I love the curves and swerves of the mountain drive to the end of the road in King’s Canyon National Park. From there, it is a short walk through some pines, over a bridge, and into another world.

A large rock beckons me to sit in silence. The deep quiet swirling stream draws me into contemplation. There is no sound. There is no motion other than the mesmerizing roll of the flowing water. Time is no more, only the eternal sense of now. Surely God is in this place.

A growing urge to move tells me it is time to begin my journey. A steep rocky path leads me upward through the pines until there is nothing but open air and the path under my feet. The trail is dusty. Sparse manzanita offer the only hint of green life. It is a desolate place.

A boulder at the top of the rise calls me to stop, rest, and reflect on my hard trek. Tears fall, washing away dust collected from long ago trials that accuse me over and over. They haunt. They taunt me, far away and yet present in this lonely place.

My wish for relief pushes me onward, wanting to escape the agony that followed me up the mountain. Here the way is level, less of a strain. I reach a plateau where nothing seems to change, a holding cell of sorts. I press on.

An unexpected sight awaited me around the bend. Far ahead, a green meadow offers a vision of a peaceful place where one might heal. Again, a rock offered me a higher vantage point to contemplate this green oasis.

Suddenly, a mother bear with two small cubs pushed their way out of some nearby bushes. They glanced at me with casual curiosity but broke no stride as they crossed my path on their way to wherever bears go. I felt no danger. Perhaps I belonged there as much as they did. Or were they a welcoming trinity of angels?

I stood on the rock and pondered the meaning of our encounter. How do bears know where to go? Do little bears have an idyllic life in the forest, or do they experience trauma? Anyway, the bears are at home. I am the one who wonders.

My gaze returns to the distant green meadow. It would be a wonderful place to find peace. But the trail I am on does not seem to go there. On the chance that it might, however, I move on.

The trail leads me deep into a dark stand of pines. I realize I am traveling away from that inviting meadow. Was the meadow real, or was it a vision to give me hope? I needed hope. Deeper and deeper into the forest, I am surrounded with no clear direction but the trail in front of me. I trust the path to guide me.

With all my focus set on the trail, I have lost my sense of God’s presence. God was so close to me at the stream. Divine intimacy comforted me while I cried holy tears of healing on that dusty stretch of my journey.

Now I am alone, isolated amid the pines that surround me. Am I doing this wrong? Did I wonder off the good path?

There is nothing I fear more than being lost. The path is getting so narrow. This mob of trees is closing in on me. My thoughts deceive me. I feel adrift. Breathe, breathe, breathe. There is a way. This trail must lead somewhere, and I will be safe.

Finally, I see sky ahead. I am crossing out of the woods. The path is so narrow and the pines crowd me in. I see light. Thank God. I’m passing through. But what will I find?

The trail leads me along the edge of a marsh that opens into a clearing. It borders that meadow. What a relief! I had forgotten the vision that gave me hope. It is not just a vision, it is real! The meadow is beautiful to behold, lit by the sun, enlivened by a gentle breeze. Peaceful.

My heart wants to linger here. Is anything better to come? Let me stay. I could build a shelter here. The meadow is so beautiful to see. It sings to my heart. I am still. I feel grounded in this place. Oh, my heart, remember this place forever. Remember and live. Again, God is in this place.

I turn my back to the meadow and continue down the trail. Grass that defines my path grows taller with every step. Taller and thicker until I am waist deep in verdant green grass that presses in on every side. Now ferns, lush green ferns, waiving a welcoming rhythm as I walk among them. I seem to float on a carpet of pure joy.

The ferns are now up to my ribs. I can barely find the next step on my path. The overgrown fauna caresses my arms. It enfolds me in a loving embrace. I feel the image of God well up from deep inside me. Am I recalling my created self? On the physical side of the veil, this may be as close to Eden as can ever be. The Spirit gives me a sense of what lies beyond.

I hope someday an angel will guide me beyond the veil. Going ever upward, I will be guided into a reality where God dwells in the fullness of glory. Would I be ready to enter the divine presence? I can’t imagine, but maybe.

The trail now leads me away from that paradise into a sparse stand of pines. It feels like a familiar place. Contemplation always takes me back to where I started, but never the same. I see the road through a clearing. I see my car. This journey is over. Or is it?

After all, contemplation is a never-ending journey that takes us deeper into the heart of God. We just keep going.

Copyright, Calvin Wulf, 2022

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