In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. ~ Genesis 1:1-2
Last week, our daughter Andie was in town to say hello and celebrate her birthday and mine. We missed having the same birth date by a couple of minutes. Jennifer jokingly says, “I never believed in signs until Andie refused to come out of my womb until after your birthday. You are both stubborn Tauruses.” “Whatever…” I say to myself.
Last Monday, Andie, Ro, and I drove to Canyonlands National Park: a wilderness of red/brown sandstone cliffs and domes, as well as enchanted canyons and buttes carved out over time by the Colorado River.
We take the last parking space at Needles Campground and walk up the Wooden Shoe Canyon Trail. It always feels good to stretch out my legs and let my feet touch the welcoming sand of a primitive desert meadow. Clumps of yellow bunch grass, Mormon tea, yucca, and full barrel cactus waiting to bloom grace the garden of rock and sand. There were not any trees with tempting red delicious apples in sight, so I pick a handful of berries off a juniper and toss them one at a time at Ro walking ahead of me. They fall harmlessly off his daypack.
Andie freezes, pulls her phone from her pack, and squats down before a juniper where a clump of vibrant red, Indian paintbrush flowers smile back at her. Lost in wonder and love, she snaps pictures of them from different angles of light. John Muir wrote, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks.”
As we walk down the first pitch of slickrock, Ro starts running and jumping off rocks and clicking his heels. “Come on,” he says. “I think I’ll walk,” I reply. Ro, doing his best Fred Astaire impersonation, dances down the rock face, singing in the desert.
At the bottom, we meet a young Navajo woman working as a park ranger. “Have you seen many flowers?” I ask.
“A few. There are plenty of yellow wall flowers. Purple aster and desert marigolds. Everyone says we’re going to have a Super Bloom with all the rain we’ve had. Not yet though.” I make a mental note and promise to come back in mid-May for the Super Bloom. A moment I imagine in time when the Divine Presence overwhelms our senses or as John Muire said, “Look! Nature is overflowing with the grandeur of God.”
Barbara Brown Taylor in Leaving Church, wrote, “I know plenty of people who find God most reliably in books, buildings, and even in other people. I have found God in all of these places too, but the most reliable meeting place for me has always been creation. When other people see acreage, timber, soil, and river frontage, I see God’s body, or at least as much of it as I am able to see. If this makes me a pagan, then I am a grateful one.”
Where do we most often encounter God? The Divine Presence? The Resurrected Christ?
For the first time in my visits to Canyonlands, water is flowing down the creek beneath the sandstone walls. Ro walks to a clear pool which reflects sunlight on his face. The wind stirs the water. Rohr says, “We are always waiting for the Holy Spirit—somehow forgetting that the Spirit was given to us from the very beginning. In fact, she was ‘hovering over the chaos’ in the very first lines of Genesis (1:2).”
Ro intuitively reaches down with both hands, cups the water, and pours it over his head. Does he hear the heaven’s part and feel the whoosh of the Spirit descending? A canyon wren looks upon us from her perch in an ancient cottonwood. The clouds move breathlessly across the sky.
Andie sits silently nearby, lost in thought within the shade of pinyon trees growing along the banks of the creek. “To sit in solitude, to think in solitude with only the music of the stream and the cedar to break the flow of silence, there lies the value of wilderness,” wrote John Muir. I gaze upon our adult children and wonder what awaits them in a world of great beauty and hope as well as thorns and snares.
It is a good day to dwell in the Presence—blue skies, a gentle breeze, quiet water, blooming marigolds, and sandstone canyons. John Muir said it well, “The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past us but through us. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls.” Divine beauty restores us.
May the “wind from God sweep over us” (see Genesis 1:2) and through us as we walk through the gardens of our lives. May Paradise be found not lost. Amen.
Blessings and peace,