Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sublime Nature

For the past several months I have wanted to write about sublime nature. The desire grew in part from a comment my fellow kayaker and water blogger Bonnie wrote in response to my post about Searching for a Retreat Center. She wrote “Kayaking sort of IS my retreat. I don't think I ever feel as peaceful & right with myself & the world as I do when I'm out on the water.”

I could not agree more with my friend, but I would add hiking and climbing to kayaking and trails and mountain tops to water. Sometimes I wonder how much of my religious and spiritual sentiment is an outgrowth of my love of the outdoors and how much of my love for the outdoors is an outgrowth of my spiritual and religious sentiments. My ecological ethic has, after all, been as influenced by Thoreau, Muir and Abby as by the two creation accounts of Genesis and the Book of Psalms.

While recently serving jury duty I started reading John Muir’s The Mountains of California and was inspired by Muir’s following description of alpenglow. “To me [alpenglow is] one of the most impressive of all the terrestrial manifestations of God. At the touch of this divine light, the mountains seemed to kindle to a rapt, religious consciousness, and stood hushed and waiting like devout worshipers. Just before the alpenglow began to fade, two crimson clouds came streaming across the summit like wings of flame, rendering the sublime scene yet more impressive, then came the darkness and the stars.”

Whether it be evening alpenglow, early morning mist rising and burning off from calm water, or sunlight illuminating early morning fog in an Appalachian forest accompanied by the gurgling of a mountain stream (photo right), my spirit can be similarly lifted by the experience as if I were in a Gothic Cathedral illuminated by candlelight and the sun shining through stained glass windows, the sound of Gregorian Chant resonating off the stone walls.