I just celebrated my father-in-law's 75th birthday by driving with the whole family (2 van loads) to as many National Parks as we could in a 10 day period. It's one of those experiences that I'm sure will be more precious to me the further away I get from it! That sounds like an insult, but I don't mean it that way. Some experiences are more understood when I am able to stand back and see the bigger picture. As my life moves forward I am able to see their beauty and value in way I couldn't when I was "in the moment".
I thought a lot about that as I observed the vast beauty at so many National Parks: Yellowstone, Zion National Park, The Grand Canyon, Sequoia National Forest, Crater Lake. As I tried to take as much in as I could in these places, by the end of the trip I saw some characteristics that were common to all the these marvelous places:
1. At every place, some event that was big and catastophic had happened sometime in the distant past: A fire, an earthquake, erosion, a volcano, etc. The marks of these events were still evident, and were responsible for part of the beauty that was present.
2. Wherever we went, there were people from all over the world excited to view the beauty in these places. No one needed a translator--their eyes were all they needed.
3. All of these places are natural wonders--man didn't make any of them. They've all been around for a long time. Their beauty endures as time marches on.
Probably my greatest inspiration came from going to see the Giant Sequoias. The valley below this forest is basically a desert. It looks like there could be nothing anywhere near that was big and beautiful. But up above at 8,000-10,000 feet there are huge Sequoias. The largest tree in the world lives there. I found out that Sequoias take root best in a place where there has been complete destruction. They grow really well in ashes from a forest fire. They often grow in small groups because of how the seeds land when trees fall over. They are very resilient to harsh conditions and live for hundreds of years.
I want to be like a Giant Sequoia. When life is dry, I need to seek a higher spiritual place. I need to remember that the soil of destruction can be the perfect place for the seeds of some big, wonderful things to grow. I need to remember that it works best to grow with a group. It makes everyone stronger and more able to withstand the harsh conditons that life sometimes brings.I want the beauty of my life to endure, to remain, to inspire people--often without words--to consider that there is something, Someone bigger than they are who can mold something amazing out of the good, the bad, and the ugly in their life.
Right now, in the moment it doesn't feel like much is happening--it's just another place where I'll have to wait in faith until I get further out and can catch a glimpse of "the bigger picture".