Approx. read time: 2:50 min.
The morning air feels crisp and promising as I wait for the No. 91 to whisk me up the west side of the Cascades, up the McKenzie River Corridor, for my weekly hike.
As I wait, a tree swallow sails across a cloudless sky, perhaps on a breakfast run for hungry nestlings back home.
A teenage boy and his Irish Setter zip with ease down the quiet street on their motorized skateboard in the rich glow of early morning sun.
For me, this weekly hike is sacred work, a necessary form of worship. I am outfitted in my vestments: blue jeans and workshirt over a tee, a light-weight vest to protect the shoulders from morning chill; hiking boots which I notice show a few seasons’ wear on the tread.
And my hiking stick, hand-crafted from a tree branch by a young local artisan.
Everything about me feels ready for this day of worthy worship. This day of noticing things.
I recall the utterly beautiful line from the lyrical 1985 Eucharistic Prayer III: All Creation rightly gives You praise!
All Creation—of which I am a part.
The phrase invites me to put my heart, my soul, with the heart and soul of the elements of Creation which I can touch and feel, breathe and smell, see and lodge in the memory; the parts of Creation I can climb and descend, the switchbacks and the vistas, through tall trees, which reveal the sparkling river below.
These hikes, like all worthy worship, remind me that humankind is not the center of Creation. God is, and shimmers with divine vitality in the heart of all living things.
I walk reverently along the trail, through the livingroom of Grandfather Slug, Sister Trail Snake, Brother Brown-shell Snail.
I walk through the expansive backyard of Sister Black Bear, Brother Cougar, and the ferociously protective Mother Barred Owl—all of whom remind me that I am not at the top of the food chain but a part of it.
And so I worship and give thanks for this amazing part of my own expansive backyard which refreshes and restores me by its very existence.
Ten minutes into my seven-hour hike I notice a massive Doug fir has fallen clean across the trail.
Clambering over the trunk looks iffy. So I toss over my backpack, and just barely squeeze through the open space beneath, through the tree’s blanket of debris.
The natural forest is both fragile and resilient. Massive ancient trees uproot, crash, split in two across a ravine, across the backs of other fallen trees, shed their shredded bark, grow moss, and become fertile ground for the next generation of seedlings and forest plants.
I am amazed at the slow and perfect cycle of natural forest life.
This stretch of forest could be gone in a day, smolder for weeks in its own ashes in the aftermath of fire’s fury. It happened last September, just west of this trail, as we all watched in horror.
So I carry a grieving in my heart, and a hope, for this amazing and fragile and beautiful planet, exposed everywhere to the forces of destruction, yes, and regeneration, the forces of death, yes, and unexplainable new life.
What immersions in Creation inspire you to worship the Creator? Drop me a line and let me know!