Saturday, August 5, 2017

Hiking for the Soul

 I believe we're valuing wilderness more because we realize we may be losing it. Poet, essayist, farmer, and novelist Wendell Berry says there are only two kinds of places: sacred places and desecrated places, and we're finding more and more of the latter, so when my wife Karen and I got back from a vacation in Moab, Utah we sat down and compared notes on our journey. Here are some of our thoughts.

We armed ourselves with plenty of water and decided to hike to False Kiva in the Canyonlands. False Kiva is hidden under a vast alcove at the edge of Island of the Sky district and there are no maps to the spot. Our first stop was at Dead Horse Point and from there we proceeded to the trail head at Upheaval Dome. It's steep and rocky and a bit treacherous due to the loose stones underfoot. After a three hour hike a small sun-filled alcove appeared in the amphitheater walls. Criss-crossing the boulder-strewn base of the cliffs, we hiked steeply up to the alcove. Once there, the foundation of a round kiva overlooked the vast canyonlands and buttes beyond. Then the trail abruptly turned upwards and we finally clambered up another set of boulders and came upon the site. It is simply astounding that anyone ever found this in the first place – you literally cannot see False Kiva until you are about to enter the site from ten yards away. We stayed for over an hour, just taking in the surreal landscape.

 There are many analogies that could be drawn from our hike but to me the key takeaway is very basic. The trail teaches me a sense of “mindfulness”, as the Buddhists would call it and on this hike I found something sacred, something free and spent a long time with it. I hoped to bring something of that experience back to my life. Perhaps to allow just a little more perspective and a little more freedom in the world of solidity and structure. While we all derive great satisfaction from our work, what we do “for a living” everyday should not be an end in and of itself, rather it should be a means to an end. For me, the simplicity, history and grandeur of False Kiva gave me a sense that has more to do with being in an intimate relationship with the larger natural world and the Creator. There is also a joy to be found in experiencing the landscape with family and friends. To share a wonderful place with someone else. To hear the invitation, spoken with the assurance you will together see the same gift. "Look."

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