A few years ago, when William was around a year-and-a half old, Dave and I left him with grandma and grandpa and took to the mountains. We hadn’t gone backpacking since before having a baby, so it was pretty exciting to be just the two of us, our little Volvo crammed full of camping gear, guided by a GPS down rutted, dirt roads, headed to a trail head to climb a mountain. We were hiking in the Lost River Range, near Mount Idaho. I’ll save you the details of the arduous drive that ended up taking longer and being more difficult than the hike (be sure to take a vehicle with high clearance if you ever go there!); instead I’ll just say that after a day of driving and a short hike, we made it to our campsite, next to the pristine Lake Miriam. A shear mountain face boarded us on one side, a flower-filled meadow faced us across the lake, and our little tent sat snug in the trees. It was breathtaking, and we had it all to ourselves.
We spent our second day hiking through the meadow, to mountain ridges above. We hiked through trickling springs that cascaded in small waterfalls down the mountain face. We hiked among birds and trees, mossy rocks and shady pine boughs. We hiked to a “dead lake,” devoid of life, yet placid and peaceful, with views of valleys and mountain peaks in every direction. Yes, Jane Austen, “What are men compared to rocks and trees?”
It was perfection.
That night as I sat at camp, watching the lake fade from blue to purple in the evening light, I was struck by the serene way life on the mountain revolved. Back home, life hurdled forward at a frantic pace, no end in sight. Age old fears, debates, and wars were raging, humanity anxiously caught in the crossfire, yet up in those mountains, time plodded peacefully forward.
The rise and fall of the seasons was all that mattered in that mountain setting. Each day the mountains moved closer toward fall, when the trees would shed their leaves, the animals would curl up in their nests, the lake would freeze. Yet a calm surety permeated the atmosphere, as though the mountains knew the coming days of winter were but a step in the process of yearly renewal, that eventually they’d trade the heaping snow banks for the trickle of mountain springs that would thaw the ground and make way for fertile growth.
That image, of the lake freezing over with winter snows, then slowly, methodically, changing to verdant life each spring, that is my happy place. It’s a place where I know life and beauty march forward day after day, year after year, unhindered by tragedy and sadness and woe. There is something very reassuring in that knowledge.
With the advent of the Christmas season, as I think of my lake, now buried in winter’s blustery breath, I think also of a verse to a favorite Christmas hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” a song that cries for the coming of our Spring, the day of our renewal.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Merry Christmas my friends!
And rejoice. Rejoice. For time marches faithfully forward; the peace of our Spring is coming.by