We tend to think in yes and no, in dark and light, in good and evil, in right and wrong, and in happy and sad. But this dualistic mindset is not reflected in creation.
Having been away from the hiking trails for too long I headed out yesterday to satiate my craving for nature. Unable to cross the Hood River bridge to Washington state because of a car crash, I ended up on my second-choice trail on the Oregon side for the day.
As I headed up the unmarked trail to Mitchell Point, images of the familiar trail began to flash in my mind. I awaited the log I’ve nicknamed, “evolving fish crawling out of the primordial sea.” (Yeah, I know it’s kinda long for a nickname.) As I crossed the meadow, I remembered the wildflowers of summer that were now a distant memory.
I trudged across stones littered with brown leaves. The openness created by the barren and near barren deciduous trees seemed to emphasize the vista that I could not see. My head bowed downward in disappointment as I journeyed to the peak, which I was now sure would lack the beauty I remembered.
I begrudged the fog. I was disappointed that I ended up on a trail — which I knew had excellent vistas — on a day that they hid behind the clouds.
Then a remarkable thing happened, a sign was laid across my path. I first noticed the large tree fallen across the trail as I rounded the switchback. “Ugh!,” I muttered as I realized this tree would require me to stoop underneath it to continue my journey. As I got closer, however, I saw tiny little umbrellas (or were they parasols?) arranged artfully on a lush green blanket.
I was fascinated. I was excited. An ear to ear grin spread across my face as I moved close to see the intricate detail of the light brown, pale yellow fungus. This sign of hope from the One changed me. Soon, my step was lighter. Instead of grieving over the missing vistas, blue skies, and full trees I began to notice the resurrecting life all around me.
Yes, the deciduous trees are becoming dormant and even the flowers that bloom into autumn are gone but there is also new life. Resurrected moss and toadstools that seemed to have died during the hot summer months have returned in brilliant hues.
Looking down I saw a single toadstool as I neared the precipice of Mitchell Point. Down on my hands and knees, I lay on the hard rockwhere nothing is supposed to grow and appreciated the orangish, multicolored parasol. It was more sturdy than the delicate ones I’d seen at lower altitude.
Perhaps its stocky demeanor was necessary to protect it from the Gorge winds. Brilliant green grasses surrounded it as if to say, “We, too, are alive!”
I moved twenty feet upward to the peak. I sat cross-legged on the formidable, unyielding rock looked westward and watched the foggy clouds move around other rocks that jutted into the Columbia Gorge. I lifted my hands and soul to God, to the Divine One that connects all of humanity and all of creation, and simply “was.” No agenda but to listen to the Spirit, I sat.
I heard it first, then felt the sharp pellets of ice as they hit my face. Twelve-hundred feet above the river, I was humbled by the power of nature — the living, growing world created by the living growing One who loves me extravagantly. The fog forced my attention to itself with frozen spheres. I looked westward at the fog that lovingly wrapped its arms
around the mountains. I found hope and release in the heavy clouds and the intricacies beneath my feet.
No, I couldn’t see as far as I did on my last trip into the heights of the Columbia River Gorge. Though the blue skies were gone, I would not have noticed the details along the path if my eyes had been focused on the vista.
In the fall season when we think that winter death is imminent the Divine energy that flows through creation is rejuvenating. Perhaps it takes fog and clouds — and sometimes sharp pieces of ice — so that we can see the resurrecting hope that is beneath our feet.