"The Wilderness Mountains on a Winter's Eve"
-viewed while standing in front of my house-
Upon waking up every morning, I utter a simple mantra: "Surprise me!" I call out to the Universe - to the all abiding Holy Presence and surrender myself to the adventure of the day. Yesterday, turned out to be a day full of surprises.
Every day I "walk" on the familiar wilderness trails near my house. Yesterday I learned that there is a big difference between a walk and a hike. Instead of a leisurely walk on the trails yesterday, my wife and son and I went on a 4-hour "hike" that took us well up into the high mountains above our desert home.
When I walk the familiar trails I am always surprised by the unfolding beauty of the wild and fierce desert terrain, but on my mountain hike yesterday, the desert was about to teach me an even deeper lesson about the surprises life has to offer.
On our hike yesterday, the territory was totally unfamiliar. I was afraid of getting lost and the "hard to follow" trail up into the mountain region was steep and rigorous. It was beautiful but not very comfortable- peaceful, but also kind of scary.
As we proceeded into the mountains, my first "unexpected" surprise came when the "great silence" hit.
It is always pretty quiet at our "Desert Retreat House." In fact, the desert in which we live is a place of "silence," but yesterday the silence was different.
As we walked up the mountain, it was almost as if we crossed some sort of imaginary threshold when we entered into the mountain region where the silence was so pronounced as to be somewhat frightening at first -absolute stillness, "great silence." The silence took us all by surprise. We had to stop for a moment because it was all so amazing, maybe even a bit disorienting at first.
But the biggest surprise was yet to come.
As we trudged into the mountains, my eyes were focused down upon the rocky and somewhat treacherous trail beneath me. When I looked up, I literally "stopped dead in my tracks. There only a few feet in front of us stood a herd of bighorn sheep, incredibly beautiful, stunning, wild, untamed creatures standing right there in our path, looking right at us.
I almost cannot describe that moment.
We all just stopped- in fact for that brief moment, it seemed like time just stopped. There was not a single move from us or from the sheep -just a moment of encounter.
The piercing gaze of one of the sheep froze me in place. Horns blazing from his head, looking directly at me - at first I wasn't quite sure if I should be afraid of him. I feared he may be thinking we might cause them harm. I wondered, will they run after us- attack us?
My guess is that the sheep were probably wondering the same thing about how safe we. strange human creatures, were. After all we were the ones who had come up and invaded their turf.
Eventually we all realized that none of us were predators and none of us intended any harm. So off they went, allowing us to pass - up into the mountains grazing on shrubs and bushes until they were no longer in our view.
It was a holy moment for me - a sacred time of such an unexpected surprise.
When we came back home, all any of us could do was talk about our encounter with those exotic, wild beautiful, creatures up on that wilderness mountain. I will never again look up at the mountains without thinking about them.
Yesterday the desert taught me another life-lesson.
I came to realize that I like being surprised by life as long as the surprises are within my comfort zone. I like to be surprised by "expected" surprises. When I take my daily "walks," I sort of expect the beauty I encounter along the way - the familiar trails, the cacti, the desert shrubs, the vast expansive plain, the towering mountains in the distance. Somehow, since I am comfortable with all this, I feel much more "in control" over it all.
Yesterday I learned a lesson that life is not at all controllable. The unfamiliar trails, the rigorous climb, the unexpected great silence, the wildly beautiful, untamed creatures on my path painted a picture for me of what life is all about- unexpected, uncontrolled and uncontrollable surprises all along the way. So enjoy it, relish it, take it all in, because it is what it is and it will be what it will be.
This morning when I got out of bed and recited my daily mantra, I paused for a moment. "Yes, surprise me," I said - but not just with the expected surprises. Surprise me with all the"unexpected surprises" that will come my way this day.
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