Category Archives: Encounter Creation

Why Did You Come Here?


Sunset On Mt. LeConte

He was pacing back and forth on a small section of the North Kaibab Trail, 200 yards or so north of Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  As I drew nearer, he was talking out loud, gesturing occasionally to no one around him.  The conversation concluded and as I passed him, he held up the smartphone and hit the “end call” button.  He turned his attention to me saying, “Can you believe it?  This is the only spot in the canyon where you can get a signal.”

As with any beautiful vista, one often shares the experience with others in quiet reverence as the moment is contemplated by each person’s reason for being there.  Such is the case at Cliff Tops on Mt LeConte at sunset.  There seems to be a profound respect shared by all who find themselves in the space and time of that moment.  It is a reward for the effort of hiking several miles and a few thousand feet in elevation.  However, there seemed to be a difference of opinion between two acquaintances in that the the one had no business saying what she said about the other; as the conversation was inadvertently shared with those around her during the moment the sky was on fire.  Apparently, there is a good signal up on Mt. LeConte.

“Why did you come here?”

The only electronics I took on my AT thru hike in 1984 was a flashlight, a digital watch and a small 35 mm camera, which had to be supplied with film. I replaced the batteries in the flashlight twice.  Navigation was accomplished by maps, a data book and the Philosopher’s Guide – all paper.  And the trip was documented in a small spiral bound notebook with a ball point pen.  The social network of the day was trail shelter registers, which were notebooks left by hikers providing news about trail conditions, AYCE restaurants in the next town, and who was hooking up with with whom.

The  presence of technology in the backcountry has changed the experience across the spectrum and like any powerful capability, one must come to terms with when to use it and when not to. Despite the tone projected thus far, please know that I am not a Luddite. I embrace technology, researching and carefully choosing which devices offer value to me and which require more support than the benefits they return.   The nature of this blog necessitates GPS technology to capture mileage, elevation and location.  My growing love affair with photography has opened up a completely new realm of technology possibilities.

My latest backpacking adventure underscored just how dependent I have become on my gadgetry.  Having  run out of battery charge on my GPS watch AND my smartphone, the last leg of my hike was not documented anywhere but in my mind.  No pictures, no voice recorder, no data.  I hiked the complete 7 mile length of the Pretty Hollow Gap trail in about two hours.  The next day, when I attempted to recount the section for posterity, I found I had little or no memory of the specifics of that hike.  For a blog that relies on information and data, this is bad.  The GPS, camera, and my voice reorder do in fact, help me remember details about each hike, solidifying the memory of them in my mind.  I remember where the water is in most campsites and I remember where all the big trees are.  I remember how many wet fords there are on each trail.  This is all good.

But I also came to realize that the hike down Pretty Hollow Gap put me in a state of contemplative flow, an experience which I have come to long for in the wilderness.  Without the constant awareness of checking the watch and recording where the switchbacks and stream crossings are, I was able to forget about time.  I remember being aware of the morning, the bird songs, the coolness of the air.  I don’t remember how steep the trail was and I don’t remember any stream crossings, although there has to be some.  There was regret in not having the information to document my hike, but upon reflection, what seemed to matter more was the memory of the contentment of that morning’s experience.  I reminded myself of the question –

“Why did you come here?”

HikerHead 2

Strider Out!


The Paradox of Place


Sunrise from Gregory Bald

Soon, I will finish the work by Belden C. Lane: Landscapes of the Sacred.  I was introduced to him by finding his book, Backpacking with the Saints by accident.  Dr. Lane has trod the path I am on and has engaged in a scholarly quest to understand place in American Spirituality.  I am blessed to follow his footprints.

Lane introduced the “tension between the idealistic celebration of placelessness and the materialist’s attention to the concrete demands of placement.”  Lane recalled the lives of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin whose lives both contributed to a theology of place.  On the one hand, we pursue a Creator who transcends space, revealing himself when He chooses.  Those who were sent to guide us were travelers, itinerants, humble humans to whom material possessions held no value.    On the other, we are creatures defined by our spaces and places.  It is easy to dismiss this all in anti-materialist idealism but Dorothy Day put a more human connection to our need for place. In her work with inner city women and young families in New York, she found that family needs a sense of place.  Humans derive dignity from having a place of their own to nurture their families and provide a safe home.  Home is defined by place.  Maurin and his more contemporary prophet/poet, Wendell Berry, believed that human dignity is derived from hard work tied to honest care and tending of the earth from which we came and to where we will return.  The earth, the land is embodied physically in place.

