I started reading a book entitled Lassoing the Sun while here in Acadia. The author, Mark Woods, spent a year traveling to twelve different national parks. Ironically, the very first chapter, January, takes place here in Maine at Acadia National Park. One of the points of the year was to get a different glimpse into the parks and where they’re going into the future. People are, of course, the greatest asset to the parks, but the concern is that the greatest asset is also becoming a great obstacle, as more and more treat the parks as vacation destinations rather than the place of wonder and exploration in which they were created.
I couldn’t help but think of that as I was hiking Beech Mountain today. There seemed to be a lot more people than the last time I had visited. As I hiked along, from time to time I also just sat and tried to take in what was before me. With stops, though, came the passing through of people, who often felt like a distraction to the solitude that would often accompany each stop along the way. I often wondered if they had even recognized that I was sitting there, usually off to the side or at least somewhat off the path. I heard two women who were discussing whether their hair color was natural. I heard two gentlemen discussing their tax brackets. What maybe most struck me, though, was a young family that came traipsing along. I saw, first-hand, the intersection of generations in relation to the natural world.
There they were, the grandparents and grandkids going off to pick blueberries. The kids were beyond excited at the view and the enormous number of berries that surrounded them, overlooking Long Pond. It was so great to witness their excitement for something so simple as the body of water below, which sparked a wow, a sense of wonder that was exuding them. But like the others that passed through, there were the others that were more concerned about the lighting for their photo and selfies, a phone intercepting the natural beauty before them. They quickly tried to pull the kids out of the bushes for the perfect photo, a memory, rather than allowing the kids to be one with this natural world which has so much to teach each of us, and to simply be kids of wonder and adventure.
It stuck with me all day, thinking of that interaction. At times I found the people a distraction and oblivious to where they were and what we were a part of. I had to tell myself time and again that I’m making judgment about them. It all just seemed to lack depth. As I sat there, now on the outermost rock formation, relaxing and taking it in, I noticed how artificial the world too looked around me, as if like the phone, even my eyes acted as an interception to the wonder. There was a stillness in the air, prior to the rain moving in, and everything seemed untouched and motionless. When no one was around, all you can hear were far off voices in the distance of people passing through. It wasn’t until I got down into the thick of it that I began to see otherwise. I had to go beneath what I had seen with my eyes to begin to see a world of life at my fingertips, as if all the critters were going about their business before the anticipated weather.
As the day grew on, the air chilled and the rain began to fall; I listened to it bounce off my jacket, zipped to the top. It’s July but feels more like Fall here in Acadia. The silence, as the rain began to fall, seemed to deepen and any distractions and noise had fallen to a hush. Sure, I should be able to find solitude anywhere, but none in the way out in nature, in places like this, which has a way of folding you into her arms and holding you, embracing you, and for those final moments in Acadia today it was there. It was present. I was present, no longer needing to feel frustrated and annoyed with the people that passed through, somehow taking from me what I wanted from this time. They too are on their own journey but it didn’t have to stop me from mine, of moving these days to being one with creation with one great act of Love showing the way. It’s much too easy to separate from others and judge. In reality it does say more about us than them. If I can be grateful for anything it’s that I was even aware of what was going on within me, leading me to my own adventure and wonder in my heart. Ever so gently and slowly, nature has a way of revealing ourselves to us in a way like none other. In the quiet, in the solitude, the truth begins to reveal itself and the truth then sets us free to wonder and explore not only the great outdoors but the inner depths of the soul’s landscape being revealed in spite of and before our very eyes.