Last week 35 friends of mine set out for our 22nd year of The May Club. It has become a great tradition of brotherhood and adventure, but prior to that I spent a few days alone in the deserts of Utah.
About once a year I spend a weekend alone. Last year it was two days in Virginia on the Appalachian Trail. This year I decided to extend the week with a bit of solitude before TMC began.
Monument Valley was always within reach on several trips to Utah and Arizona, but I had never quite made it so I pointed the jeep westward and arrived Sunday morning. The Navajo reservation extends for what seems like forever in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The land is incredibly unique and beautiful. Monument Valley is simply…monumental.
The wind and rains have left these massive rock features standing alone like guardians of the brush and sand. To hike under West Mitten Butte fulfilled a lifelong desire. After 46 years of seeing the iconic rocks in film and photos I was now alone among them. I hiked quickly and at times jogged as I kicked up sand and shuffled across rocks to the lyrics of Rich Mullins. I find the late artist’s lyrics the best for moments in the wilderness.
'Cause heaven is waiting
Just past the horizon
Just over the mesas
Across the great divide
And faith is blazing
This trail that I ride on up this mountain
I'm prayin' I have the strength to climb”
- Rich Mullins
I laughed many times while I was alone for the simple fact I was amazed I was there and had the trail to myself.
In moments of quiet I was left with the old Pascalian problem – conviction in silence. I joke about “Living at the speed of Don”, however, there are many times this is not the best way to live. My movement from place to place, issue to issue, item to item and person to person does not always bring out the best in me. The lack of stillness brings tension and reduces the limited amount of patience I barley have now. I have not mastered the reduction of “hurry” in my life. I confess I am most comfortable in motion – but understand that is not the best way to always live. This busyness pushes me to respond harshly, retain less, and creates unnecessary worry.
Os Guinness talks about “diversion” and how our culture allows this to keep us from what really matters and how it dulls our awareness of truth. I suffer this and many time propagate this cultural problem.
Alone you understand what Jimmy Buffett means when he sings, “It wouldn’t change a thing if I let go.”
“I ain't looking for no seven golden cities
But I know there's a fortune somewhere to find
There's a peace that I hear whisperin' through the pinyons
And a love that's taller than the ponderosa pines”
– Rich Mullins
From my conviction in the desert I moved to higher ground in Capital Reef National Park. There I awoke early to ascend up to Cassidy Arch. Again I had the trail all to myself. The colors were as brilliant as Zion National Park and the weather changed every thirty minutes to keep things interesting. AS I hiked upwards Mullins lyrics once again fit perfectly into the moment:
“I cry the Name of the One who loves me
The Name of the One on whom I call
'Til it roars like thunder
Rolling down these canyon walls”
- Rich Mullins
I stood atop Cassidy surrounded by an expansive landscape and thousands of colors and as always the creation always leads me to the Creator. I then spoke the words from the Common Book of Prayer.
“Oh God, who wonderfully created, yet more, who wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature. Grant that we may share in the divine life of Him who Himself shared in our humanity, your son Jesus Christ who live and reins with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, as One, Forever and ever, Amen.”
I was grateful to have the time, but I was just as thrilled when first connecting again with friends in Torrey, Utah. A few days alone is sometimes just exactly what we need so we know where we are and what matters in the universe.