Last time it was Niagara Falls; this time Algonquin Park. Another day away, another natural wonder. So many times we've driven through The Park, on the way to somewhere else, intent on making time on the journey, not oblivious to the beauty, but not having or taking the time to experience it.
Finally the day came, a day set apart for the purpose of exploring this amazing place, of finally venturing off the highway and into the wilds on either side. And it was made simpler and more special this first time by our friends...excited explorers who have walked all the trails but one, and many times at that.
Like experiencing The Falls I felt immersed: enveloped by miles of trees and all forms of ground cover, aware of the potential for hours of gazing and drinking in the glory of natural beauty, witness to the wonders of divine creation far surpassing any man-made wizardry.
Returning home sun-kissed and wind-blessed I pondered the difference between The Falls and The Park. Both are visited by millions of people. Both possess an ongoing capacity to fascinate and enthrall and absorb the attention of humankind. Yet here there is space to be part of the beauty without being overwhelmed by the people. Of course it helps that there is no city surrounding parts of The Park! Duh, Meg.
And that's really it. Before there was a chance for a city to grow up around its special wonders, The Park was set apart. The Falls got the city, the theme parks, the hotels, the casinos and restaurants, the endless tide of commercialism. The boundaries weren't drawn in time to preserve the wonder and direct the way attention would be given.
So here I go for the spiritual parallels again. Guess you could feel them creeping up on you. Intentionality in drawing boundaries, setting things apart for their special purposes, matching things in appropriate ways. I was jarred by the dissonance at Niagara Falls between natural stupendous creation and man made hideous cheap thrills. I didn't have to deal with that at Algonquin Park. The human creations were tastefully serving the natural creations, framing it and setting it off, enabling greater appreciation of it instead of exploiting it.
What are the lessons to learn more than just appreciation for the creation of national parks? How can we apply this to our own lives? How do we make choices for ourselves so that we can be integrated and resonant like the world surrounding The Park, instead of disrespectful and dissonant like the world surrounding The Falls ? How do we take what is most precious in our lives and preserve it by drawing boundaries and keeping it set apart and sacred? How do we hear God calling us to do that, to bring into balance and harmony our connection between ourselves and His wonders in our world and our lives?
I am grateful today for so much food for heart and soul, mind and spirit, as well as fresh air and exercise for my body, and a feast for my eyes. I have travelled to many places in the world. I have had many spiritual experiences. But today I have enjoyed communion with the Lord of lords in a fresh and deeply personal way just "around the corner" from my home.
We can find such places and moments in many ways and days in our lives. They may already be set apart, or we may draw those boundaries ourselves. Either way, God waits to speak to us through them, as we set ourselves and time apart to seek His face in their midst.