We spent the past weekend camping in the desert of Utah, tucked into a sandstone labyrinth, beneath the watchful gaze of crimson-colored, ancient, rock-people. After arriving and setting up camp, we sat and listened to the buzzing echo in the near distance of our own ears. It was that. quiet. That buzz reflected the pervasive noise of our busy lives and the challenge of transitioning into the foreign land of stillness.
And so it goes in life. The constant chatter of social media, demanding schedules, endless tasks, and false relaxation haunts our hearing… until it doesn’t. But the transition takes time, patience, endurance. But the reward is a glorious quiet, a quiet glory.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
Friday night around the fire brought moments of comfortable silence and sincere comments. But it wasn’t long until our eyes traveled upward to the delightful night sky. We left the glow of the fire and walked out to the vacant desert floor. We snuggled into each other. We debated constellations. After leaving the intrusive light of the fire, it was amazing how the little lights came out in droves, surprising us around every black-blanket crease.
And so it goes in life. Sometimes the darkness is so scary and falsely perceived to be the lack of light. Insecure and fighting for control, we struggle to stay in the happy and comfortable light. But if we never look away, if we never embrace the night sky, if we never give time for our eye’s transition to the deceptive void, we will miss the breath-taking, liquid beauty of a night sky blanketed in so many stars it is more bright than it is dark.
Of course, all this wonder didn’t come without tension. Our first campsite was near the road and beneath the giggly gaze of climbing, high, young, loud neighbors who were there not to settle into stillness, but to perpetuate a petty party. Something in me sunk. Dave, annoyingly, noticed. Both in my heart and out of my mouth I reflected: “I think I need to plan ahead next time where we stay, so that I’m not disappointed.” Dave’s eye roll replied: “Just enjoy the adventure.”
And so it goes in life. There should be an order that avoids chaos, a structure which reduces messiness, a mask which hides the ugliness (shouldn’t there be?!). When that is not the case, we futilely dwell not in the present, but in the past (shoulda’s and coulda’s) and in the future (what if’s). And in doing so, we miss this moment, in all its ugly, chaotic, messy didn’t-happen-before-will-never-happen-again uniqueness.
Saturday morning, we climbed and sat in the laps of rocks nearby. We gazed westward and watched the shifting light dance on the rusted walls of the horizon. We were just a bit chilled with the night crispiness still in the air. But as the sun crested behind our backs, bursting up from behind the barriers, we warmed. We reveled in the firey fingers of the dawn sun. We took mental pictures and Iphone snapshots of our shadow. I was grateful; the sun, forever faithful, appeared for a new day.
And so it goes in life. Sometimes the sun is hidden–in the canyons of catastrophe, the storms of sorrow, the nights of soul-neglect or regret, the haze of heartbreak–but always it is there, always it rises. Secret, but steady. Eclipsed, but eternal. Concealed, but constant.
Saturday we hiked Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon, slot canyons carved by the erstwhile eroding hands of water and wind. Sometimes we had to turn to the side to make it through a narrow crevice, sometimes we had to use hands and feet and each other to hop up or down dry waterfalls of rocks taller than us, sometimes we had to skip across slippery rocks in puddles of stagnant, muddy-brown water, sometimes we tripped because we were too consumed looking up and down and all around. But onward we journeyed.
Our dog was off-leash and on-life, running unabashedly this way and that, greeting other groups of hikers, photobombing every one. And many times, he could not make it by himself from point A to point B. And so Dave or I, or Dave and I, carried him in our arms, from height to depth, always to safety and tail-wagging, trust-building freedom.
And so it goes in life. We want to journey forward, but darn it, that barrier-monster, standing stubbornly in the middle of our path, arms folded and eyes glaring. And let’s face it, it’s been there longer, stronger, grounded. But always, there are friends, carrying us down it, or up it, or around it, or through it. And just like Spooner, it’s easier to be carried when we relax in the arms of our rescuer. And just like Dave and I, sometimes we do the carrying, passing the helped from him to me to them…to you.