For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth,
over and around us lies …
There’s something about being outside in beautiful, remote locale surrounded by water and trees, and open sky. No traffic noise. No electronic devices buzzing. No clocks. No to-do lists. Your only goal is to relax and reconnect with yourself, your family or friends, and creation.
I thought of this old hymn often when we were up at Paulina Lake in Oregon. This spring-fed lake in a volcanic crater surrounded by pine trees and lava flow remains is one of my most favorite places on the planet. It holds many happy memories of family fishing trips with my Mom’s side of the family. And it was a fitting place to gather as a family to spread my brother’s ashes.
I grew up playing outside, riding my bike everywhere, walking to school, and fishing, camping and backpacking. I was fortunate to live close enough to beaches and mountains in a state that valued state and national parks. Santa Clara Valley morphed into Silicon Valley, but the house I grew up in (and my parents still live) was nestled on a half-acre lot that was a rural-like oasis in a valley whose orchards were gradually replaced with corporate office campuses and high density housing.
Maybe that’s why the outdoors calls to me. Or maybe it’s because we are part of creation and it’s embedded in our DNA. Although I find places of beauty and serenity wherever I am, being able to truly get away to places like Paulina are necessary to refresh and restore my worn out soul.
So here are my few simple thoughts from Paulina:
Unplug and power-off. I confess. I am dependent on technology for an alarming amount of activity from waking up to working out. We may laugh when we say “there’s an app for that,” but there is a lot of truth in that statement! Unplugging removes distractions that keep us from being present with ourselves and engaging with others. We are more aware and attuned to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and feel.
Be in the experience. I know. A little esoteric for most of us, but I’m not talking about tapping into your personal om channel so you can commune with the primal essence of the universe. I’m talking more about being invested in whatever you’re doing or whomever you’re with.
I can’t swim (I know. California girl who doesn’t swim.) so being out in the middle of a deep lake in a small boat where you can see the deeps is a bit unnerving for me. But the experience of being on a crater lake, surrounded by ancient lava flows and towering pines, soothed by the sun while helping my granddaughter catch her first fish was more powerful than my fear of water and a memory gift I will always have.
Grandpa Sam and I experienced a different hike with our eight, five, and three-year old granddaughters than we would have by ourselves. Being able to belly-laugh about “fishing with Vic” (literally) and then watch your husband pull in (literally) his first fish is stuff you just can’t make up. Epic stories come from epic experiences.
Give thanks. There was a bittersweetness about this trip to Paulina. It was a much more emotional trip than I anticipated. My brother would have loved everything about this trip and he was never far from most of our thoughts. Being able to give thanks for his life and honor him in a simple tribute might have been the impetus for all of us getting together, but it wasn’t the only thing.
My grandparents brought their kids to fish at Paulina, who brought their kids, who brought their kids, who are now bringing their kids. Families who have had their share of tragedies and triumphs and differences, and are still able to be blessed by the ties that bind us together … in one of my most favorite places on the planet.
Lord of all to Thee we raise,
this our hymn of grateful praise.