It is no secret to anyone who knows me that the mountains are one of the places where I most reliably encounter God. Last month I climbed to a favorite high ridge in Olympic National Park to spend a couple of nights in God’s company – and God, of course, did not disappoint. While I have many special memories from this trip, this video captures the essence of what I want to say here.
Most of us who venture out to scenic places take pictures to capture and remind us of the beautiful things we see. But I find that photos only begin to hint at all of the ways God uses our senses to delight us with the bounty of creation. After all, we do not visually perceive the world as freeze-frame, but as one in continual motion. I shot this video because I wanted to capture how the glacier lilies wave to all who pause to watch them – it’s as if they are so delighted to be created in God’s image that they can’t keep from dancing!
If you turn the volume up a bit, you will also hear the sound of the wind that day. The wilderness is never silent. In addition to wind, there are sounds of water trickling (or gushing), insects buzzing, and birds calling; when walking, there is the crunch of gravel, the crush (or squeak) of snow, the soft brushing of undergrowth against one’s legs. I laid back and closed my eyes in this meadow, and the aural input was beyond my ability to catalog.
One can’t tell from the video, but the air temperature that day was almost 80 degrees. I tried to pay attention to all of the sensory input coming to me through my skin, and again it defied description. The warmth of the sun, the gentle massage of the breeze, the feel of the meadow against my back … to say nothing of the limitless variety of textures within arm’s reach: flowers, leaves, sticks, and rocks, each touch communicating a different aspect of God’s creation.
And with such a warm breeze, my sense of smell was also in overdrive. The scent of the glacier lilies combined with the broader exuberance of the rapidly growing foliage (the meadow was under snow only a few days earlier), all highlighted by the omnipresent aroma of the evergreen forest. Smell is the sense most directly connected to our brain and, especially, our memories, and I, too, find that it stimulates me in a way unlike any other sense.
I often like to take one light book with me on backpacking trips, and my choice for this trip was Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, by Anne Lamott. It just so happens that I read the chapter entitled “Wow” while sitting in the very spot in the video. Sometimes God can be very subtle, but this was clearly not the day for subtlety. Wow!