I just got finished reading a post over at Bible Portal. It tells the story of a monk who lives in that tiny little house on top of that pillar of stone. I recommend it as a good read.
It got me thinking about why I go into the woods by myself. Lots of times I'll go with a bunch of other guys, but sometimes it will be just me or me and the dogs. The author touched me with this paragraph in particular:
I once spent a week at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, a Trappist Monastery open for solitary retreats of prayer and contemplation. It was a stark rupture from my life: simple, never sterile, structured but never over-formal, quiet, but filled with kind awareness. And once I went back to my typical routine, my relationship with all the stuff of modern life was a little different at its root. I could feel that, somewhere beyond the LCD screens, there was a silence within which the breathing presence of God could perhaps be a bit better heard and felt. And the experience of that 'beyond' place made it easier to put down the devices and seek it out again. And again. Even if just for fifteen minutes in a day.
And that's part of it---the experience in the "beyond" place making it easier to "put down the devices and seek it out again."
Most of my hiking is done in coastal Texas. Within a hundred miles of my home you can find the sea coast, deep piney woods, hardwood forests dripping with Spanish Moss, wide prairie and brown muddy rivers easing their way lazily in a serpentine route towards the coast.
I sometimes find myself looking a pictures posted on other websites and blogs. Pictures taken along the Appalachian Trail from scenic overlooks expressing wide vistas of pine covered mountain tops glimmering emerald in the sun, or those same mountain tops peeking out from fog covered valley's looking like islands on some distant planet.
Or those taken in my native New Hampshire from the alpine heights of the Presidential range with young, smiling, bearded faces in wool caps and goretex parkas standing on granite boulders with the maples and oaks in the cols and valleys below exploding into the brilliant colors of fall.
Sometimes they're taken on the talus slopes of Rocky Mountain valleys looking down on crystal clear lakes surrounded by scrubby pines desperate to maintain a foothold on the rocks.
Or taken from kayaks coursing over the mirrored surface of placid Maine lakes, or staggering their way through a raging foam of white water.
Or in the deep snows of a Michigan winter of red faced men seemingly being devoured by down jackets, the condensation from their breath creating clouds in front of them.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of the people in those places and their ability to visit those that are so different from the nearly flat and featureless terrain that I am surrounded by. There are no mountains here, no valleys to fill with fog, no talus slopes or alpine vistas, no roaring streams and isolated lakes, just the flat land and the varied vegetation, and a lot of heat most of the time.
But maybe it would only be because they were just other places in the beyond that I am always seeking to return to and they hold no real superiority.
I dunno. What do you think?