Long weekend. Time out from the City.
Camping. Forested mountains, rocky snow-flecked peaks. Hiking paths leading to a rushing crystal alpine creek. Glassy lakes cupped in quiet hills and reflecting marshy grasses and the rugged mountain backdrop.
The dip, push, and drip of a paddle and the hum of a hovering blue dragonfly. Laughter of children at play. As I write that I’m reminded of James Joyce’s alter-ego Stephen Daedalus listening to children outside a window and remarking “that’s God.”
Steady thock of an axe chopping wood.
Crackling campfires send soft blue plumes of smoke skyward.
And then night. Fragrant fire wrapping us in its warm glowing embrace. Black silhouettes of trees against a deep purple-blue sky dusted with a million unimaginatively distant suns. Drinks and laughter and the Queen of Smores working her magic for all.
Bedtime and the cozy comfort of a heavy sleeping bag.
The chilly dew of morn. Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Angela Hewitt. Steaming hot coffee, pancakes and sausages on the barbecue. A day full of outdoor activities.
The return home. I sneak away to the Cafe for an hour. It’s a different kind of quiet from the mountains. In the back room, Xenon’s Bible room, I pull down a book from the top shelf.
“It is the story of all life that is holy and is good to tell, and of us two-leggeds sharing in it with the four-leggeds and the wings of the air and all green things; for these are children of one mother and their father is one Spirit.”
So begins the testament of Black Elk in the 1932 classic Black Elk Speaks. By 1930 he is an old man living alone in a one-room log cabin on the Pine Ridge Reservation. When a Nebraska poet named John G. Neihardt is introduced to him he is ready to share the story of his life.
“….But now that I see it all [his life] as from a lonely hilltop, I know it was the story of a mighty vision given to a man too weak to use it; of a holy tree that should have flourished in a people’s heart with flowers and singing birds, and now is withered; and of a people’s dream that died in bloody snow.”
I count myself a very fortunate man. I have been blessed with a loving wife, a healthy son, a modest home in the City, and the means to escape the City on weekends should the inclination arise.
‘Take nothing for granted,’ a voice inside me councils.
This Life of ours is a gift. Cherish every moment.
If you are fortunate enough to leave the lights of the City behind you, even for one night, and take the opportunity to stare up into the heavens, you too might see a million stars.