I dance at the party of wildflowers in higher altitude grassy meadows. Perched on craggy ledges, my eyes drink in the meandering blue waters from above. Before the divine pinnacle, I bow my head and receive a blessing at the snow-streaked top of the world.
I choose trails that torture muscles while amplifying my heart rate. Often I question my choices during the first third (or more) of the journey. I whine and plead with myself, “What were you thinking? Can we pleeeease turn around?”
But I don’t turn around. I like being up. I like going up, though you’d never believe it if you could feel my feels on that first part of the journey. Despite my self-complaining, I like going up.
With each step and stumble the angst, hurts, and the grief of living are revealed and faced preparing me for the mountaintop.
Along the two and one-half mile trail, you climb nearly 1300 feet on the way to Mitchell Point. One of the markers for me has always been the fallen log I call, Evolving Fish. Evolving Fish is about one-third of the way up the steep path.
Evolving Fish is so named because the fallen tree reminds me of the images of a fish with rudimentary front legs emerging from the primordial sea. Each time I encounter the Evolving Fish on my journey to the peak, I pause. I reflect upon the essence that courses through and connects nature including humanity.
The connecting essence, which I call God, courses through each rocky precipice, each tiny bud, spider, and person. A characteristic truth about creation is that it is not static. Continual change – becoming – is an integral part of creator and creation. This can be observed in nature’s cycle of life, death, and resurrection. God still-creates and fuels the still-evolving world.
And so it is fitting that on a recent journey to the rocky precipice above the Columbia River, I noted that my primordial friend has begun to noticeably decay. Much of Evolving Fish’s face has fallen away. The eye is less pronounced; the nose has crumbled away.
At first I grieved the loss. But of course Evolving Fish must decay. Evolving Fish must ultimately die and become the soil, the ground, the foundation of what will be. That is the nature of our ever-in-process, ever-evolving world. It is the nature of creation and each of us. It is the nature of the One, the essence of all-that-is.
And, so, each time I journey to commune at the peak, I will still pause. As Evolving Fish decays, I will remain in relationship with my changing friend. When Evolving Fish is no more, I will watch for the new thing that will spring forth.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. — Lao Tzu
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.