We hiked our favorite trail today before the sun arched high in the sky, and I remembered a hike we’d taken when Eddie was still an infant. It had felt like such a milestone then, to be out there on my own with five children. Now there are six, and somehow six seems easier than five.
Today I had Grace tucked in the Ergo, and a tremulous Davita at my side, her six-year-old courage not having had a chance to fully recover from last hike’s confrontation with a buffalo. Together she and I half dragged, half chased Eddie down the trail. The other three ran on ahead, out of sight.
There is a silence up there (when I can get the children to be still) that ministers to the deep places of my spirit. Our life is never without noise. The hum of appliances, the roar of the air conditioner, and the whoosh after whoosh of freeway traffic make up the backdrop of our days, with the loudness of all of our voices painted over these. In the car, we hear the engine; in church we hear people; at playgrounds we hear the road.
But in the mountains we freeze in our tracks, holding our breath, and it is completely still. Our ears ring from silence. The small hawks dart overhead, the cicadas chirp, the grasshoppers fly, the flycatchers sing. Our ears strain to catch the barking of the prairie dogs, even as we strain on guard for rattles of snakes, and the snorting of bison. Our eyes peer for roadrunners, and blue collared lizards.
We have come to know our favorite trails in all seasons, naming this hill “Christmas Mountain” for a hike on a cold Christmas Eve, and that low place “The Canyon,” where we dip toes in water before the water dries up in July. The spot where Mama goes to sip coffee while the kids scamper and play is merely called “The Dam.” The children and I keep records of our firsts: the first Paintbrushes, first Mexican Hats, first Indian Blankets. We count the buffalo and longhorn, delighting in herds of mamas with nurslings guarded by big daddy bulls; we squeal with laughter each time the prairie dogs kiss.
This morning the children hopped from boulder to boulder calling their names: “Granite! Granite! Gabbro! Granite!” And Eddie, he climbed atop them all exclaiming with triumph after each summit, “Mama, ‘ook! I am did it!”
My heart catches as I think of his glee. Don’t we all ache for such pleasure and elation? Don’t we–deep down inside these wizened adult hearts–long for an experience of unchecked joy? What about exuberant effort, delirious victory, unabashed pride, gracious rest? Does not something in us want to bust the edges out of life in all its goodness and creativity, to climb the boulders of existence with hands on rough ground, our faces to the sky, the wind in our hair, the brilliant sun in our eyes? Do we not all want to triumph, and shout to the heavens:
“Lord, ‘ook! I am did it! You made me to live! To love! To be! And—-wheeeee!—I did it! I am doing it! Look at me!”