I have long been a student in the school of Wonder. My folks taught me at a young age to live with my eyes open and ears tuned to the beauty of God’s creation. We didn’t go to Disneyland when I was a kid, we went camping. When I read the first two Chapters of Margaret Feinberg’s book I was hooked. She had me at the Northern Lights, and Hobbits. But what do you do during those times when the worries and stress of life has squeezed the wonder right out of you?
What I do is pray. Then I go outside and let the wilderness speak for Him.
I tried to tell myself it wasn’t because of the snake that I hadn’t been to the trail this year. I tried to convince myself it was other things.
But I knew the truth.
In my mind’s eye I could still see it. Coiled there in the sun. Waiting for me to find it. Well, no it wasn’t, but that’s what it felt like. And then right after that we saw the rattler in the road and I remembered how fast it coiled when we slowly idled by. Gave us both the creeps.
The mountain had been calling me for weeks. Someone had told me the Superstitions were ablaze with color and I had decided, today was the day. I needed to hear the quail call minus the sound of the freeway in the background.
When I got there, several cars were already parked in the lot. Good, I thought. More people on the trail means more footfall to scare away the snakes. With camera bumping against my side, I headed out. The desert was ablaze with yellow flowers and for a moment I forgot my trepidation and clicked some photos.
I felt like God had graced the area with hundreds of bouquets just for me.
I took a deep healing breath and walked toward the trailhead. My heart was pounding even though I had scarcely begun walking let alone climbing. I scanned the trail from side to side as I walked, eyes peeled for any movement. I jumped back at the sound of a harmless lizard scuttling through the brush. My eyes drank in the sights and sounds as I tried to erase that other sinister image burned into my brain.
Breaking into a trot, I figured if I made enough noise, the snakes would have warning and time to get out of my way. Or get really ticked off. How stupid, I thought. That’s just what they hope to do to us with their clever rattles of theirs.
In times when I have been deeply distressed, nature has always been a way for me to find God again, to get back my balance, and I was tired of letting this fear win.
As I approached the place where I had seen it last year, I prayed for God to deliver me from my silly fear. I made up a mantra, “Damnsnake, Damnsnake, Damnsnake,” and I uttered it under my breath. Then I started to get mad at it all over again for robbing me of trail time this year. With head down and heart pounding, I soared up the mountain in what felt like super-human strength. I did it!
I felt a victory bubbling up in my heart. I even paused to take a photo to commemorate the spot as I felt my wonder come flooding back.
When I got to the midway point I rested on the bench. I felt exhilarated and free. Buoyed by my victory, I greeted fellow hikers and felt joy spill over me like a fountain. I had told myself that for this first time back, I wasn’t going to go all the way up to the top.
Now that I had it back, I simply had to go all the way.
On the way up to the top, I met an elderly man from Canada coming down. He held two walking sticks and was dressed in a dapper cotton plaid shirt and hiking shorts. There was a spark of Heavenly light in his eyes and it inspired me to see him out enjoying life, letting nothing stop him. I stopped and we talked about this and that, and then I went on my way and he went on his.
I thought to myself, this is catching, this wonder thing. And I thought, and not for the first time in my life:
Wonder is contagious, and it’s something we can pass on.
I sailed down the mountain, my spirits lifted to the heights of Heaven, my day transformed by wonder.
Smiled on by grace.