Whether your place is a small flat in New York City or a farm in rural Kentucky, place is integral in human existence.  But with place, then comes stuff; and the continuous accumulation of more stuff, requiring more space until we exceed our ability to put stuff.  It turns out it is easier to save our stuff than get rid of it so we rent more space, buy bigger homes with bigger closets and bigger garages.  We build bigger barns and buy more land.  And so then the struggle for each person to decide when they have enough  ensues.

In my own journey, more and more, I am adopting the simplicity of Thoreau as a guide but I am finding it difficult to balance my need to save what is valuable to me and realizing the implications of keeping it.  It is a work in progress that often requires compromise with my wife who has her own sense of place and the accumulation of stuff.

But one thing is certain, wilderness is the doorway to encounters with Creation and The Creator.  Wilderness is where sense of place changes.  There, we are the visitors.  Boundaries are obscured and the idea of ownership of place has no meaning.  Wendell Berry taught me that the only legitimate way to experience Creation is to do so on foot.  John Muir knew this.  Edward Abbey knew this.  Any assistance offered by machinery of any kind requires accommodations and has ramifications, all of which diminish the point of entering the wilderness in the first place.  Wilderness requires a Sabbath of sorts from our technology and our sense of place.  We get to leave our stuff behind and for a time, experience the joy of being.  We take only what we can carry and the less of it, the better.  Careful choices are made for survival and less for comfort and convenience.  But the rewards are rich and the benefits life changing.

HikerHead 2  Strider Out!

The Boxes We Build


Giant Sequoias In Jedidiah State Park in California. A true cathedral thousands of years old.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about boxes.  The kind we build for ourselves.  To shelter us, to protect us, to entertain us, to separate or to bring us together.  To hold our stuff, to differentiate ourselves culturally or economically.  To provides homes for our government, our commerce, our rich, our infirm, our indigent, our outlaws.

We build boxes to glorify ourselves, our wars, our victories over other humans.  And we build glorious boxes as a home for The Creator.  I have seen these boxes.

Humans have a strong sense of place.  We ascribe sacred significance to the places we build because they commemorate who we are as a people and who we believe The Creator to be.  I have been in some of these boxes and they are exquisite.  The European architects really knew how to create a sense of space reaching to the heavens, all under a roof and within walls.  Fabulous light comes into these spaces through colored glass depicting significant moments in the mythology of the believers.  The Hebrews built a temple to Yahweh that was the architectural marvel of its day.  The space within St. Peter’s Basilica is a place where man did indeed reach up and out to God to create a suitable residence for the almighty or at least in demonstration to other humans that the home of God should be a palace of the highest order.  The cathedrals of Europe are true works of art and represent the highest genius and ingenuity that humans developed, and they represent place… sacred space… inspiring awe in those who enter their walls.

Humans have long striven to build a house for The Creator, to set aside a place, or a box which they could designate as sacred space where they could come meet God at the time appointed for their rituals.  But here’s the thing…


The mighty Colorado River in the most grand cathedral of them all, The Grand Canyon

Whenever humans encountered The Creator in a significant moment, it was often in the wilderness.  Elijah, Moses, Jesus, Paul, all had life changing encounters while they were outside, not inside a box.  Yahweh met the first humans in the Garden, walking in the cool of the evening as He willed.

The Creator cannot be confined to place.  Yahweh chooses where and when the encounter takes place.  The Native Americans knew this.  Their being was inextricably tied to the earth itself.  The idea of owning property for oneself was foreign and certainly, it was The Creator who held deed to the earth and all who walk upon it.  How the Hebrews missed this is a mystery.  They were relentless in their desire to build a home for Yahweh and even confined him to a literal box: the ark of the covenant.  They passed that sense of place on to us and we have been fighting about it ever since.

