I suppose it all started in Heart Butte, Montana. There’s something about being away from a lot of the usual “inside” distractions. There is something, indeed, about getting OUT into the sunshine, into the dust, into the mountains. And there is something about getting next to people who are very close to the earth, who see rocks and trees and horses and otters as equal members of a connected family. There’s something basic about being connected to what is real and right in front of you.
For a long time, I have felt a certain connection to the mountains. One of my favorite memories was spending 5 days backpacking around the circumference of Mt. Rainier, and after a couple of days, feeling very close to the natural world around me. In early August, several dads and sons took off into beautiful Royal Basin in the Olympic Mountains, and that feeling returned again. Everything you need to survive strapped to your back. Fire and water and a heightened appreciation for food. Majesty of sky, rocks, trees, and even lightning. Letting your eyes adjust to the dark rather than flipping on a switch. Patience. Peace. Basic.
There is something, too, in the physical accomplishment of a task. Certainly this was the case in Heart Butte, where sweat was plenteous, and a hard day’s work was easy to find. Not to mention the impromptu sit downs at the feet of elders “who had something to say” and would feed our souls with the wisdom of their years. And there was more elevation to gain in Royal Basin than was apparent looking at contour lines on a two dimensional map under fluorescent lights. The artificial scents on our bodies giving way to the earthy smells of sweat and dirt, just as those lines jumped off the page becoming real trails through high mountains. But the cadence of legs like pistons on a bicycle brought the basics of sweat and hard work to a head this summer. As several Silverdale Lutheran folks joined 1800 other riders moving from Seattle to Vancouver, BC found out, there is something beautiful about getting closer to a road than any vehicle can get you, especially when YOU are the motor. Every drop of rain, every surface of road or trail, EVERY rise and hill taken for granted in a car, become critical factors in the work of muscles, the rate of the heart, and the persistent cadence of the legs. There is an appreciation for weather and respect for terrain that can’t come through a gas pedal and a windshield. Basic.
Why are these basics so important? A careful read through the first two chapters of Genesis will give us a clue if we ask the question, “How does the Creator intend for us to be in relationship with the creation?” We could answer that with words like stewardship, or we could use words like subdue and dominion (these words in Hebrew have much more to do with care and responsibility than with domination or control, by the way). Ultimately, however, I think we would find that much of it has to do with connection, as if nurturing an intimate relationship with the creation may help us in our relationship with the Creator. It reads that way to me, anyway. And, according to the story, it may be no further away than a garden in the back yard.
So maybe that’s why these three experiences this summer were so meaningful; maybe that’s why experiences like this are things we pursue, take time off to do, and post to our blogs and other social media. Because they matter. And they matter because they connect us both to the real, and to the One who breathed the real into existence – fresh air, mountains, muscles, and all. And what could be more basic than that?