Monday, June 8, 2015

Then sings my soul

To me, Saturday mornings and mountain runs are as perfect a combination as Forest Gump's peas and carrots. So it was with delight that I filled my pack and left the house in the filtered early morning light.

I was alone but not lonely as I started the long ascent from the valley floor to the mountain top. I knew the route well. But to gain the view I so deeply desired from the mountain ridge, there would be nearly unrecognizable trail to travel. So overgrown and wet from morning dew, the forest itself reached out to grab at my now-soaked self. And yet, a momentary pause offered me a chance to hear the siren's song of the wilderness; leaves rustling, breeze blowing, birds singing, mountain streams gurgling.

Then sings my soul.

The wrestling match with the flora gave way to the comparative freeway of the Appalachian Trail. Up, up, up I climbed, feeling fast and free. The thin dirt trail offered easy footing, save a few rocks and water breaks. The climb was long, but I didn't mind. I relished this time in the woods, thoughts and prayers my faithful companions. Life in the valley was busy and hectic, ministry demands unending. But not here. Here on the trail whose northern and southern terminus were a thousand miles in either direction, life was simple. It was one step at a time. One breath after another. One lovely snake to step over and view to take in. The forest was alive and well. It offered me a respite, a renewal.

Then sings my soul.

I stood on the rocks and peered into the vast valley below. The landscape was nearly unending green, leafy trees packed into every nook and cranny the mountains offered. In the sky below where I stood, cotton-candy clouds floated effortlessly, seemingly not bothered that mountain peaks rose higher.

Then sings my soul.

The meandering path escorted me along the gentle ridge line. Running was easy and effortless. Though the rhododendrons had released many of their blooms, they offered a flower-strewn carpet over which I glided. I was both humbled and grateful.

Then sings my soul.

All too soon my route necessarily took a turn. I
left the smooth and undulating trail for one that was a cousin to the first. Weeds, though flowered and beautiful, sought to entangle my legs. Nettle did not remain anonymous, its sting a painful reminder. 
Still, I didn't really mind. It was as though the forest was holding me in a tight and loving embrace. The further off the beaten path I traveled, the more enveloped by nature I felt.

Then sings my soul.

As I descended off the mountain, the trail twisted and turned as if to make the game more interesting. It was something new around each corner. Rocks jutted from the ground, some large and obvious. The smaller ones acted like that pesky little brother who finds great delight in reaching out to make you stumble. And yet, it was fine. No complaints. I was playing in the forest's house by the forest's rules.

Then sings my soul.

Soon I heard the rush of a bold, lively stream. The water, just as playful as the woodland, spilled and toppled over the boulders in its path. The sound was almost joyful, even when the water paused to create enticing, refreshing pools. Then once again, the flow picked up momentum and ran down the mountain. I think I heard the stream gleefully cry out, "I'm free. I'm free. Catch me if you can!"

"Not today," I whispered. "Perhaps some other time. I'll be back."

All too soon the gravel road was before me. The crunch underfoot meant I was headed back to the car. I raced the larger stream that ran beside me. I marveled at the graceful agility of the deer bounding across the road. I wondered where that overgrown path led off to the right. I admired a house tucked into the mountain side and nearly hidden by the trees. I wished I knew the folks who lived in the old stone house near the bottom. And then I was back at the car, so thankful, so grateful, for the simple pleasure of running through God's world.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee. How great thou art.

Susan Boyle, Psalm 8 recitation and "How Great thou Art"

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