Monday, July 30, 2007

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters.

I always forget how profound an effect natural beauty has on me until I experience it again first hand. I went backpacking this past weekend on a pretty rough trail near Lake Tahoe. Despite partying pretty hard on Friday night, getting up at 6AM on Saturday and sleeping restlessly Saturday night, I'm more awake than I can remember being on a usual Monday. I feel like I've cleared the cobwebs out of my lungs, the grit out of my joints and muscles, and most importantly the lint out of my thoughts and enthusiasm.

The trip was all around fantastic: great company, great views, hot sun, fresh air, cold clean water, and the most beautiful wildflowers I've ever seen. The most magical part of the weekend that you won't see represented in any of the pictures was how the valley we camped in looked at night. As the fire got low, the natural light took over. The moon wasn't high enough to see, but it was high enough and full enough to illuminate the cliffs on the far side of the valley. They looked phosphorescent.

You can see more pictures of me in Phil's album and Rico's album. Ginger worried a little beforehand that she'd be spoiling a "guy's trip." Little did she know that she'd be providing an audience. I'm not entirely sure what it is about backpacking that brings out the raunchy side of everyone's humor, but it probably has something to do with not showering and crapping in the woods. Eating half a pound of cheese and the resulting digestive effects help a bit too. It might also be that backpacking offers the most thorough escape possible in a vacation. You can leave your troubles at the trail head. All of us on this trip were single, two of us recently so. The therapeutic effect of it all can't be overstated. For me personally, the beauty was intoxicating. "My cup runneth over" is more perfect a description of the feeling than I can come up with on my own.

I've never been much of a religious person. My spirituality in the past has been limited to existential angst more than anything else. I've always said though that being in nature is the closest thing I get to transcendental experiences, and this weekend yet again confirmed it. I was humming "Amazing Grace" all down the trail, and the worlds of psalm 23 kept bubbling up as each new vista presented itself. This trip was exactly what I needed.

Surely beauty and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.