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Intersection Column | If You’d Told Me I Could Lean on Air

by Cheryl Grey Bostrom


Ha! Lean on air? Back when I was a newlywed, if you’d suggested I’d eventually do exactly that, I’d have laughed outright.


Consider the physics. Who can lean on air?


It took me a while to learn that I can.


We’d been married a sneeze over two months when Blake and I packed his Mustang and my old Chevy Impala to the gills, locked up the house we’d tended for my traveling grandparents that summer, and crossed the state to hilly Palouse country, where we settled the sum of our belongings into a rundown cabin sandwiched between railroad tracks and a river culvert.


Our new address: the tiny town of Colfax, Washington, where I’d soon teach English and drama to wheat farmers’ kids at the local high school. Come fall, Blake would commute twenty minutes to Pullman to continue his veterinary studies at Washington State.


We bought a secondhand couch. I wrote lesson plans, made curtains and lasagna. Played house.


And had absolutely no idea how to be married.


Fresh from a broken, faithless home, I had trusted Christ for only four years. A distractible spiritual baby, I was a classic Hebrews 5 milk-drinker, for whom the sparkling concept of Trinity-mimicking oneness in my new marriage was as foreign to me as that Alioth star in the Big Dipper’s handle. Light years away.


Regardless, I was determined to build a marriage and home unlike the one I’d known.


How hard could it be? I’m a bootstraps sort of girl . . . a resilient, goal-oriented self-starter, and I keep my word. Since I’d promised Blake at our engagement that I’d travel whatever deep space necessary to assure our love lasted a lifetime, I believed I would simply do my part alongside the rock-solid man I’d married. Straightforward, start to finish.


My unverbalized mantra in those years? Coach me, God, then turn me loose to perform for you. I’ve got this. Watch me.


Right. If you’ve stayed married for any length of time, you’ve been weeding that strategy from your garden every time it sprouts—just as I do. The longer I’m with my man, and the better I know myself, the more frequently I instead lean on, and into, holy air—the Breath of God that holds me when life’s storms and detours, wonders and routines test me.


I was thinking about those early days when I conceived my Sugar Birds sequel, Leaning on Air. The prospect of writing a story experienced through lenses of Burnaby’s autism and Celia’s unbelief (and set in the breathtaking Palouse I love) cloaked the tale in layers of meaning for me.


As I shaped characters, I identified with ornithologist Celia in a number of ways. Our shared love of birds was a given. On a deeper level, she approached her relationship with equine surgeon Burnaby with self-dependence and relational evasiveness characteristic of my youth. As my own did, her upbringing had hurt her and made her skittish.


In an experience unique to Celia, however, autistic Burnaby’s explanation of how quantum entanglement and the Three-in-One Godhead illustrated their future oneness baffled her. The night he asked her to marry him, a confused Celia pondered his views:


“His science told him they would meld into the single identity of conjoined atomic particles, and his faith said they would become one in a spiritual world she knew nothing about, a world where he and she and this God of his would be indivisible, body and mind and spirit. Marriage would breach every boundary she’d worked so hard to fortify, every barrier she’d built against pain.


“She shoved him, and he pushed himself away, his palms on either side of her, his arms posts for the roof of his body above hers.


“ ‘What?’ he asked.


“ ‘I don’t want to disappear.’


To avoid spoilers, I’ll only say that she doesn’t vanish—but instead learns physically, emotionally, and spiritually to lean on air.


Because of Love’s holy physics, I have, too.

Author photo by Amy VandeVoort, Copyright © 2021. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author

Cheryl Grey Bostrom writes vivid, surprising prose that reflects her keen interest in nature and human behavior. Her novel Sugar Birds has won more than a dozen awards—including American Fiction, Nautilus, Reader’s Favorite, International Fiction, and ACFW Carol Awards, as well as Christianity Today’s Fiction Award of Merit and Christy finalist honors. An avid photographer, she and her veterinarian husband live in the Pacific Northwest, near the settings for Sugar Birds and its sequel Leaning on Air, which early readers have called “a masterpiece” and “a reader’s dream.” Connect with her at 


About the Book

After a decade of marriage, Celia and Burnaby have found a unique and beautiful rhythm. Then tragedy strikes while Celia hunts for the nest of a research hawk. Reeling with grief, she flees to a remote farm in Washington’s Palouse region, where a wild prairie and an alluring neighbor convince her to begin anew. But when unexplained accidents make her doubt her decision, only a red-tailed hawk and the endangered lives of those she loves can compel her to examine her past—and reconsider her future.


Did You Know?

In Isabella Sylvester’s article, “17 Unexpected Challenges Soldiers Face When Returning Home” (November 16, 2023), the author delineates the unexpected hurdles veterans face when reintegrating back into civilian life. Here are a few:


  • Adjusting to Civilian Pace. Soldiers returning from a life governed by military discipline and an emphasis on quick responses and decision-making skills may find the civilian life slow and inefficient. This can lead to feelings of impatience and displacement.

  • Handling Silent Battles. Many soldiers bear the weight of unseen traumas. They see things no one should, they may be sent to places they wouldn’t choose to go, and they encounter some of the most unthinkable and cruelest situations life offers. Daily, mundane tasks in civilian life may feel insurmountable.

  • Unlearning Combat Readiness. In a combat situation, a soldier’s ability to always be alert and prepared becomes second nature, but in a civilian setting, this constant state can be mentally draining and lead to heightened anxiety in seemingly peaceful situations.


My respect and admiration for soldiers and first responders who are willing to serve, protect, and sacrifice grows each time I hear, read, or watch stories of their heroism.


-Derinda Babcock, Lawmen, Soldiers, & Other Heroes: A Romance Collection


Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore

“I enjoy shopping in bookstores because I almost always find something I wasn't looking for but I ‘desperately’ need.”


-Annie Yorty, From Ignorance to Bliss



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