If it is a significant moment, humans will mark it in space and time by building a monument.  It becomes theirs.  A space to be celebrated… and defended at all cost.  The ultimate sign of conquest is symbolized in the destruction of a culture’s sacred spaces.  It turns out that space and place are what define us as people, as cultures, as civilization itself. But space and place cannot last.  If humans don’t destroy their own sacred spaces, the planet eventually decides it’s time for change.

The Creator lives outside of time and space.  Our encounters are not chosen by us.  We can put ourselves in places free of distraction, which usually do not include walls, where we can become attuned to the natural rhythms and songs of Creation.  We can walk among the tree people to learn what they have to teach us about time and patience and we can watch our animal brothers glorify God by simply being who they are.  And if we are chosen for a blessing, we may get an invitation to a moment, an encounter, a vision of eternity.

HikerHead 2  Strider out!

Of Birdsong and the Pulse of a Mechanical Heartbeat

I got home in the early afternoon on a cool day in April.  I went out on the back deck to check out the situation and there… there…

Had I not been able to see a thing, it would have still been a blessing because the chorus of birdsong rivaled anything ever composed by Handel or Rutter.  Wanting to bathe myself in this rich aural moment, I rushed back in to get my ENO and a couple books appropriate to savor the moment, some Wendell Berry and some John Muir.

The hammock  secure, I nestled in and began to listen.  To listen the way I used to when I mounted just the right record on my audiophile turntable and sat at the right angel to the speakers for optimal stereo separation and frequency response.  Except today, there were no electronics.  No technology.  No anti static record fluid.

It was sensational:

Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher……… Gibery, gibery, gibery – Gibery, gibery gibery

Chit        Chit, chit         Chit       Chit, chit, chit

A modal scale worthy of a John Coltrane solo, played over and over in perfect rhythm

A Harley Davidson winding out it’s gears

Beecher, beecher, beecher           Beecher, beecher, beecher        Beecher, beecher beecher

Pruit         Pruit          Pruit          A 737 engine climbing to altitude from McGee Tyson

We arrrre,  we arrrrrre, chibber, chibber, chibber

Caw caw caw caw caw

The 5 speed transmission of an old Ford pickup with a bad muffler, grinding it out

Burgee, burgee, burgee, burgee, burgee

A commercial lawn mower,  and a leaf blower

Another one      

A skill saw screaming

Urrrrr chee, chee, chee, chee, chee 

A train whistle       Slabs of wood being dropped in a pile    

A Bobcat spreading gravel at the new house down the street    

A hedge trimmer next door

Wheeee che de de de de de

A Japanese motorcycle bragging its horsepower through a high pitched whine

Dog….  no, dogs barking               The air conditioner across the street

An airplane droning across the sky        A police siren, or maybe a firetruck?

A constant low roar combining all this, times a hundred, spreading out from every direction,  sound waves moving in and out of phase –  the pulse of a mechanical heartbeat

I became aware of my shame as I seemed to be an expert in the noise of man, yet I could barely mimic the birdsong, knowing nothing of the artist that shared it.  My shame bore anger and the magic was gone.

The ENO was stuffed in its sack, the books were gathered and I returned to my box and shut the door.  At least it was quiet there, but the artificial kind of quiet that comes from a well insulated wall, not the stillness of a cool breeze whispering across a meadow.

The city is noisy.  But the birds do not care.  Their beautiful songs are inherent in their nature and they share freely and joyfully

With each other

With the rest of creation

I wish I could be more like they are.


West Prong Trail

Date:    April 2, 2016

Miles:  2.7 miles           Elevation Gain:  978↑         Elev./Mi:   362     Grade:     7%          

Difficulty:  Class 1      Hiking Time: 1:02       Pace:  2.6  mph         Avg. Temp.:   72        

Section:  Cades Cove    

West Prong Trail  West Prong Trail Elevation

IMG_2637Much of the hiking as a 900 Miler, I do solo for a couple reasons.  First, it is often more practical as I tend to hike hard and fast and good hiking partners are hard to find.  I also tend to prefer spontaneity in planning.  Secondly, I hike for spiritual reasons and the solitude gives me room for reflection, not to mention increased probability of bear sightings.  But this is not to say that the Smokies should not be shared freely with friends and family.  A proper Sabbath has both elements of quiet self-reflection and moments of laughter and conversation that is the fellowship of loved ones and friends.  In a world where brevity of communication is embraced in snippets of 120 characters and selfies, a good long hike affords good long conversations.  For these times, there are certain trails that provide a balance between length, difficulty and the encounter with creation.  West Prong Trail fits this balance well.  It is an easy hike, perhaps best suited for a yo-yo as there are not any reasonable options for a loop.

