The dog and I are just back from a midday walk. Now, she pants out a tale of the tennis ball she pursued through thicket and grove while I sit here, trying to hold myself within the afterimage of our outing. Mid-May in my corner of Montana means the hillsides are studded with sun-yellow balsam roots, aspens wave newborn leaves, and choke cherry bushes are top heavy with their spires of blossom. Literally, every step is a passage into something breathtaking.
In this week’s Consider, Kim writes, “Beauty awakens questions that have been sleeping within us.” Today, as I walked through the incredible momentary show May had conjured, I didn’t so much think about this quote, as experience it. I had no moment of lightning insight, no one great question rising. Rather my on-going inward conversation dropped below all the edifice upon which daily life runs (appointments and errands, chores and checklists) and touched in with deeper, foundational ground.
It’s an astonishment really, this business of being here. We are here. And we are aware of being here. And we continually ask questions of this awareness to plumb the meaning of our being here. This is surely the miracle and gift of consciousness. And its weight and wound.
While I walked just now, I knew that by next week the balsam roots would pale to straw. In another week, they’ll be memory. And yet, I am permitted to walk through their abundance now, to send the dog tearing through them, nose to the ground, living out her singular fixation on retrieval. All of this is, as they say, here today gone tomorrow. Yet it bespeaks something timeless. Despite its fleetingness (and my own) it cracks the door on eternity.
A few years ago, my husband and I drove Going to the Sun Road through Glacier National Park. This corkscrew of a drive, hewn to the side of a plunging valley, is truly a feat of engineering. Yet the vast expanse of human ingenuity seems but a mote in this dizzying landscape. We’d turned off the radio, opened the windows, ceased to talk. It felt like the air those peaks passed between them was somehow older, deeper. As we neared Logan pass, Tim broke our silence, “This place makes me want to be a better person.”
That’s just it. Beauty plays upon some imprint so deep inside of us, we’ve nearly kicked over its traces in all our day-to-day shamblings. But, these fugitive encounters invite something deeper, urge a communion we perennially crave. Each time is an opportunity to send the plumb line down and see just how deep we go. As for me, I hope to never hit bottom.