At the end of April, I called Dennis who had just returned from a winter in Arizona. “Denny, you desert softy – you need to go for a walk in our hills. This is our real home. It looks like Mayday weekend is going to be sunny. How about it?”
I love the peek-a-boo views out to the horizon through the alpine forest as we shuffled along. My only regret of the day was that the spectacular snow flocking on the fir branches was beginning to melt. In the above picture we are looking south towards the Burke Range that creates the steep northern wall of the Enchanted Valley that in early summer weeps dozens of waterfalls cascading thousands of feet from the melting snow and glaciers above.
We soon came upon a snow drift about 30’ high. A guy half our age that we had met earlier plunge-stepped to the top and made a direct descent on his Xcountry skis that ended in a grunting tumble with flailing extremities and one lost bundle of ego. In our day of snowshoeing we met about a dozen folk, mostly on skis. It was getting crowded. We plodded on.
There are those AH-HAH or WOW moments when breaking out of the forest and into a clearing, the earth immediately tumbles into a deep abyss and the distant panoramic horizon is filled with majesty. These are moments of apophatic mystery, of speechless awe in which the mind is stilled and opened to receive. It is a surrender to beauty…yet in realistic terms, a savage beauty, for if we study the geological history that formed these mountains, it is a story of tension and pressure and earthquakes and folding and uplifting and storms and glaciation and avalanches and erosion, a story of the convection rivers in the blistering molten core of the earth moving the oceanic plates into collision with the continental plate, traumatizing the thin skin of this little planet. In a humble sense I claim emotional ownership to these Bailey Range hills (pictured below) since I climbed and trekked them in my younger days. Yet, they could just as well have killed me if approached with ignorance, disrespect and careless human cockiness.
What an exciting time to live. In this last century we are learning through scientific discovery how our tiny spinning planet works with its vulnerable but rich biological veneer of which we humans are an integral and utterly dependent part. This growing and testable knowledge is creating a revolutionary Copernican-like ground shift in our thinking that many will resist or bury their heads in enclosed self-absorption. But many others are beginning to discover the dynamic of it all and are beginning to alter their life choices. Let me mention one perspective in closing. There are others I will talk about later.
The geo/biological system that supports life on our little home planet is a global system. While we can define the characteristics of discrete local habitats, for example, the Pacific Northwest Rainforests, or the Northern Boreal Forests of Russia, Alaska, Canada and Scandinavia, or the Tropical diversity of Indonesia and Brazil and Congo, these regions are interconnected and interdependent with all the rest of the world. In a flourishing economy of Life-on-Earth there are no isolated entities as sovereign nation-states that can do what they darn well please within their borders. In the Creed of Life, if life is to flourish on this planet in the next centuries, such independent thinking and acting is flat out heresy. Whether we like it or not, all human political and economic systems will need to make dramatic changes in priorities and function according to a growing body of testable authoritative knowledge for the health of this world.
Yet, how exciting to be on the ground floor of a new revolution, to be scientifically informed as to the wonder of life on this little planet, and to be emotionally and spiritually enlivened to think and act with functional creative art, exercising hope, and embracing loving kindness and compassion as a foundational belief and ethic. We all have a profound reason to live and find our niche to be healers of life locally on our little home planet that, yes, will have global consequences as we all work together in “deep” community – for all is connected.
20 years ago, I would have never realized that what was happening in the Pacific Ocean south of Hawaii was effecting my snowshoeing on Mayday weekend. Such exciting knowledge brings me closer to that Ground-of-Being to which I bend in awe.