Serving as our first Pilgrim in Residence, Ryan Moore is taking us outdoors and inviting us into his own sacred journeys in a series of three posts. You can read my introduction of him and the first post in this series here and his second post (and the first installment of the continued story below) here. If you haven’t read part two you’ll definitely want to read it before continuing with part three below. It’s no fun to read the last page of a book before reading the rest of the story! -Lacy
I was limping my way around Mount Rainier on the third day of my six day hike.
Suffering under blistered feet and strained hips, my daily mileage numbers now read like a masochistic lottery ticket: 11, 17, 23, 15, 18, 16. My world became very simple, each day crystal clear in its purpose: Get up. Eat. Walk, walk, walk, walk. Eat. Sleep.
Every morning the trail’s end seemed impossibly far away. Each day was an exercise in faith just to make it to camp. I literally had pray. Thankfully – even miraculously – I made it every step of the way around that mountain. No hyperbole necessary: I will never be the same.
Pain alone brings a searing immediacy to life. Each moment of pain is taxing, made heavy with the burden of discomfort. But in the end the beauty I encountered in those days lingers in my memory far more powerfully than the pain. It was the beauty that changed me, not the pain.
Do you know what walking through fields of wildflowers does to you after enough days?
Beauty too can hurt. But this kind of pain is not one that wounds. This is the cleansing pain of longing awakened.
The infinite complexity of the created world eventually stops registering on my beauty receptors. I max out; blow a circuit. There is simply too much beauty for my soul to take in. I can no longer synthesize the scenery before me into something meaningful. I black out, shut down, and keep walking.
Otherwise, I must stay and spend the rest of eternity looking at this particular scene, these particular flowers, smelling this scent, seeing this light on those glaciers and these clouds. We are time-bound, finite creatures with a longing for eternity in our hearts.
“We are time-bound, finite creatures
with a longing for eternity in our hearts.”
I must walk on if I am to sleep tonight or have any further life to speak of. To root myself with this one view of Mount Rainier is to lose every other scene I will later discover.
The world is infinitely complex and gloriously beautiful, yet time demands that we keep moving to stay alive. I do not have a large enough tank to hold all the beauty around me. The most I can do is savor the smallest amount, skimmed off the top of creation and let it seep into my little heart.
The excess bleeds out from my blistered feet and mosquitos bitten calves returning to the soil from which my body came. We are surrounded by beauty unspeakable, yet we cannot fully capture it anymore than a fish can swallow the sea.
In fact, we seem to be made with little capacity to keep or hold beauty at all. Beauty is essential for our soul’s flourishing, yet we cannot store it up in warehouses to access it whenever we like.
We must eat beauty anew each morning as manna from the sky. Try to keep it and it spoils, rotting in the jars of our photographs and books. No words can capture the awe of these places. No photo approaches what it is like to be here. Only being alive with your skin on can give you this experience.
“We must eat beauty anew each morning
as manna from the sky.”
This is part of the reason I continue to be drawn back to wild places. It is here I find what a million books can never give me: the true, beating heart of beauty, held out by the hand of God for anyone who would have eyes to see and feet to walk.
What continuously draws you back to wild places?