When I was about eight years old my family took a road trip out to California. My uncle lives out there. Being the local, he took us to all the beautiful and unique sites around the area. I remember driving a winding road out to a lighthouse. There’s a picture of us standing at an overlook of the Golden Gate bridge. And then there’s Yosemite. Oh sweet, sweet Yosemite.
It’s a beautiful park, from what I remember. It was a clear day, the blue sky raining down nothing but whimsy. We drove along a slow road, perusing past sheer cliffs with climbers like ants on the vast walls. We stopped in a wooded parking lot, and I could smell the mist. I could feel it. And I could hear it, not so much a falling but more of a reverberating. As if all the water in the world was moving in my bones.
At the end of a short pathway, finally, we could see it. Or them, really. Two beautiful – almost mythical – waterfalls. The mist fell fresh on my face. The reverberations sunk deeper and deeper as we walked closer. As a child, it was the most powerful thing I’d seen.
The magic of Yosemite for me, though, was Half Dome. We drove a little longer through a thick – maybe even ancient – forest until we stopped at a clearing. My brother and I climbed out of the car and galloped like overly-excited youngins do to see what was past the clearing. We wound like little racecars through the maze of sidewalk until we were tall enough to see it – the opening of the world. At least that’s what it seemed like. As far as my little whimsy-soaked eyes could see, there was mountain upon mountain upon mountain. And there, like a safe place among dangerous pointed peaks, was Half Dome. The clouds and blue sky and mountains reminded me of something distant, but I couldn’t put my chubby little finger on it.
My parents eventually reached the gorgeous view. We huddled close together and my uncle snapped a shot. Like most things in life, the depth of that moment was lost on me. I was just a kid on vacation with his family. Everything was right in my little world. Wouldn’t it always be like this?
When I was old enough to be a Boy Scout our troop went up north to summer camp for a week. I was the shy kid, though. The other boys my age scared me. Dusk is when I got especially lonely. So I would strap my headlight on, crawl to the bottom of my sleeping bag, and dig out that picture of my family close together at the opening of the world. I didn’t understand why things weren’t always like that moment at Half Dome, but for a few minutes in my stuffy little sleeping bag, something was right in the world.
I don’t carry around that picture anymore, but I do have this gem that I keep tacked up on my cork board of my brother, dad, and I barely pulling off a ski pyramid. Right under that is a letter from my cousin who’s sharing Jesus with college students in Uruguay. Next to that is a picture of the English camp I got to be part of in Germany.
I know now that life gets messy and the light of all that seemed to be right and steady can fade. But when I look at these memories, when I think about that shot from California, it reminds me that in the mess of everyday…
Pictures are being taken. An intimate history is being written. Heaven is meeting earth.
And just maybe there is something right in this world.