In my mind, there are two particular moments of awe I will never forget. The first was several years ago during the Perseid meteor shower on a perfect August night. A few friends and I had camped out at what's become a favorite a spot of mine among the ridge lines of the mountains in Central Pennsylvania between State College and a small town called Huntingdon. We were sprawled out, each one of us, on our own spot on the bare rocks that jutted out from the trees. The air was warm but dry for August, and the moon was still hiding below the horizon, giving us a little time of perfect darkness.
I've been all over the country--SoCal, Pacific Northwest, the northeast, the southeast, the Smokies, Wyoming, Montana--and I have never, ever seen the stars as brilliant and breathtaking as I did that night in Nowheresville, Pennsylvania. I remember popping bing cherries into my mouth and lying with the cool rock on my back as I watched meteor after meteor streak across the sky with the deepest, most complex canopy of stars behind them. Some shooting stars were so bright, they honestly scared us, left our jaws dropped.
The other moment is the first time I stood in the presence of the Tetons. A few years ago, I took a trip with a group of friends to Wyoming and Montana. On our way up to Big Sky, we decided to hike and camp out in the Tetons. I thought the first sight of these legitimate, craggy, beautiful mountains was enough to make me want to die happy on the spot, but the best was yet to come.
We started at Jenny Lake and hiked toward what's known as Cascade Canyon. Once we passed the mouth of the canyon and reached our campsite which was nestled between three incredible mountain ranges, this is what I saw:
It's like we had been swallowed by beautiful giants. I irrationally (or maybe rationally) decided in that moment that I would never leave that canyon. Those mountains would be the only friends I'd ever need again.
I did leave eventually, though begrudgingly.
It's moments like the ones I just described, in places like those, (and honestly, hours and hours of watching Ken Burns' The National Parks: America's Best Idea on Netflix) that give me such great appreciation for national parks and the preservation of wild, beautiful, sacred places. A few great men and women fought fiercely to keep some of the most incredible places in our country from being razed and bulldozed by the "American Dream" and our ever-increasing appetites for expansion.
There's a line from a Switchfoot song I love; it says, "When nothing is sacred, all is consumed."
I can't help but think how true that line has to be for all of us, nature-lovers or not, as we pursue the life we dream of in the kind of world we dream of roaming.
There are parts of our lives we've allowed to be consumed--our schedules, our wallets, our energy, our hearts, our affections--because we don't see them as sacred. These aren't areas in our lives that might benefit from us defending them--they're areas that need us to defend them.
Let me the first to admit that that I've given over so much of my life to these tiny matchstick flames called obligation and auto-pilot. They seemed harmless at first, but as time has gone on, those little fingers of flames have grown and grown, eating everything in sight.
My schedule became full of stuff I don't even care about. My time with friends wasn't just few and far between--half the time, I wasn't even with people I actually wanted to be around, and I was doing stuff with them that was boring me out of my mind. I had meetings all. the. time. My diet was mostly Wendy's (which sounds awesome at first...and then it becomes really not awesome). The number of books I was reading was zero. The amount of time I spent in the gym was zero. The amount of creative energy or adventurous spirit I had was zero.
It's shocking how fast all can become consumed.
Your "consumption" might look different than mine, and so might your sacred stuff. That's fine--your dreams probably look a little different, too. But we all have to reach a point where we see the fire eating at the life of our dreams and decide to finally extinguish it.
Let's make room in our lives for more proverbial (or literal) stargazing while the rocks cool our backs and the meteors light up our faces. Let's defend, with ferocity, our need to stand before the snow-capped mountains and have fresh, new dreams placed in our hearts.
Let's take back what's sacred.
There is a beautiful, adventure-filled life waiting for us to fight for it.