Wow. I can’t believe it’s the end of July and we’re still living with all things pandemic. Four months ago I would have thought we’d be in a better place than this, but we’re not. We do, however, have access to so much abundance where we are. I have every reason to feel grateful.
I hope you’re living your best life at home – hanging in there through all the uncertainty, school announcements, and mask-erading.
Doug has been working at home since March and their company has no plans of returning to the office until after the new year. Homeschooling nearly put me in the loony bin. I guess insanity is better than incarceration, but boy did we limp through the finish line. We’ve done a bit of car travel, taken some day trips, graduated a 9th grader, started driving lessons for said teenager, hiked and baked a lot, celebrated three birthdays, tried new recipes, read new books, held two weeks of sewing camp, and watched way too much netflix.
I’m embarrassed so many months have gone by since I’ve written, but honestly my life has not been my own. I know you understand – everyone is fighting for productivity and sanity. I’ve realized this last month I’ve got to carve out some time to write. So I can process the current state of our world and all that I’ve been learning about myself, others, our microcosms of culture, and how important it is to continue my personal advocacy for connection.
I’ve felt very inspired to write about the new civil rights movement our nation is experiencing. I’ve discovered a number of incredibly inspiring influencers who are leading the fight with love and a peaceable walk. They are teaching with wisdom and holding up their light. I want to amplify their voices. But I don’t feel it’s my place to write or preach yet. I still need to listen and learn. And then listen some more.
I love the work of poet and artist, Morgan Harper Nichols. Read every word. She is so eloquent and her posts are timely and inspiring. You can follow her on IG @morganharpernichols. Or visit her shop @garden24co
These are hard times for our country. We are seeing progress, education, and hearts opening towards each other. We are also seeing confusion, corruption, and a lot of anger. It has been months since I’ve felt the kind of peace that can hold you for a season. But this week, I felt it. It was an immediate light to my path, a steadying force to move ahead, and a comfort, as I connected with God, His creations, and my sweet Eliza.
Holiness in High Places
Yesterday morning my oldest daughter and I woke at 5:30 AM so we could be on the road by 6. As we drove up the canyon, a flash of golden light burst through the clouds, illuminating a small patch of eastern sky.
By 6:40, we had slid on our packs and were hitting the trail. Just a handful of other humans had a similar intent this morning. For the most part, the canyon was unpeopled and undisturbed.
We trekked over large slabs of granite that graced the first section of trail, then balanced on single leg to leap from rock to rock to traverse a small stream. As we gained elevation, the basin out of which we were climbing, began to sink below. We didn’t say much as we hiked, but every bend in the trail brought a new variety of wildflower and my Eliza would pause to capture them with her camera.
There were lupine, blue and stately, with towering stems. Mountain bluebells, ringing in the morning with their tiny imaginary chimes. Arnica, yellow and cheerful. Catnip, light and airy. And purple asters spraying their happy petals into grassy fields. The fireweed was just coming on, sparking all kinds of fuschia flames, and the indian paintbrush added stunning shades of red, pink, and orange to the view. My daughter broke the silence, “Do you think Indians really used these as paintbrushes?” I doubted it, but honestly, I didn’t know.
We saw columbine, phlox, forget me nots, penstamen, jacob’s ladder, wild geraniums, and as we entered a clearing, an entire field of elephant flowers lit up the scene with amethyst color – each petal arched like an elephant’s trunk. My Mom taught me the varieties of wildflowers. I learned from her that names matter, and that when we look closely, we see the most beauty. She knew this was true for people even more than flowers.
As we switchbacked upward through the trees, I wondered how Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother created this earth with so much intricacy and synergy. I imagined them in their divine partnership of purpose and effort. How did they create the seasons, so many life cycles, and all these eco-systems to sustain themselves? The flora with its process of photosynthesis, the air we breathe, the orbs of light that predictably fill our skies day and night, every living thing symbiotic in its sphere? It astounded me. Who taught them? Was it their parents? What spiritual and physical laws governed the creation that I don’t yet understand?
Just then we came into an open clearing to find a large bull moose with a full rack, his nose to the ground. He turned slowly to see who had entered his territory, watched us a for a moment, then returned to his breakfast. We immediately slowed our pace and crept along the trail. As we moved further, we discovered his mate, a cow moose, nestled among the elephant flowers. She lifted her head to inspect us, then turned away.
With both animals in full view, we stopped and watched for several minutes. We’ve seen moose before, but all the world was so quiet, so reverent, we couldn’t speak. It was simply majestic. I felt both a voyeur and a friend – a foreigner in their land but so enraptured I belonged.
