Bit by bit, I started asking people from work if they wanted to take a nice hike with me up into Hidden Canyon. Again, it's a bit like pulling teeth, but I've managed to get some all the way up to the cairns.
On those occasions I've done everything possible to avoid the topic of work. Why spoil the great outdoors with shop talk, unless I see some clear opportunity to guide the topic into something really important.
For the most part, hiking lends itself to plenty of quiet and contemplation, so avoiding the wrong topics isn't that difficult.
I also find that when it comes to matters of faith, a great deal of talk isn't that necessary either when you're surrounded by so many symbols in nature of God's presence.
With every little detail proclaiming, "God exists," what could my words possibly add?
Well, it turns out that sometimes words are necessary, on which occasion I immediately implore help from the Holy Spirit before the first word crosses my lips. Sometimes that word lingers there a long time before release, while at other times it just seems to burst forth. Sure, sometimes I also have to backtrack a little before eventually getting it right.
On a recent trip with one of my sons and my trusty trail dog, Lily, we were resting peacefully and having a chat at the cairns. He was wondering if anyone else had ever found the spot, when I heard some faint voices a bit down the arroyo, apparently heading our way. "Someone will be here shortly," I said.
A short time later, two girls about his age came around the bend and we exchanged greetings.
Pointing at the cairns, I asked the girls, "What do you make of those?" One of the girls wasn't quite sure and the other thought they were some kind of Indian ruin. My son looked at me waiting to see how I would respond.
"Actually, he and his sister helped build these," I said while pointing at my son. "Maybe if you climb up to the top of that outcropping, you might get a little more perspective. There's a bit of a mystery here, but I'm sure you'll figure it out." And with that, I added a couple of stones to St. Patrick's cairn and we headed back down the trail for home.
My daughter and I were recently sitting quietly up at the cairns on a gloriously sunny day. I was admiring a tall butte that rose majestically in the distance, dwarfing St. Benedict's cairn in the foreground. The butte was lit up like a vibrant orange torch, while the little cairn was sitting in the shadows. That certainly put it into perspective for me.
I smiled at the humbling lesson, then turned to watch my daughter who was humming a gentle little tune while she erected a mini cairn from a small pile of flat stones she had carefully chosen.
She turned to me when finished, beaming with a look of great accomplishment and delight.
"Awesome," I said.
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