About that view from the upper falls…

We’d hiked almost six miles already, on a warm day in July, warm enough to be hot and sweaty and tired and have feet that cringed in anticipation of the return hike. As we approached the cliff of course you could tell from a little ways off you were coming to a cliff, what with the drop and the mountains on the other side of it in view. I thought it would be lovely, but knew I was too trail-tired to relish it.

But when we got there, to the edge, no guard rails to mar the view or protect the stupid, oh, when we got there….well, within 30 seconds the tears began.

View from Upper Falls

Yosemite Valley. I’d never driven through it or seen it, and here it lay before me, stunning in green and glory and peace. That lovely wide valley, the Merced River a ribbon along its waist, bejeweled with dark green pockets of spruce and pine, the arch of Half Dome, to the left of me, its trifold cap. That long perfect valley, supine, with the beauty and innocence of a woman in Eden. Green, and gold, and azure, and granite blue and silver, and a jaw-dropping 2,700 feet between my feet and the valley floor.

I stood there mesmerized, my feet suddenly as heavy as the stone on which they stood. All I could think of were the phrases from the Psalm I’d memorized the previous summer, trudging the high country of this very park:

“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, oh God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders. Where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy” (Psalm 65:5-8).

Who could make these granite giants? Who could carve out the curves of this river? Who could tell this river, “Jump. Here,” and have it obey? Who could arrange the lonely trees into forest families, give the chipmunk incisors tough as nails, imprint the dent we call Half Dome?

I sound practically plaintive, like I’m reading Yahweh’s response to Job’s piteous complaint. Who indeed? It’s okay by me if I sound like I need a crutch: who else but Almighty God would I credit for this?

I stand on this precipice and feel my heart lunging from its cavity with palpable, gasping, desperate desire. I ache to hold this beauty in my own hands, turn it over gently as if with the wonder of a family heirloom, hold it to my sweaty t-shirt and close my eyes and open my mouth as if I could infuse it into my own cellular structure. I yearn for this beauty to never leave me, to remember with my own fiber the awe that filled every crevice of my potholed soul one day in July.

It’s cliché by now but still resonates, the words of the Oxford don: “If I find in myself some longing which nothing in this world can satisfy, it can only mean I am made for another world.”

And standing there on the brink of Yosemite Valley, on a hot July afternoon, I get a glimpse – oh the briefest glimpse of that Eden. Strength and beauty consummate there, unashamed and transcendent, there at my weary feet, and my soul falls down in wordless worship. It cannot stand in that Presence.

Even as I recollect, even as I conjure that image while singing songs of praise, even as the memory makes my tummy giddy with desire and delight and healing, I feel the weight of my inadequate words. They’re so limited they’re pitiful. They fall under the burden of clichés, sink in depths of sophomoric profundities, squawk and strain at high notes like a first-year violinist.

Rich said it better; he almost always did: “Another tune forms in my head. More harmonies, more empty words. And oh I could play these songs till I was dead, and never approach the sound that I once heard.”

There are no words for a glimpse into Eden. There’s only a deep breath, closed eyes, and, if we’re alone and honest, a groan that begs for ecstasy. How we yearn for our original glory, and the fellowship of a long, unhurried hike with our Maker. How nearly worthless all our grasping, gasping endeavors to get there turn out to be.

Yet even here the Counselor sends comfort: “Now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

One day I will take that long hike with Jesus, and I will know fully the strength and beauty he has been giving all along. There will be no gasping for it like a last breath; I will walk in it with the assurance and ease of a birthright.

Until then, I will keep walking, no doubt often stumbling, my eyes open for another Glimpse. And Grace will grant it.

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Published in: on January 1, 2014 at 5:31 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Your reflection is beautiful, Amanda.


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