"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn." - John Muir
Last weekend I had the great fortune to go on a backpacking trip in the high sierras of Yosemite National Park. I had been to this particular high sierra camp Glen Aulin before, almost 10 years ago with my dad and sister. From the time I was about 9 until that trip when I was about 19, I had the great opportunity to have gone on several similar backpacking trips in Yosemite through a summer camp I went to near the park. I was always deeply impressed by the beauty and solitude of the high sierras, able to let the silence and magnitude of the scenery wash over me with complete surrender. It was simple to transition from the busyness and crowded throngs of "regular life" to the quiet meditative peace of the mountains. These trips always carried with them a deep spiritual retreat as well. The summer camp was rooted in deep christian faith and a kind of very close family was always formed there. These trips provided a kind of comfort and real grounding that I can scarcely recreate in my adult life.
I know the combination of simple, trusting and adaptable youth as well as nostalgia that grows as the years pass and time gap widens between then and now attributes to this view of these trips. I do know, that however exaggerated, these memories are some of the fondest of my childhood and I wouldn't trade them for the world.
Our trip last weekend of course made me think about the backpacking trips of my youth, and my reaction was one of mixed feelings. For one, I felt grateful. To be back in the overwhelming beauty of the high sierras, to take a break from the "real world". I felt warm and calm remembering the trips of past. But I also felt a sort of strange melancholy for what seems like simpler times lost. I know that coming back as an adult, I had a harder time letting go completely of the everyday noise in my head, relaxing fully into the beauty and peace that surrounded me. Sadness, also, for the lost ability to give myself more in a spiritual way. Although I don't think I can ever be completely sure of what I believe in a spiritual sense, and do know where my tendencies lead, I mourn the loss of the comfort that came with the kind of convictions I had in my youth. It saddens me, I think, not because somewhere deep down I think I have strayed from a path I should be on or a belief that I am wrongfully rejecting, but because like all humans, I long to find meaning in the world, to find a connection in the void.
But through that sadness comes another source of joy and a different kind of comfort. The mountains were still there. They will always be there, ever present and majestic. Nature will always welcome those who seek comfort and peace in its beauty. While people continually complicate the world, marginalizing and persecuting others in the name of religion and their beliefs, the mountains remain silent pillars of peace and acceptance to all. They are more tolerant and steady than any human spoken "belief" that seems to mostly judge and ridicule.
And so I will always return, young or old, with structured beliefs or not, eternally grateful to the incredible temple of nature that always welcomes me with open arms. Let us never take for granted the beauty of our earth, and care for it like we should. It has so much to offer us.