All beauty in the world is either a memory of Paradise or a prophecy of the transfigured world.
|Dolly Sods, Joseph Rossbach|
Last weekend, several friends and I took a backpacking trip into Dolly Sods Wilderness, a rugged section of West Virginia’s Monongohela National Forest. The mercury peaked at 104° as we motored West. I’d be lying if I denied having second thoughts about the whole affair. I do love the mountains and the streams, the wood-quiet which is so very different from the city-quiet. I love discovering new territory. I do not, however, love to sizzle. On principle, I stand opposed to camping in the South, in the scorched God-forsaken month of July. However, this was the only date that (after great machination) worked, and our friend guiding the trip promised the mountains would grant us a cool gift. I doubted, but I swallowed my principle and my wariness and followed.
I wanted to fill my lungs and stretch my legs, tromping into the oaks and finding that odd joy that comes from carrying all the goods you’ll live by on your now-weary shoulders. There is a leisure that I know only in the wild. When I enter these hallowed spaces, I remember what I’ve missed. I welcome an old friend, and I wonder again what has kept me away so long.
On Saturday, I spent a stretch of four hours alone, under the canopy of green trees, in a hammock rocked by a cool (God, thank you) breeze. For these gentle, shaded hours, I read Vigen Guroian’s Fragrance of God, this Orthodox-theologian-gardener’s meditations on finding God amid both the human and the humus. There are those moments when text and space collide. This was such a moment.
It’s as good as it is rare for the soul whenever we move completely off the grid. Not so long ago, it was normal to disconnect from the every-way that the rest of the world can, with merely a click, track me down. Traditionally, I am a late adopter. I was a holdout until the last possible moment on cell phones. I remember the way it used to be when Miska or I travelled – we needed a calling card if we wanted to check in with anybody back home. I miss those days. It has been far too long since I was truly inaccessible.
But there I was, reading Guroian amid a world of stillness.