Almost Heaven

autumn evening above Bear Lake

Nobody can say for certain what heaven is like or even if it exists in a physical sense. It is highly possible that it is just an eternal feeling of peace in which a soul happily resides. I’ve heard a number of different theories but my favorite is that each of us gets to create the imagery for heaven that makes us the happiest. If that happens to be so then I can’t think of any locale where I would rather spend forever than the area around Rocky Mountain National Park.

I return to that enchanted place again and again and never seem to grow weary of seeing the magnificent peaks, the rivers and lakes, or the variety of animals. Every drive along Trail Ridge Road is different from the last. Depending on the weather and the time of day or year the view changes. A ray of sunshine here and a shadow there create new colors and draw my eye to never before noticed characteristics. The beauty is so breathtaking that the human mind is only able to take in so much in a single moment. I would not mind at all having the opportunity to explore even the tiniest nooks and crannies for all time.

There is something quite spiritual about that part of the world. Each time that I visit I am renewed. My soul is filled with contentment and a newfound certainty that God is ever present in our world if only we look for Him in the wondrous gifts that He has created. The people that I encounter there are mostly smiling and happy as though all of their cares and woes have been lifted from their minds. Like me they are enchanted by the abundance and rare beauty of nature. Life is taken down to its bare minimum. There is no need for fancy clothes, expensive cars or the latest hairstyle. Mostly everyone meanders along the paths with little thought of pretense. It is a freeing experience to be where judgements are suspended and everyone is simply partaking of wondrous simplicity.

Somehow the animals seem to rule Rocky Mountain National Park rather than the humans. We only observe and enjoy. It’s a good feeling to be laid back and unconcerned with trying to bend the world to our wills. Somehow it seems right to only be in the moment in a way that is far more difficult in the cities and towns that require our constant attention to things that in the end matter very little. I love to sit quietly and listen to the wind and feel its caress on my face. I enjoy watching a flock of hummingbirds buzzing joyfully over my head. The haunting sound of the elk is as lovely as a symphony.

Of course I don’t actually have to go to heaven to immerse myself in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is already there for all of us to enjoy thanks to the forward thinking of men like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt who so loved the natural world that they thought it wise to set aside swaths of it so that future generations might one day realize what our country was like before we planted our footprint so indelibly on what had once been wild and free.

So many of the forests are now gone, cut down to make way for ever more people. I can recall vast tracts of natural sanctuaries even in cities like Houston in a time before there had been millions of residents vying for a plot of land. Over the decades we have chopped and burned and evicted the creatures who once roamed right in our own backyards. We have dumped our refuse in the waters often without regard. We put toxins into the air never thinking about what their longterm effect might be. Slowly but surely we are changing our earth. It is good that there are still places where our imprint is not quite as noticeable as it might otherwise be.

I so love the mountains. I suspect that if my earthly responsibilities had not demanded my presence in another place I might have chosen to live there. As it is I have only been able to visit now and again. I often wonder if bringing all of my baggage there would have ultimately polluted the purity of the feelings that I have when I am only a visitor. Maybe it is indeed best that I am limited in the time that I might spend in the area that brings me such a sense of joy. Perhaps if I were always there, concerned more with making it from day to day, I would be blinded by worries and lose my ability to see the spectacular.

I’m feeling a sense of profound contentment right now that will no doubt sustain me during those times when life becomes overwhelming. I have just spent a week reveling in the place that I love best. I am returning to reality and all of the ups and downs that each of us experience. I know that the mountains will wait for my return. They have never failed me. Even here in this always imperfect world they are almost heaven and I have experienced their wondrously healing power again and again. Perhaps one day if my life has been judged to be worthy I will know that joy for all time.

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