Bridge of Breath & Dust

Bridge of Breath & Dust
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Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 

Beside the fir’s olfactory balm,
I step and step again.
Pausing I breathe in Mama Gaia.

Healed.

The silence and chittering creatures,
lose their dominance as I continue.
Trickles and gurgles become roars.

Curious.

Beneath the green canopy,
the end of tunnel light beckons.
Emerging solar warmth embraces my skin.

Energized.

Hopeful yellows, purples, & reds
dot the spring shoreline beyond the roaring.
The icy danger disrupts my forward journey.

Yearning.

In the mountain’s domain,
far from she and far from he,
I stand beneath the blue skies.

Flummoxed

Beside the rushing waters,
I gaze beyond the treacherous sea.
No steel or human-crafted expanse facilitates my journey.

Decoding.

Fear and desire compete.
“Maybe here. Maybe up that way.”
Turning around feels like giving up.

Trepidation.

“There!” I spy rudimentary clues.
Those who’ve come before point the way.
Challenge, skill, and hope lure me across the rushing risk.

Cautious.

A little muddy, damp, and chilled,
I look back to where I’ve been.
Ethereal kindred united self with me.

Bridged.

In the mountain’s domain,
the breath of divine wholeness reveals,
the dusty camaraderie of humanity.

Crystalline Baptism

Crystalline Baptism
Icy Tamanawas. Photo by Tim Graves (Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Icy Tamanawas. Photo by Tim Graves (Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Walking beside the azure water,
the glacial melt bubbles & foams,
and icicles cling to logs.

Winter hangs in the morning air,
cowering beneath the fir-ry needles,
and hard-cold boulders.

Undeterred, mustard light oozes,
through the bare branched tree-kin,
spicing the frosted trail with its spring warmth.

This is the way.
This is the incline.
This is the switchback and bridge,
to the holy baptistry.

The sacred waters of the grotto,
lure me forward with a roar and glimpse.

Standing, I open the doors of the alcove.
Standing, I gasp at the crystalline love,
blanketing each boulder, cluster of moss, and tree.

Standing, I kneel before the divine,
as mist settles upon my skin washing away trail dust.

Breathing, the mist flows through my lungs, into my bloodstream, baptizing heart and soul.

 

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Emerging from the Grey

Emerging from the Grey
Amid the Gloom. Photo by Tim Graves
Amid the Gloom. Photo by Tim Graves

It was the kind of autumn afternoon when foolish hope was the only reason you expect the sun to break through the clouds. The mass of fluff hung grey and low. With each step the clouds moved that much more within my reach.

Soon I wandered through a forest of tall trees draped in lichen and dark, grey fog. As the mist touched my cheek, I breathed in and breathed out feelings of contentment for no particular reason.

Clinging Sunshine Photo by Tim Graves
Clinging Sunshine Photo by Tim Graves

“No,” I said to myself, “there will be no sightings of Mt. Hood today.” I breathed in the moist and cool air content with being outdoors. “The yellow fall leaves clinging to forest floor will be my sunshine,” I smiled to no one in particular.

Traversing a rocky and brush-infested segment of my path, my eyes watched each footfall. Emerging into a clearing, I lifted my eyes. Abruptly welcomed by Mt. Hood and a sunbeam dancing above the trees and clouds I exclaimed, “Whoa!” to the divine one in particular.

Into the Sacred Fog

I didn’t plan well. I didn’t think about the difference one-week makes at the top of Oregon. The result was my double-nickel aged fingers could barely move by the time my short, two-hour hike in the alpine areas of Mt. Hood ended.

Red and White Hood
The lingering red vegetation of fall contrasts with the white hints of snow to come along the Mountaineer trail on Mt. Hood. Photo by Tim Graves

There is something about the mountaintop. The divinity surrounds and I feel compelled to climb higher and higher. As I moved up from the trailhead in the breezy thirty-seven degrees I soon came upon snow. It began as polka dots on rock and vegetation but soon a half-inch covered my path. The gullies were filled to the brim with fluffy white mocha.

My fingers complained, cowering inside my pockets but my spirit kept climbing. The lingering red vegetation of fall contrasted with the sparkling white skyfall from overnight. In the brisk pilgrimage through fog forecast to be inches of snow later in the day, the divine warmed me.

From now on my eyes will be open and my ears will pay attention to the prayers offered in this place. (2 Chronicles 7:15 CEB)

Just One More Bonus Moment

Just One More Bonus Moment
Photo by Tim Graves
Photo by Tim Graves

Every hike has a moment. In each hike there comes a moment that makes the strained muscles, the perspiration, and the overall effort worth the journey. As I journeyed a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail (near Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood), the moment came when I rounded a bend, slogged up an incline, and came upon a view of a deep chasm and Mt. Hood.

But this post is not about The Moment. It is about the bonus moments that some trails offer up with divine abundance. The waterfall reached by a scramble up a canyon filled with rocks, gravel, sand, and boulder was just such a bonus moment offered by the Pacific Crest Trail near Timberline Lodge. The challenging scramble forced me to move from one side and again the other of rushing snowmelt. The bonus moment was worth the risk of landing in icy water.

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Photo by Tim Graves

But this post is not about that bonus moment, either. It is about those bonus moments that distract me from thoughts of well-prepared food and a shower as my trip nears its end. They are parting gifts that often bring a tear to my eye.

