Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yosemite Part II: The Panorama Trail

On Saturday, part of the group did the Half Dome hike. I was pretty beat from the Yosemite Falls hike the day before, so I wimped out and stuck with the group doing the Panorama Trail – which is the easier/shorter hike – but the most scenic in the whole park. I’ll have to tackle Half Dome next time. The Panorama Trail begins at Glacier Point with a spectacular view of Half Dome, as well as the Nevada and Vernal Falls, our destination across the valley.

It winds in a U-ish shape around the valley with a steady decline to the floor below. On this trail, you encounter three sets of falls. When we reached the first, Illilouette Falls, we stopped for a quick snack and a short nap in the sun. Then we were on our way again.

After leaving Illilouette Falls, the trail turns into the mountain, causing you to lose sight of Nevada Falls. Upon reaching the summit of the trail, it cuts back to the edge of the mountain where Nevada Falls comes into view again.

The visual splendor is so impressive, you almost don’t notice that, even from this distance, you can hear the rumbling of the crashing water as it collides with the granite cliff and boulders below. When I realized what I was hearing, I was surprised by the incredible enormity of the sound. I’ve never heard anything like it. Joseph Smith’s description of Jehovah’s voice from the passage in D&C 110 came unexpectedly to my mind: “And his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah….”

I’d never given any thought to that comparison, but suddenly I understood the brilliance of the metaphor. Was it Joseph Smith’s own wisdom to describe the Savior’s voice this way, or was it given to him in revelation? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. The phrase, for the first time, meant something to me.

We followed the Panorama Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. We stood next to the water and watched it forcefully throw itself over the edge of the cliff. The sound was louder now, simply because of our proximity to it, but it had held the same intensity from across the valley.

On the way down to the valley floor, the trail takes you past the third and final set of falls. This part of the hike is called the Mist Trail for obvious reasons.


On Sunday, we attended the LDS services in a small non-
denominational chapel directly across the meadow from Yosemite Falls. Coming out the door after the meeting, we could see the falls straight ahead of us on the other side of the valley. Joseph Smith’s words were still at the forefront of my mind and I wanted to be as close as possible to the “voice of Jehovah” again before heading back to Los Angeles.

Sarah and I took the path to the base of the falls which winds through a wooded area and climbs a slight incline where the calmness of the trees is suddenly opposed by the crashing water. We stood there momentarily and felt the spray of the water and the surprisingly strong wind produced by its force.

Again I was struck by the accuracy of the comparison. The “sound of the rushing of great waters” is immense. Amazing and beautiful and unstoppable. You can feel its magnitude as it vibrates through your insignificant frame. You are faced with the sheer energy of the rushing water, its unmistakable power, as it pushes the otherwise still air into great wind gusts. Strangely enough, despite the sense of power it carries, the sound is not scary, but inviting. Yet, you become acutely aware that if you choose not to respect the source of the sound, if you dare to test or challenge its strength in a feeble attempt to prove your own, you will not win.

Joseph Smith surely had occasion to hear the rushing of great waters at various times in his life. Prior to my visit to Yosemite, I had not experienced such a sound. Now that I have, the voice of Jehovah sounds different to me. And I love it.

Yosemite Part I: Yosemite Falls

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Yosemite with friends. Unbelievable. I’ve done very little camping in my life. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but I’ve never LOVED it. And I realized why over the course of this trip. It’s because the only camping I’ve ever really done has been in Texas and Oklahoma. Spending a week in a cabin or tent with high Texas-summer temperatures, and humidity to match, is not particularly enjoyable under any circumstances, but would at least be bearable if the landscape were interesting enough to make up for the sauna-minus-the-spa conditions. But sadly, the campsites I’ve seen in my day certainly do nothing to invoke any sort of Whitman-esque love of nature.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I have a rarely-shared appreciation for aspects of the Texas landscape. I love confronting the openness of the western portion of the state as I make the drive from Dallas to Amarillo. It fills me with a profound sense of loneliness that somehow makes me feel totally at ease and completely anxious all at the same time. That perfectly blue sky juxtaposed against the endless stretch of prairie with the occasional windmill...or, even better—oil well...makes my heart ache. In a good way. While I love it, I prefer viewing it from my car window with the A/C cranking. I’ve heard there are other areas of the state that offer spectacular views that serve as wonderful backdrops for scenery-hungry campers. But it’s no wonder I haven’t ever gotten truly excited about camping considering my girls camp leaders took us to an open field for our 4th-year hike.

