Saturday, July 25, 2009

Elk and Beautiful Places

It says something when in a first day of driving in beautiful country that the place that was the most beautiful was closest to home. Today we saw a large herd of elk (like twenty or thirty, grazing twenty feet from highway as we drove 45 minutes from home through the redwoods that we love so much. As we got out of the car, I had a short conversation with the kids because these elk were way too close to us to be really safe, though I think we could have gone over and patted them on the nose without too serious consequences – they were very used to people. But there was a nursery fifty feet off with about four or five calves.

Beautiful places to live are a blessing without measure. I noticed this in Boulder Creek, but didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it till I moved to Mendocino. There is something about a redwood tree in my back yard that completely changes how I wake up. My formative years were spent in Arlington, Virginia and I remember being at the top of a tree in our yard a lot of the time. The woods was just a block from the house and a stream with crayfish and snakes and rocks to throw. The pace of life and ministry slowed in the movement from Berkeley and Hayward to Boulder Creek. Certainly country living does this, but I think it also has something to do with walking around in a place that isn’t made by human beings, in a place that is nurturing life on the planet instead of poisoning it, where the predominant smell is bark not car fume.

In Mendocino many people just plane stopped a little before sunset, closed up the shop, walked down the street a block or so to watch the sunset. When I lived in Berkeley and was building the retreat center, I would often go up to the rooftop of our three story Victorian and sit on the chimney to watch the sun go down behind the golden gate. Now we watch evening fade slowly on the foggy hills beyond the Eel River. (Of course I never see the sun come up.)

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