We went to Glacier National Park earlier this week...most of it was closed because it was a beautiful winter wonderland but we went to everything that was open. It was breathtaking. I haven’t spent a lot of time in national parks in the Winter. Highly recommend. You may see less but you will be able to enjoy a view that is spectacular and with a lot less people...a lot less.
As I stood freezing on the edge of MacDonald creek, watching the water shoot through the canyon like some sort of fire hose, I thought, “wow, why are such beautiful things also deadly?”
As I looked down, it was clear to me with one wrong move, with one misstep, I could be in the icy water and drowned within seconds. My body smashed against the rocky canyon walls. I know it has happened to other poor unfortunate people, there are signs warning you to be careful and that the view is as spectacular as it is deadly.
And this got me thinking...
Our entire trip was amazingly gorgeous. We were honored with snow beginning at our arrival but it made hard terms at times. The simple act of driving was at times treacherous and frankly terrifying. We skidded out of control while going fifteen miles an hour several times. I became incredibly grateful for learning to drive in a place that snowed yearly. Turns out you do remember things even when it has been years since you had to draw on that particular skill set...
Being out in the middle of nowhere and driving long distances presented other challenges other than the weather. There were times when I thought that the road conditions might actually kill or maim us. We were frequently presented with roadside obstacles, more commonly known as deer, which are well known for darting out in front of you. Not only is this often fatal for the deer, it can be fatal for the humans too.
I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention all the other wildlife that can also kill you: wolves, bear, mountain lions, moose.
So in the wilds of Montana, we had to deal with the weather terrain, wildlife. All of it heightening the sense of danger and peril, but also heightening the beauty and fragility of it all.
And that left me thinking that perhaps that is the way of life. Dazzling us with the beauty and the danger to keep us aware that life, ours and others, is always a precarious balancing of everything. Perhaps we come to appreciate the beauty because of the peril. That perhaps I would not have found the fast moving currents of the Kootenai River so amazingly and captivating, if I did not also recognize that if I fell into it, I was a goner.
Life has a way of lifting us and bringing us down. Always. If you are up, you are sure to come down and if you are down, you are sure to rise again. Perhaps all the dangerous beauty is to keep us always at the tipping point of holding on and letting go. The danger and the awe married to a combination of sublime landscapes and roving views.
I know for me, whenever I stand next to a spectacular Mountain View, raging river, or wildlife display, it is always in the back of my mind that this vista could be my last. I could make a misstep and it could all be over. Mostly, I would be grateful that my last view was phenomenal. But since I have lived to tell from all of my adventures (so far) it always leaves me with a feeling of spontaneous joy. Joy for being alive, beholding such magnificence and for being another being on the planet.
Deathly beauty shows me every single time that I am indeed lucky to be here...very lucky indeed. And that all that I behold could also kill me dead in seconds. Life is a series of paradoxes, I think because we need the stark juxtaposition of the beauty and the danger to keep us ever alert to the fact that life is fleeting, life is miraculous. Life doesn’t ever last forever. Deathly beauty reminds us to appreciate it all while it is here because there are no guarantees, no sure things. We just have this moment right now and it matters quite a lot what we do with each one.