Above the clouds, beneath the blue atmosphere I had an urge to strip bare. This despite a sixty-two degree moisture-filled breeze and deeply ingrained social taboos. I’ve had the impulse before while hiking.
No. I am not an exhibitionist; I’m a very modest person.
Neither do I succumb to the urges. Usually I open my shirt allowing the wind to dry my sweat-soaked skin. On a particularly hot day I’ve been known to remove my shirt for a time before I put it back on for fear I’ll burn.
But that’s different.
When the urge to strip bare comes over me it is not about hot weather. It is about a feeling of unrestrained awe in the presence of the divine. It’s about a desire to strip away anything that separates me from the sacred. Within the caverns of my soul, I yearn to reveal my whole self!
And why wouldn’t I?
I am created in the image of God! Why would I hide anything from the boundless love? When the very breath of God blew across the peak of Wind Mountain this morning I slipped off my shirt. Though the thermometer read 62, the sacred breath warmed my sweat soaked skin and weary spirit.
They said sun & sixty; I got gloom and forty-eight.
Anticipating fifties & vanishing clouds; I got forties and a brown pudding path.
Exhausted and wounded by the chaotic clamor of recent weeks, I sought a sequestering salve on Wind Mountain. I trusted the early forecast and scheduled my week so that I could hike in sunshine and sit at the peak breathing in the expansive view of the Columbia River Gorge. It was the balm I deserved and needed I told myself.
Driving to the cinder cone mountain, the place of ancient spirit quests, the clouds did not lift. I changed the setting of my wipers from off to intermittent and eventually to low as I drove along southwest Washington’s Highway 14.
I parked at the lonely trailhead and began my hike. Though it didn’t last, I was pleased to start my journey under dry if overcast skies.
I was soon reminded that the divine breath that blows cold in early spring, is a moist liniment that provokes seasonal resurrections. Among the early blossoms, the changing colors reflected sunny days past and yet-to-be. The absence of human noise floated downward on drops of rain that washed the collected noise from my mind.
Nearing the bend to the westside of the mountain, I could hear the Gorge winds and half-frozen rain howl and clatter on the trees. My eyeglasses fogged on the final ascent while my tightly held hood restricted my peripheral views.
Stumbling, I pulled off my glasses to see through the condensation, and my nearsightedness kept me from visual clarity. A quick loop around the viewing areas, a glance at the low-hanging cloud behind which Mts. Adams and St. Helens hid, a pause at the contorted trees I remembered from previous treks, and I began my descent.
As I moved down the east side of the old cinder cone mountain, I noted my spirit was lighter. The blockages in my head were clearing; my synapses fired as if equipped with new spark plugs.
I’d planned for sun and sixty while expecting fifties and vanishing clouds, but they were unnecessary. Beneath the misty blanket, immersed in the sacred fibers of moisture, the spirit of that sacred place applied the medicinal balm I sought.