This morning I went to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It was a deeply moving and spiritual experience. I don’t use that latter word lightly. I have rarely been to a more aptly named spot. I expected to find the rocks beautiful. I did not expect to find tears in my eyes at the sight of the first one, and I did not expect that experience to be repeated over and over.
It’s easy enough to come up with relevant adjectives: staggering, overwhelming, glorious. But talking about strong emotion, expressing with words that sort of feeling is very difficult to do.
I have always thought of myself as a water person rather than a rock/earth/mountain person. It’s my dad who likes to climb mountains. I always want to go to the sea. But I think various things, some obvious and some not, have been shifting in my 40’s. And part of that is developing new appreciations, new understandings, new loves, as well as new sources of renewal, both physical and spiritual.
I remember when I was a pretty little kid thinking that compared to the lifespan of the stars, my life was insignificant, and my sadnesses a passing blip in the stream of Time. That perspective did sometimes help me take the urgency of the moment down a notch or two. Now, at the advanced age of almost-47, I find that perspective has softened and broadened. The rocks, the earth’s spiny exoskeleton, have seen the passage of more time than my human mind can actually truly comprehend. But I can feel an energetic exchange between them and me and whatever undefined thing there is in the ether that I currently name Spirit. My life, no matter how short, matters. My experiences and feelings matter. All lives matter. And I honor the ideals and intention of the donor of the park to the city of Colorado Springs, who wished that, “it be kept forever free to the public.” And the public comes there, in all its diversity of raucousness and reverence.
I am not sure I can name the reasons that I cried upon sight of the rocks. But they seemed to me to be meaning made solid. They endure, and yet they change. They are affected by wind and rain, by ice, and by people. People have carved names and hearts and initials on their surfaces. I find this outrageous, though I understand the impulse to leave a mark on something so everlasting. And I accept as the cost of freedom that people will make unconstrained poor choices.
But I do think we need to teach and model reverence. We humans are very capable destroyers. Along with availability of affordable consumer goods seems to have come a casual disregard for the materials, work, and energy that have gone into the making and selling of those items. We need to remember and communicate the value of craft, persistence, longevity, and consideration for those who will come after us. And we need to remember our history, as well as allowing real history that has been suppressed by the powerful to reemerge when it is presented to us.
My experience today at Garden of the Gods reminded me of two of the questions I need to keep fresh in my mind in my daily life. And those are: “What is the most compassionate thing I can do for myself (and others) right now?” and, “What is the highest option?”
I am very glad I had that time by myself with no need, perceived or otherwise, to filter my experience through anyone else’s presence or perspective. I want to bring my children there when they’re a bit older. And I’d love to go back with my friends. But this morning’s solo visit was a real gift. I hope to keep the memory of it fresh so I can continue to receive its blessings.