This post is about the creature that I caught in my peripheral vision as I moved through a canyon. The movement of the orange mammal was a divine gift as I was returning to the trailhead and thinking about filling my belly. It was the Just One More Bonus Moment that crowned my ten mile hike with a golden glow.

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See also The Things That Move

The Crimson Face of God

The Crimson Face of God

Ascending,
muscles speak,
breath shortens,
and the cool, fresh air invigorates,

Photo by Tim Graves
Photo by Tim Graves

On the boulder strewn summit,
with its vestiges of snow,
and grey moon dust,
green patches cling close to the ground.

Between the stones and rocks,
within the moist canyons,
green grasses and blooms thrive,
in the late summer.

Beyond the trees,
beneath the late summer sunshine,
the mountain peak dominates,
the deserted ski slopes.

In hopes of snow-to-be,
the lift clangs and beeps,
as it moves in anticipation,
of white mounds of snow.

Beneath the cables,
the rock and grey dust,
are stirred by foot fall,
and breeze.

It is here,
in this alien and sacred place,
that God reveals God’s face,
in crimson leaves.

Photo by Tim Graves
God reveals God’s face in crimson leaves. Photo by Tim Graves

When You Hike with God

Sometimes hiking with God can be confusing. You don’t even realize God is with you at first. You may have a crowd of thoughts and worries pushing against you threatening to knock you off the path. But God? It seems like everyone but God is on that trail.

One step. One step more.

As you trudge along on your hike with God, the crowd trudges with you. Then, you notice an elaborate web spun across an old tree stump.

An elaborate web spun across the rough top of a tree stump. Photo by Tim Graves.

You pause, fascinated by the intricate work until that nag in your head pushes you, “C’mon, no time to look at bugs!” You continue on your way. The crowd that piled out of the car with you at the trailhead is still with you. But God? God’s nowhere to be found.

The carping crew breeds doubts. “Maybe I should turn around,” you tell yourself. But you don’t.

One step. One step more.

As you continue hiking with God, you wonder why it’s so hard. The ensemble in tow begins to whine as the trail gets steeper and steeper. Pausing for a sip of water, you realize your heart is working hard to keep you moving upward on the winding trail. You notice your breathing and check your heart rate as the trail gets more difficult.

A steep switchback along the Dog River Trail in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Photo by Tim Graves

As you hike with God, you start calculating how far you’ve gone. You wonder how long it would take to get back to civilization should your phone ring. “Go ahead! Look at it! You know you want to,” cajoles the crowd. Reaching into your pocket you pull your phone out, glance at the time. As you’re about to open your email, you hear a rustle at the side of the trail.

That’s when you notice the funky flower. It is a flower isn’t it? The mob sneers and taps their fingers on their wrists. You don’t care. They can wait. It’s amazing. On your knees, you get closer to see it.

Photo by Tim Graves

A smile on your face, you finally get off the ground. As you’re wondering what other flowers bloom on this trail, you notice the impatient crowd seems to have thinned. Maybe they went on ahead without you? Went back to the car?

One step. One step more.

Hiking with God, you find yourself getting deeper and deeper into the woods. The nattering naysayers that began the journey with you, though noticeably fewer, remind you of stories of an experienced hiker who fell off a cliff. They remind you of coyote sightings and of your dry mouth.

That’s when you notice the moss getting heavier on the rocks. Pausing, you pull out your water, take a sip, smell, and listen. The air smells more humid and, yes, that’s the sound of rushing water in nearby.

A moss-covered boulder in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Photo by Tim Graves

One step. One step more.

When you hike with God, your band of worldliness eventually gives up on you. One by one they leave you and that’s when you find holy ground. Sitting, you pause when you come upon the sacred cleansing waters. Later, when you reflect on your time here,  you realize that those waters are preparing you for what is yet to be.

The cleansing waters of a sacred land. Photo by Tim Graves

Rested, you continue your hike with God. Your eyes begin to see amazing things. A miniature waterfall dribbling onto the trail, purple flowers that reach upward where the canopy breaks, and gnarled post-growth trees that provide a home for so many small creatures.

One step, one more gentle step.

You’re walking gingerly now. You’re on sacred ground. You’re reaching the top of the canopy now. The vestiges of the battalion that began the journey slowly begin to fall away. Anxious for the pinnacle, you take a side trail looking for that which you seek. “Watch out for poison vines,” offers the last of the nega-teers.

When you’re hiking with God, negativity is but information. You look at the sacred ground upon which you take each gentle step.

One gentle step, one anticipatory step more.

That’s when you see a single flower. Dressed in royalty, the flower — like you — yearns for the One.

A lone flower reaches for the sacred sunshine. Photo by Tim Graves

The only one of its kind, the flower beckons you to look in the direction in which it points.

You jump in joy!

You dance like David before the Lord! (2 Samuel 6: 14) You cry out, “Ooh! Ooh! I was looking the wrong way!” You play your tambourine and dance back to the main trail — your path — just as Miriam danced (Exodus 15: 20).

One joyful dance step and another. And another.

When you hike with God, you dance until you come to a clearing where the sunshine warms your skin. Your dancing slows. You settle beneath a tree. This tree is for you. Beneath the sacred evergreen you rest from the journey and gaze at a mountain.

Mt. Hood from the Dog River Trail. Photo by Tim Graves

When you hike with God, you rest under your tree. You sleep. You wake. You sob. You laugh. You find peace. You pray and meditate. When you hike with God, you return to the trailhead and daily living, wanting to love as extravagantly as the One.

One step. One loving step more.