But I digress. My more recent trip to the great outdoors summoned an appreciation for nature which I have not previously realized. Chad, I now understand why you take that annual backpacking trip. (And I definitely understand why you don’t take it in Texas.) Clearly John had already discovered the secret. See? Hiking brings out the dancer in him. Who knew?

Yosemite was breathtaking. I was awestruck. The sheer granite cliffs rising straight out of the ground have an incredible and indescribable presence – a silent and overwhelming force. The weather was phenomenal. Not too warm, with nice breezes during the day. And chilly enough at night to really enjoy hanging out by the fire.

We climbed to the top of Yosemite Falls the first day we were there – a challenging hike for an amateur like me (pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it at all if it hadn’t been for my year-long love/hate relationship with the Santa Monica stairs), but so worth it.

The most significant take-away of the weekend: learning how spiritual communing with nature actually is. I’m no tree hugger, but I am obliged to say that I saw God in Yosemite. Alma was really on to something: “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it.” I’ll second that. And I would even go so far as to make a slight adjustment to his statement. Going forward, I will read this passage thusly: “All things denote there is a God; especially the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it.”

Everything in Its Place

Ever wondered how much your life weighs? Neither had I, but I had the good fortune to find out, anyway. And now…I kind of wish I didn’t know.

In March, my roommate and I moved out of our (amazing) place in Santa Monica. She is returning to school and I was quitting my job (another story for another time) and was not sure if I would be staying in Los Angeles or not. Since the next steps for me were anything but clear, I decided to put all of my belongings in storage until I figured out where I was going to land.

Enter Door-to-
Door Storage
. They delivered a 4’x7’x11’ crate to my door. And for the next few evenings after work and the entire following weekend, my master packer (ie, my mother) and I worked to solve the puzzle of fitting everything I own into slightly more than 300 cubic feet. I have enough furniture to fill a one-bedroom apartment.

Some said it couldn’t be done. At times…I said it couldn’t be done. But somehow, my mother kept finding ways to fit more in the box. It was like watching Mary Poppins in reverse. You remember how much we admired Ms. Poppins as we saw her pull lamps and birdcages and coat racks out of her bottomless carpetbag. But what we really wanted to know was how she got those things in there. They don’t show us that part. And let’s face it—pulling stuff out is easy. No offense, Mary.

While my mom does have mad packing skills, and while we both worked our tails off to get the job done, neither of us is obtuse enough to actually think we did it on our own. I had the help of a master packer. And she had the help of a Master Packer. Over those few days, things fell into place – figuratively and literally – in countless impossible ways. We call it the Miracle of the Move. (To see a complete list of the many small miracles that make up the larger Miracle, visit my mom’s blog.)

After we had fit as much as was inhumanly possible into the portable storage crate...

...the Door-to-Door man came back to collect it. I was at work, but from what I hear, when he went to pick it up with his forklift, the back tires of his lift literally came off the ground. Turns out there’s a weight limit on those boxes. It’s 2,000 lbs. My box apparently weighed 2,800 lbs. The D-t-D man said it wouldn’t be a problem unless the bottom couldn’t support the weight and it caved. Great. Thanks for the reassurance.

A month later, when the storage crate was re-delivered to my new little 1-bedroom apartment in West LA, my mom (who came back again to help me move in. What a sport!) and I held our breaths as we opened the door. Amazingly enough, there had been very little shifting. Everything looked as it had when we had locked it up weeks before. I know what you’re thinking: “Where would any of it go?” Still, though…watching my life being carried away in a box has a way of making me nervous.

When we started with that empty box and all of my stuff, it seemed like there was no way it could be done. So it goes with the Door-to-Door portable storage unit…and with life. I find myself evaluating what I've accomplished over the past few years and wondering how what I’ve always wanted/expected fits with where I find myself now. What on earth am I doing trying to make it as a single working professional in Los Angeles?! I’m supposed to be married with kids. Not pursuing a career and continually losing hope that the dating life will ever pick up again. The reality does not jive with the vision I’ve always had for my self. And so the Miracle of the Move becomes a parable for my own life. Even when it seems like the things I hold dear can’t possibly fit in the box I’ve been given, everything, in fact, has a place. I just have to rely on the Master Packer to fit it all together.