With my husband Dan away on a work trip this past week, it was my job to walk the dog. Opal is ten months old now and still needs a lot of exercise every day, preferably first thing in the morning to wear her out. Without a group of dogs to run with while we’re away from home and out in Colorado this summer, my husband’s been driving her up to the trail at the top of the hill, just a five minute drive, somewhere she can be off leash without worrying about traffic, somewhere we hope she is under enough voice command that we can call her back should she encounter an elderly hiker. It’s not a retirement community per se, but the population is on the older side, and we don’t want her causing a hip fracture from jumping on anyone and knocking them down.
The first time Dan took Opal out on a trail, a day or two after we arrived here this summer, she treed a bear cub. They got out of there quickly before mama bear had a chance to show up. On two other hikes in two other locations they spotted a bear as well. Three bear sightings.
Before he left on his trip this week, Dan reminded me to talk loudly or sing when we were up on the mountain for walks. But I never saw a bear. I have never seen a bear here in my twenty years of visits. Maybe they know something about human mamas too. Still, I followed his advice and made sure to greet any animals that might be sleeping or hiding in the brush. In between my bursts of one-sided conversation, there was plenty of time to think, to think about this quote by John Muir from The Yosemite, for example,
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.”
It occured to me that I hadn’t been to church in over a year and a half, and I had no idea when I would go back. The loss of community and communal singing really bothered me, and yet, I knew I could still find God elsewhere. A woman in my church small group pointed out sometime last year that when men in the Bible wanted to find God, they would go to the mountain (think Moses), but when women needed God, he would go to them, and would likely find them in the kitchen (think Martha).
This past week though, it was my turn to go to the mountain.
One overcast morning, as Opal and I made our way through the path in the woods and then along the ridge to another patch of woods, I remembered my prayers from the year before, the year of the Grizzly Creek fire that started the day after we went river rafting through the area on August 10th and that wasn’t 100% contained until December 18th, the year we were on wildfire alert, the year my parents packed up the old family photos and other keepsakes in case we should need to evacuate.
Last summer, my prayer requests were clear and simple: I prayed for rain, and I prayed for a vaccine.
That morning a few days ago, as I made my way down the trail, my hiking pants and sneakers soaked through from the moisture on the overhanging brush, I reminded myself to be grateful. All of the adults in my family were vaccinated and would likely avoid hospitalization even if they did get some new variant. Also, it was raining on and off, albeit lightly.
But the kids, was my next thought. The kids needed to be vaccinated. And, whatever older kids had set off those fireworks a few nights prior in the parking lot at the trailhead where I left our car needed to be reminded that we were still in a drought. One spark could cause extensive damage.
I decided that my prayer requests remained the same, with one addition. Yes, bring on vaccines for kids, and bring on rain, and, once that was done, I decided I would really like God to show my family where to settle down next. Cambridge has been home for so long, it doesn’t feel right to move. Still, our kids need room to grow, and as much as I love our two bedroom condo, well, it is what it is. I said my prayer tentatively, still on the fence about commiting to a move and not yet wanting to put God in charge, God who could make it happen.
As we neared the main path to head back through the woods to the car,
the clouds separated to reveal a patch of blue
that seemed to tell me that everything would be all right.
Fifteen minutes later and about 200 meters from the parking lot, the wind picked up, gray clouds rolled and, and Opal and I were pelted with heavy rain. It was almost like God was saying,
You want rain? I’ll give you rain.
I looked up, intimidated, before asking, What else, God? What else will you give?
Then I hoisted my 50 pound dog into the back of the car and headed off down the road, with the windshield wipers working hard, able to see just enough ahead of me, just enough to keep going.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.