West Prong Trail is a connector of sorts in that it connects the Cades Cove Trails with the trails of  the Tremont and Element Sections.  It also connects the Middle Prong of the Little River with its namesake, the West Prong of the Little River.  Both these prongs combine with the Little River proper at the famous “Y” at the Townsend entrance to the Park.  The trailhead is in a parking area off Tremont Road and the trail extends 2.7 miles to Bote Mountain Trail.  The hike is fairly easy and includes a couple features that include  the Walker Family Cemetery, Campsite #18 and the West Prong itself.

Dogwood Blooms on West Prong Trail

Dogwood Blooms on West Prong Trail

Almost immediately from the trailhead, there is a fork leading left on the designated trail and right to the Walker Family Cemetery, which is still maintained and active.  There is a trail leading from the cemetery back to West Prong Trail at 0.3 miles to complete a short loop.  The majority of the climbing for the day is over the first 1.25 miles as the trail ascend gently up the flank of Fodderstack Mountain to climb about 600 ft.  At 1.1 miles the Dorsey Branch Trail exits to the right.  Dewey Branch is an old 1.5 mile manway leading back to the West Prong Trailhead at the parking lot through mixed hardwoods in an area of remote homesites long disappeared and reclaimed by the forest.  The trail crests shortly after the Dorsey Branch Trail and descends slightly to the West Prong.  April brings the Dogwood blooms which are plentiful along this path.

West Prong at CS #18

West Prong at CS #18

CS #18

CS #18


At 2.1 miles the trail crosses over the West Prong on a footlog leading immediately to West Prong Campsite #18.  This large site has found itself overdeveloping along the creek with highly impacted spots and little privacy.  However, there is a second half of the site further up the trail which contains the bear cables and much more secluded accommodations.  The trail leaves the campsite in a bit of a switchback as you continue a slight climb up the foot of Bote Mountain.  At 2.7 miles the trail terminates at the intersection with Bote Mountain Trail in a nice pine forrest.

Data Book:

West Prong Data Book

HikerHead 2

Special thanks to my friend Lynn Youngs for the hours of conversation and fellowship.  Strider Out!

Rabbit Creek Trail to Hannah Mountain Trail – Yo-Yo Hike

Date: March 18, 2016

Miles: 9.0 miles           Elevation Gain:   1,834↑         Elev./Mi:   203        Grade:  4%          

Difficulty:  Class 3        Hiking Time: 3:07       Pace:  2.9  mph         Avg. Temp.:   72        

Section:  Cades Cove            

Rabbit Creek - Hannah Mt.Abrams Creek area is one of the best backpacking experiences in the Park.  It is off the beaten path and away from the high traffic areas although it is pretty popular with the horse riding community.  The beauty of Abrams Creek itself is shown off in many places and this out-and-back hike is no different.  The trailhead for Rabbit Creek Trail is directly across from the ranger station at the front of the campground.  Parking is just a hundred yards ahead.  This particular hike was originally planned to be a part of a backpacking trip on the previous weekend that included most of all the other trails in this section but at the end of that hike, the notion of adding another 9 miles was not met in my mind with great enthusiasm.  As it turned out it was fortuitous as the day turned out to be blessed with a sacred moment.  For a day hike, this is definitely not a bad choice.  There is plenty of water on the trail and Campsite #16 is in Scott Gap at the intersection between Rabbit Creek Trail and Hannah Mountain Trail.