The rest of our hike up to Catherine’s pass we unconsciously spoke in whispers. We didn’t realize we were whispering until after we had silently watched the pink of sunrise grace the eastern sky, noticed rain clouds gathering, and were making our final push towards the summit.
We were whispering because this glorious high country felt like sacred space. What we had seen was holy. It was wholly lit with the fire of God – that Spirit that flows through His creations, undiluted by the stamp of human efforts to perfect or replicate.
With temples closed and COVID working its surreptitious stress into our lives, it’s been a while since I’ve felt something holy. Lately my heart has been swept up in listening to voices. Angry voices that need to be heard. Wise voices. Lost voices. Voices that have been hurt. Voices scarred by injustice, inequity, and sorrow. I’ve been reading, watching, listening, valuing each voice along every point of the spectrum, because that is how, I believe, we can best determine where to land, and what to do. Every voice matters and this act of listening I believe is holy work. Yet after all this listening I’ve felt somewhat paralyzed. There is so much I do not understand. Some things I will never understand. But I want to keep trying. I am praying on it and seeking to know how God can best use the gifts I have. We live in a world aching for healing, restoration, and, whether we realize it or not, spiritual saving.
We can do so much good and many are trying, but as humans, our efforts have a tendency to be wrought with self-interest. What will we do when our efforts aren’t enough?
Who will collect and manage all this hurt, if there is no God? No Savior? Where will we put it? How will we absorb it?
Praise be that there is Jesus.
Connecting with God on this reverent morning in the mountains, reminded me that He is the truest source of healing, restoration, and literal saving. It’s imperative that I keep learning, listening and working towards truth, kindness, inclusion, and love, but I cannot neglect His role in it all. He craves a synergy with us like the wildflowers crave the sunlight and streams of our alpine canyons. All His children are precisely that. His. He is the one that will make their lives just when our mortal efforts have not been enough. He is the one that will reward with joy. He is the one that will make all the myriad of horrible wrongs in this world, right.
Eliza and I crested the summit and all the wasatch-world opened to us. Heber valley to the east, the sister lakes of Mary, Martha, and Catherine below, pooling like muted gems. A rough wind snatched at our hair and stole the air from our throats. Rain began to pelt our cheeks, but to the west, the faintest bit of light lit up the north side of the canyon.
We turned our backs to the wind and began our descent to the valley. Clutching at the jagged rocks, I felt a new holiness steady me for the work ahead.
I loved this post and the photos are beautiful. If you haven’t watched Basketball or Nothing, add it to your Netflix queue. It’s fantastic and I think your kids will be captivated. I watched all 6 (short) episodes in one night.
Did you see the season of Relative Race with Morgan Harper Nichols? She and her sister were just so gracious and wonderful! If you haven’t, check it out on BYUtv. 😊
Also, I love your essay about your hike and already forwarded it to several women who love the mountains, too. Thank you for finding time to write! It blesses my life!
As always, I am inspired and uplifted by your writing. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts about such a beautiful hike.
I too am struggling with the political and social upheaval recently. It is hard to find clear and honest information. I would love to hear the source to which you are turning for enlightenment if you feel inclined to share. I have watched the video series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man and the documentary 13th. I’ve also read from our prophets and leaders. My heart is still uneasy and I continue to search for the ways I can and should act.
such beautiful words and such amazing picture. What spectacular views on your hike! It makes me SO happy that you were able to have such a sacred experience that day with Eliza.
What a time we live in! I love your focus on listening. I think that there is tremendous value in gathering stories and seeing different perspectives. Thank you for having such an open, generous heart! I went out to lunch with two close friends some weeks back, and beforehand, I was feeling apprehensive since I know that my opinions diverge from theirs on so many current issues. I didn’t know how to walk into the conversation in a way that could allow me to be authentic while also accepting. My sister told me to just plan on going in as an observer gathering information, just trying to understand more, and then go from there. When current issues came up, I mostly listened (I’ve tried to imagine myself trying to be neutral like the country Switzerland). It was such an important exercise for me. I was able to share a few of my own opinions when I felt like it mattered most, but mostly I sat back.
It’s really interesting to me that President Nelson has emphasized the phrase “Hear Him” so much this year. I think you’re really onto something with the listening emphasis. Hearing God. Hearing other people.
Sending lots of hugs, my dear friend
Catherine, why am I just discovering your blog? Love your photos and perspective on holiness in high places. Keep writing!