Breathing in quietness.

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At about 5,000 feet up into the mountains I usually turn off the radio or story, open all the car windows, and breathe deeply of the pine and cedar scents that are so exhilarating. They make me think, “Why oh why have I stayed away so long? How will I bear to go back down to the air of the flatlands?”

wallfower Dinky Ck 7-17-15
Wallflower

But this summer — it didn’t happen that way. At about 3,000 feet I got lost, or at least confused, by taking a couple of wrong turns. When I realized my mistake, it took me a half hour to get back on track. At 4,000 feet, even though it was still 86°, I opened the windows under tall pines, but all I noticed was my shirt hanging in the backseat, as a sleeve started flapping in the rear view mirror.

And I watched the thermometer drop 20 degrees in 20 minutes, as I climbed into the forest. I saw the elderberry bushes in bloom, those tall and friendly plants I’d learned about two years ago, and more than one upland meadow with black cattle grazing. Maybe it wasn’t late in the day for summertime, but I’d forgotten how the sun would go down early, because the trees are so tall, and the valleys deep.P1000783 I discovered that my jaw was sore – evidently I’d been clenching it, so there must have been some anxiety about the time underneath my excitement over all the irresistible photo opportunities.

Where the road crosses a bridge over a creek I stopped to catch the fishermen in the twilight, and found an orange wallflower, that lacking a wall, made do with a post.

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Leopard Lily

The thermometer dropped another twenty degrees in the last hour of my drive, as I got higher and higher and still obeyed the call of the wildflowers to stop and take their pictures — because after all, they might be gone the next time I passed their way! Their glory is short-lived, except for the Pearly Everlasting that seems to hang on and on making a white border by the roadside.

Leopard lilies bloomed in the wetter areas, but the penstemon and paintbrush grew right out of the granite gravel next to the pavement, where they also get the maximum of sun exposure.

paintbrush & penstemon
paintbrush & penstemon

 

And then, after a journey of eight and a half hours (it “normally” takes me six) during which the temperature ranged from 102° to 57°, I arrived at the door of our beloved cabin! I had by this time forgotten the advice of one of my friends, when I told her about my anxiety: “Breathe deeply when you get in the mountains.” I’m sure when I was sitting at home in the morning and read that message I must have thought, “Well, that comes naturally!”

 

 

 

When I unlocked the door and walked in, I noticed a new sign on the wall:

breathe at cabin 2

I obeyed that word, too, but I was only thinking of how I needed the conscious inhalation to help me relax. It wasn’t until I was lying in bed an hour later that it dawned on me I hadn’t smelled the trees. Was it the drought that was making them hold every droplet of moisture in their needles? Was I to spend several days in their company and never get that mountain perfume? Two years ago when I last was last here, smoke from a huge forest fire in Yosemite was filling my senses with the scent of burning trees.

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view from deck

It was the bone-penetrating, soul-healing quiet of the mountains that most affected me during this visit. I was completely solitary for my first evening and morning, and that turned out to be enough time for an intense healing session.

I sat on the deck reading in the morning. Two birds twittered a call-and-response from one Lodgepole pine to another. Up there the sun is baking, and the altitude takes your breath away – or more precisely, takes the oxygen from your breath – and everything combines and causes a heavy sleepiness to fall on you…. Before noon I had to lie on my bed to take a nap. But in the cool of the bedroom I revived and didn’t sleep. I read more in George MacDonald’s Phantastes, the book that C.S. Lewis said “baptized his imagination.”

The protagonist of the story, who is exploring Fairyland, encounters a lovely and deep blue pool: “Led by an irresistible desire, I undressed, and plunged into the water. It clothed me as with a new sense and its object both in one. The waters lay so close to me, they seemed to enter and revive my heart.”

When in my imagination I experienced that Living Water with the swimmer in the story, it was as if the silence of the mountain morning were the pool of God’s healing presence for me at that moment. Then I knew another reality I had read about a few pages before in that book, “Tears are the only cure for weeping.”P1000831

One doesn’t like to imagine breathing water, and I hadn’t yet managed to detect that comforting mountain aroma in the air that I drank hungrily, but stillness and peace were in plentiful supply, and were oxygen for my spirit. That sort of peace is so unfamiliar, it is at the same time both soothing and thrilling.

I was soon to have more good company, both human and atmospheric, and I will tell more about that next time.

13 thoughts on “Breathing in quietness.

  1. It is such a blessing to be in a place like the mountains where your cabin is…..My place like that is our cottage at Lake Chautauqua. The temperature difference is not as dramatic as what you are describing, but it is always (in summer) 5 to 10 degrees cooler than at home in Ohio….It was a “resort” built by Victorians who had no air conditioning and needed natural cooling in the summer…….I want to paint a similar sort of sign for our cottage, only saying “You’re at the Lake now,” and with a silhouette of Lake Chautauqua beneath…Thank you for this excellent idea…….

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  2. What a blessed healing time for you! I read Phantastes several years ago, but I may need to revisit it. God is so good. 🙂

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  3. As I read your post, I kept thinking of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Gift from the Sea. “One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” Only change it to the pines, and the cabin. I am so glad you have a place to go visit like that and to drive and see so much beauty.

    I can imagine the smell of the hot pines and the dusty smell of the loamy earth. Have a blessed time.

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  4. I am revived too, following along, reading and looking. I had nearly forgotten how to breathe in the purest air, even though it’s been less than two weeks since we returned from a brief but enlivening cabin-stay at Montauk springs here in Missouri. In particular I had forgotten almost completely to watch for the flowers as we came and went. Thank you for inviting us to join your trip.

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  5. Just the fact that you needed that intense healing session, that you didn’t remember to breathe deeply — should have been automatic, yes? — and that you wept, that you had to be reminded to relax … all this speaks to how stressed and anxious your spirit has been, dear GJ. It’s wonderful that God is leading you to these places to heal you. May you find each healing place along his journey for you 🙂

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