Footlog on Abrams Creek

Footlog on Abrams Creek

This hike started about 9:00 on a clear morning.  The trail crosses Abrams Creek at less than 0.2 miles from the trailhead and there is a footlog bridge.  It should be made clear that at the time of this hike, the footlog was NOT actually across the Creek, but laying along the side as if turned on a hinge.  The cabling broke free in a fairly recent bout of high water and left the bridge in a sad state, meaning the hiker must ford the Creek.  As I am fond of this stretch of water, coupled with the warmth and beauty of the spring morning, wet feet were a small price to pay for contact with its refreshing flow.  The ford was easy as the current was slow.  The depth was no more than calf high.  The first half mile of the trail is nicely level as it passes through lands that were once farms and homesteads.  At 0.5 miles the trail begins it’s gradual assent up Pine Mountain.  At 1.7 miles, there is some of IMG_2543the same wind storm damage you find along Beard Cane Trail.  At 2.3 miles, views of Chilhowee Mountain come into view.  The trail crests Pine Mountain at 2.5 miles and descends to the intersection with Hannah Mountain at Scott Gap.  After 56 minutes and 2.7 miles of hiking, a short break was due in Scott Gap before heading on to the palindromic Hannah Mountain Trail back toward Abrams Creek.  After 0.4 miles there is a nice stream and a better water source perhaps than the one at CS# 16.

Abrams Creek at Hannah Mountain Trail

Abrams Creek at Hannah Mountain Trail


The end of Hannah Mountain Trail at Abrams Falls Trail

The hike goes through a pine forest complete with pine straw carpeting.  At 1.7 miles, a wonderful sound comes to ear.  It is the song of Abrams Creek.  You arrive at the creek at 1.8 miles.  Here, the 900 miler must face an ethical dilemma.  The Hannah Mountain Trail officially ends at the intersection with Abrams Falls Trail, which is across the creek.  Those hiking the Cooper Road – Abrams Falls Loop would come there but have no reason to ford the Creek.  In February, it was my plan to hike the large loop that included the east side of Rabbit Creek back to Cades Cove.  Alas, the water was treacherously high and the current too swift.  But back to the ethical dilemma.  Here I was on the other side with the decision before me.  Do I ford the Creek and complete the last 30 yards or just wave at the sign across the water and check it off?  It was a quick decision.  I have a keen bond with this river (somehow the name “creek” does not afford enough majesty and respect to this ribbon of water) and today, the weather was warm and the water was low.  With the aid of a couple sticks, the ford was complete in about 5 minutes.  Now, this being a Yo-yo hike, there is no avoiding the fact that I had to turn around and come back.  Two baptisms in a row!

Once safely on the west bank, it was time to dry off and have lunch.  Every time I hike alone, I invite a guest to come along.  I have enjoyed conversations with the great Christian author, N.T. Wright, several great poets and the grandfather of my core philosophy as a hiker, John Muir himself.  The freedom and openness of the wilderness makes great literature come alive in a way that other spaces simply cannot.  This day was a discussion with Mr. Wright in his book, Following Jesus.  He used a river as an example of explaining Heaven.  You look across and see a car on the other side.  The only way it got there was to cross through the river and yet, there is no way it could have made it. There’s no bridge and the water is too wide and deep.  But you know it did.  Wright is fond of describing Heaven as being God’s space and it’s not as far away as some traditions would make it seem.  In fact it’s only a separation of dimension. A mere breath away.  And sometimes, that veil is pulled back, if for only a moment, and in that one moment one experiences a sacred encounter.  Having just crossed the river and returning, this insight suddenly became very real to me.  “You see what I’ve been trying to tell you?”  When one is allowed to see past the veil, the experience cannot be measured in time because on that side, time is eternity.  Seconds, hours, days all come together in a mere moment that lasts forever.

I don’t know how long I was there and I dared not defile the experience by noting the time.  All I do know is that I pulled my shoes back on and retuned the way I came.  The hike back to Scott Gap continued the conversation with Mr. Wright bouncing around my imagination, highlighted by a warm gentle breeze.  The 2.7 miles on Rabbit Creek Trail started with a short climb of 0.5 mile to the crest of Pine Mountain.  The descent made for swift hiking back to the trail head, exceeding 3 miles/hr.  The creek comes into view as the trail levels out.  Amazingly, there were daffodils on either side of the trail; perhaps a remnant of a former homesite.   I don’t know how I missed them on the way out but given the blessings of the day already, I wound’t have discounted any explanation.  At the end, I had to ford the Creek one last time; four times in the day.  This last one was a bit of a thank you for the day, wet feet and all.

