Grace and Peace to you.
This weekend I hiked the Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire's White Mountains, including Mt. Lafayette, one of the highest peaks in the eastern US. It was a beautiful Saturday, so of course I was not alone. I was prepared to run into other hikers, and to share the summit with a small crowd. But I was not prepared for how chatty they were up there. It sounded like a bus station. People chattered on an on about their businesses and cars and taxes and—really!— plumbing problems at home.
We stood atop a miraculous thrust of rock into the sky, with a view of the great wide earth in every direction. We saw mountain ranges to the east and west, clouds messing Mt. Washington's hair. We looked down on lush forests. We got a glimpse of the vastness of the earth. And we exulted in the wondrous gift of legs that could carry us up there and take us back down, and hearts and lungs that served us so well. And if we looked—but no one looked—there were little red berries on the eastern side of the summit, and little tiny alpine flowers. No one seemed to be looking at anything. They were just talking and eating and taking pictures (mostly of each other). And talking. I wonder if they even noticed they were having an actual mountain top experience. I had to hike north and find a wind-blasted rock outcropping to find what ought to be natural to mountain tops: silence.
I understand. People are easily frightened by awe, like heights, and so they stay away from the edge. We all do, to some degree. We keep our experience shallow, we distract ourselves with trivia, we numb out. But we miss a lot.
How often are we in a miraculous place and forget to stop in awe? How often does the silence of heaven surround us and we don't dare to listen, or beauty come to us and we don't look it in the eye? How often do we have a mountain top experience and don't even know it? How often is this life beautiful enough, but we are not present?
Pay attention today. You may not be in a dramatic location, nor have to work very hard to get there. But you might encounter something awesome—if only you will give it your attention, your silence, your wonder. Practice noticing in the ordinary moments. Then not only will you be ready for the really spectacular ones, but they'll happen more often.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes