Thursday, June 26, 2014


     This is a piece I recently read at an event for a writer's group I'm a part of. It's about my visit a few years ago to Zion National Park.

     Tour buses and crowds waiting in line for the bathroom were finally nowhere to be seen as Ben and I approached the deserted trailhead by the side of the road. The sun fell bright and hot on our backs. We stepped awkwardly through the irregular piles of snow which remained only in the sharp shadows of trees, hills and rocks. As we discussed politics, our conversation was noisy at first in our mutual celebration of being opinionated, but we were abruptly quieted by the hard work of climbing a slushy hill.  After some time of watching the ground, trying not to trip, Ben tugged on my arm and pointed up at a hill to the right of our path. I lifted my head and looked around. 

     To our left, the land sloped gently and unevenly downward toward a few hills in the distance. The landscape was desert, with some tough and craggily shrubs and a few lonely trees. It wasn’t exactly a scene that would fit on a postcard, but there was something about it that sucked me in. Its wildness was disconcerting, yet seductive at the same time. To the right of us, where Ben had pointed, there was a steep hill that blocked our view of anything else in that direction. We decided to climb it to see what was on the other side.  The sun had been shining against this hill, so it was happily free of snow. I found myself feeling grateful for the pilgrims that went before as we followed a trail of deer tracks toward the top of the hill. After pausing to meditate on the bones of some small creature that had met its end here, I began to feel like an intruder. I tried to step more lightly, as if I should somehow apologize for leaving something so unnatural as a shoe print in this place. Still, my mind reeled and my heartbeat sped up as I was flooded with the question, “What is on the other side of this hill?”  We reached the top and stood and stared. 

     A sharp boundary lined the ridge, beyond which everything was covered with snow, forbidding us to trespass. We turned our backs to the blank white and sat down to look back in the direction from which we had come. We were quiet. Suddenly, I was confused by the sound of something enormous. My brain said, “Traffic!”, but no. It was the wind. It was so new to hear the wind unencumbered by trees and buildings that I didn’t even recognize it. I felt born again. And then another sound startled me. It was my blood pulsing through me, thumping in my ear. I looked again at the hills that had drawn me in without offering any clues as to how I should judge. Seductive and worrisome, I had found God. Not the prescribed and prescient God of my youth, but the unknowable, incomprehensible God who brilliantly lit the present moment and darkened the future from my view.

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