Monday, November 2, 2009

In the White Tanks

I've been reading The Wisdom of the Wilderness by Gerald May as part of an online book group discussion over at the High Calling Blogs led by Laura Boggess. In chapter 5, May talks about those moments when you're in a natural setting or wilderness and everything blends and focuses into one experience:
“But here’s the thing: IT’S ALL EXPERIENCE! Every bit of it, the oneness and the separation, the immediacy and the distancing, it all happens when it happens, and when it happens it’s as absolutely real as the snow and the tree and the sky. With just a little bit of grace, I can be here, really exist here, present, open available, immediate.” (page 82)

Flash back: Christmas week, 2006. My wife and I, along with Then-College-Freshman Son, flew to Phoenix for the holiday to visit with Graduated-and-Working Son, get to know Phoenix a bit, and visit with Significant Person in Working Son’s life. Significant Person is now Daughter-In-Law.

It was a great week. Phoenix from May through August may be awful for weather, but by December – it’s pretty close to perfect. Certainly perfect compared to what we left behind in St. Louis. We enjoyed mild temperatures, general goofing off, shopping (ah, Scottsdale Mall!), restaurants, and the Arizona Bike Trail (I enjoyed the bike trail; everyone else slept in).

One day, College Son asked, “Dad, what if we went hiking?” Given how rare those requests become after age 12, I leapt on it. The desk clerk at the hotel recommended what he called “the White Tanks,” the White Tank Regional Park on the far western side of the Phoenix metropolitan area. These were the mountains we always saw in the distance whenever we looked west. We packed some provisions and drove to the park.

The trails weren’t obvious, but we finally found one, and began hiking. We generally stayed in the lower elevations, but it was still a strenuous hike.

And it was dry, dusty and rocky – what you expect as the desert floor rose into the mountains. The trail we were on, one of several in the park, meandered near the front of the park but generally kept moving up. At times, the trail disappeared in a stretch of flat rock, and then we’d find it again.

When we reached the end (which was up and high), the view was breathtaking – the entire valley containing the metropolitan Phoenix area was below and stretched out before us. There were still higher mountains behind us, but this was enough a spectacular view in and of itself.

It was stunning – and in that moment, it all fused together – the view, the hike up the mountains, the desert, the dryness and dust, the rock outcroppings. It came together in that “all experience” May describes. For some time, we said nothing – just looked, watched and moved quietly. It was indeed an experience of oneness – everything together as one, including us.


Maureen said...

You always manage to weave in deftly with your discussion of May's book an experience of your own that makes it even more real for us. Thank you.

I had a similar experience in the late '90s. I was in South Africa, in Capetown, and swept up the side of Table Top Mountain in a kind of antiquated ski lift. The view from the top looking out over Capetown to the ocean cannot be duplicated, except where you are and, Glynn, where you were that day. God puts these secrets all over the world for us to discover. They sure are grand.

Laura said...

Have I said how glad I am to be sharing this book with you? Thanks for welcoming us into precious memories such as this one.

It's all experience.


L.L. Barkat said...

I love those moments.

Your hike sounded so delightful.

Monica Sharman said...

How awesome: "including us." That nature can bring us together in deeper relationship.

Anonymous said...

what a cool experience and special "bonding".

Unknown said...

We were just in Arizona in September, and I was awestruck and profoundly moved.