but I wondered how much more they could endure. Where would the bees go, and the other wildlife of these hills? I feared the next time I returned to New Mexico, I may no longer smell the scent of vanilla pines wafting through the wind. I wondered again, How do you capture the wind and take it with you?
Still, I pressed on. My drive was fast and fleeting. The wind will keep howling and we will all keep traveling and I will struggle, wondering what I can do to help. Will I ever have time to simply sit and enjoy the earth for what she is worth? I never seemed to be anywhere long enough. These questions follow me as I continue rolling down the interstate. In the end, I resolved to admire the rocks from a distance. I decided that their allure stems from their unknowability. This is what makes them sacred. I kept driving, but I vowed to commit myself to goodness. I can still do good things from afar.
On the road.
On the road.
Who knew we could fall in love with passing things?
Why, oh, why can’t I seem to get close?
I chose to help in the only way I knew how — to make beautiful things. I vowed to create with the colors of the places I passed. I watched as the steel-blue sky lightened to a shade of teal. And then blue turned into blush pink, and just like that, on the tip of the horizon, I could see the sun crashing through with bright orange hues. These colors became the palette of my earliest work. In fact, when people ask about my process, there’s not much I can tell them, except perhaps they should go to Albuquerque. These colors became a prism for my mind’s eye. Blues and pinks from a journey up a mountain I may never hike. I dream of it, and it makes me feel connected to a beautiful world that at times feels fleeting and far away, and when I think of her sky, the words pour on the page.
So many of the beautiful moments in my life have been
Silhouettes of mountains along the interstates.
Tangled words in my heart I was never able to say.
Friends I was just getting to know before I had to move away…
New Mexico reminds me that life is fleeting,
like the wind,
every moment passing by like the hills on my long drives.
All that I have missed
by never being present.
I love the mountains, but their foundations I can never
I can come back here over and over, only to unfold new
Wind I cannot capture,
but I carry with me the color of the sky.
The slight hint of a highway sunrise.
The teal-blue lines dancing on the railing along the I-40 West ramp.
And even now, I want to go back. I want to look closer. I want to stay longer, like a child asking for five more minutes.
But as I get older, I learn that there is only so much time in my day, and New Mexico is not my place to stay. Like so many other travelers on this road, I encountered something glorious on the way. But her wind and her earth inspire me. She is steady and true, and I simply hope she will be there for me when I need her again.
Excerpted with permission from How Far You Have Come by Morgan Harper Nichols, copyright Novkoa, LLC.
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How do you capture wind and take it with you? Don’t you wish that you could? Remember those moments when you left a place to go to another and that angst of bittersweet longing came with you? Yet, God calls us forward, doesn’t He? Keep going! And, take the beautiful memories with you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full