There are trails and hikes on the 900 miler journey that are not exciting, nor are they memorable.  Sometimes they are purely annoying.  But you have to hike them so you can color your map.  I approached today as one of those uninteresting orphans created by weariness on a previous hike.  Adding to the annoyance was the long drive back into Abrams Creek Campground to get to the trailhead.  But this one thing is for sure; had I gone ahead and hiked this section in February or on the previous weekend, I would not have had the experience I have shared.  Had I decided to forgo fording the Creek at Abrams Falls Trail, perhaps I would not have taken the break and had the conversation with N.T. Wright in that space and in that moment.  Sacred encounters are just that way.

HikerHead 2  Be well.  Strider Out…


Wilderness Sabbath Part 1: The Fourth Commandment

View From Alum Cave Trail

View From Alum Cave Trail

The God Who Rests

Our Hebrew brothers passed along a wonderful gift they received from the Creator; “The God who rests”.  In the creation narrative, YHWH created the world in six phases or days.  On day one, the heaven and the earth were created and light was separated from darkness. YHWH gave names to the light which He called day, and night, which he gave to darkness.  This is a little confusing because how could there have been the first day until day was created and named.  But that was settled fairly early, probably by a committee, and things moved along to day two, where YHWH created a firmament or dome to separate the waters on the earth from the waters in heaven.  Day three was pretty busy because land was separated from the sea and then vegetation sprang forth.  John Muir might have conveyed this as the beginning of the tree and plant people.  Light, being what separates order from chaos, needed to come from somewhere so on day four,  two great lights were set in the heavens.  One to rule the day and one to rule the night, along with the stars which must have taken a while.  These lights were rather crucial because their arrival made possible the seasons and the passage of time.  Day five brought the birds and sea monsters.  And then, day six.  Walking beasts, crawling beasts, slithering beasts; all according to their own kind… and it was good!  But there was one more thing to do before sunset. YHWH needed to somehow manage this creation.  All the plants and animals needed names, not to mention the rivers and mountains (which they weren’t).  So YHWH gathered up some dust from the ground, breathed on it, and man became a living thing.  YHWH put man in a garden where they took longs walks in the evening and talked.  There was balance in Creation.

Now we can debate how things worked out since that moment but that’s not the point of this story.  The point is that after all the hard work that went into creating the universe, YHWH took a break.  And it must have been pretty important because He blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.  The God Who Rests.

The First Top Ten List

So after that, the narrative got pretty interesting because there were tales of romance and treachery and betrayal.  There were stories of kings and war and mighty nations.  YHWH had gotten pretty fond of one particular man named Abraham and promised him that his descendants would become a mighty nation and they did but there was a problem.  These descendants were under the rule of a dictator called Pharaoh.  Pharaoh ruled over the most powerful country on Earth called Egypt, and controlled all the food production in the known world.  Abraham’s children, by then were called Hebrews, and they were responsible for making all the bricks necessary to build the storage bins that held the world’s production of food.  Pharaoh apparently missed the part about resting on the seventh day.  YHWH was none too pleased because the seventh day is when He delighted in the fellowship of His people.  So He set a bush on fire near where a shepherd named Moses was hanging out in the wilderness.  Now many strange and wonderful things occur in the wilderness, where one is free from the noise of civilization, but to see a bush on fire that isn’t being burned up was really out of the ordinary.  Adding to this oddity was the fact that the burning bush was talking.  YHWH, being the creative force He is, tends to have a flair for the dramatic and during this conversation with the bush, it dawned on Moses that YHWH wanted him to lead these Hebrews to a new land.  The adventures of this mass exodus were epic.  There were plagues and fire and locusts and death angels and the parting of the sea.  Once it was all over, YHWH wanted to make sure that His people got the message that the seventh day is really important, among other things.  So Moses went out for a hike in the mountains and he and YHWH discussed the Top Ten Things for a Peaceful and Prosperous Life.  Moses didn’t have a blog at that time.  Nor did he have a piece of paper handy.  So YHWH helped out by carving the very first Top Ten List into tablets of rock, which Moses had to haul back down the mountain without a backpack while wearing sandals.  The first three of the Top Ten were YHWH’s expectations regarding His relationship with the Hebrews.  That last 6 were commandments for people respecting each other.  Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

The Fourth Commandment

It’s that fourth commandment that is the pivot point.  It’s the bridge.  YHWH knew He couldn’t just declare a set of rules and leave it at that.  Relationships are not about rules anyway.  Relationships are about spending time together; about being in each other’s presence.  This is important.  After all, YHWH started the whole idea in the very first week and somehow, it had gotten overlooked and forgotten.  And humanity paid a heavy price for it.  It’s tough to say which, if any of the commandments is most important but it is pretty clear that the fourth commandment is the one that holds it all together.  The God Who Rests wanted the Hebrews to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

And so the Sabbath is a day set aside for prayers and meditation.  It is a time for family and friends to sing songs and tell stories.  It is to be shared freely with visitors and guests.  It is a time of feasting and of fasting.  It is a time to cease from the activities of commerce and production (the making of bricks), which are the concerns of men, and to make time and space for long walks in the evening with The God Who Rests.  It’s the bridge between Heaven and Earth.  It began in a garden where YHWH put man to live and when man forgot, YHWH reminded him on a mountain top.  It seems that the wilderness is always around when God has something important to say.  And that’s a story for another time.

Sabbath As Resistance

I found Walter Brueggemann’s book, “Sabbath As Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now” to be of immense influence in forming my thoughts for this post.  It is a quick read but very rich in it’s brevity.

HikerHead 2   Strider Out…

We Were Created To Live In A Garden


View from Charlie’s Bunion on The Appalachian Trail

“We were created to live in a garden, and it is there we feel most at home.”

                                                                                                 Wendell Boertje

A good friend was fond of saying that human beings were created to live in a garden.  That sentiment has always stuck with me.  When I first heard him say it, it was one of those moments when one realizes a basic truth, which had been there all along but remained hidden for some reason.

In the Jewish and Christian traditions, at the beginning, The Creator called the heavens and the earth into being and set about separating the darkness and chaos from light and divine order.  Then came the plants, and animals.  By the end of the first week, The Creator made man in the form of Adam from the dust of the ground to be the guardian and steward over Creation.  Although it was late on Friday of the first week when Adam showed up, The Creator was able to wrap everything up by the weekend and declared that it was all very good.  There was harmony and balance in a perfect system that was fruitful and self sustaining.

Then The Creator took a break.

On Sunday of week 2, The Creator planted a garden He named Eden, which means “delight” and “garden of God”.  Norman Maclean said, “Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”  And in Eden it did. By now, Eve showed up and everything was set.  The scriptures mention God walking through the garden in the cool of the evening, delighting Himself in the Creation and the company of Adam and Eve.

The scriptures tell of the prophet Elijah being sent by God to “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” (1 Kings 19:11).  There was wind, an earthquake and a fire.  And then a small voice; a whisper asking “What are you doing here?”  The voice of God was in the stillness.

The Jump Off

The Jump Off

My hiking companion and I arrived at The Jump Off on a beautiful Friday morning and we were blessed to have the place to ourselves, which is quite unusual.  The air was clear and still.  A slight breeze whispered to us we were in presence of something greater than ourselves.  There was profound stillness and quiet.  You could hear the hawk calling far off as it soared over the mountains.  Wisps of white clouds stood out against the deep azure sky and the green ridges rippled out as far as you could see.  The fresh smell of the fir trees was warm and sweet like bread baking.  A small quiet voice whispered to me, “Where have you been? I have missed you.  I’m glad you are here.”

While we were held in awe at the sight of Creation on this day, my companion said to me that this must have been how The Creator introduced Adam to his new home.  Perhaps He said something like, “See all I have created before you.  I made it for my pleasure and I want you to take care of it for me. I will meet you here and we will walk together and talk”.

I think Wendell was right.  The Creator is delighted to be among His creation and to be in the company of human beings.  He made a garden just so He could take quiet walks with us and He invited us to live there.  The world we created for ourselves is full of noise and distractions.  Alas, the Garden of God was closed to us long before we started keeping track of such things.

But maybe not.

Maybe it’s right in our back yard and we never thought of it before.