“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.”
I’ll be honest: It’s been a tough summer.
Actually, it’s been a tough year.
In between my varied blog posts and social media musings over these past few months, I’ve been struggling. In fact, that word — “struggling” — has so permeated my thought and conversation that I am beginning to wonder if I might ever know myself again when I am not “struggling.” It has become my status quo. My condition. My dis-ease.
I won’t list all the odd misfortunes and wrong turns here. But it does seem that, since the start of the year, Murphy’s Law has been in full swing with me and my husband. Some of the misfortunes we’ve felt are financial. Some involve landlord woes and stresses above and beyond the norm. Some are accidents and losses that have affected dear family members and friends. Some are due to human negligence that had repercussions for us (like this one, that affected the community where my husband runs his metal fabrication business). Some are, I’m sure, due to some fault of our own.
No need to dwell on them all here. But truly, for the first time in my life, it feels like a lot of things are going sideways all at once. It has honestly shaken my faith. Despite all my efforts at trying to be present, grounded, positive, and putting out “the good,” it seems the bad stuff just keeps showin’ up on our doorstep and smackin’ us down.
I always held the belief that putting good energy out into the world would yield good energy in return. But sometimes bad things happen to good people. It makes little sense. I grapple with how it all fits together into what has been my long-standing belief about the laws of the universe.
Last Sunday I went on a hike with a dear friend, Jen. We hiked the Bay Area Ridge Trail, adding one more adventure to my list of 5 that I’m trying to complete as part of the Ridge Trail Challenge that I helped to design earlier this year.
As is often the case with this dear friend, we yapped and yapped nearly the whole way along the trail. We had so much catching up to do, so many good questions to ask each other, so many ponderings we wanted to share and updates on our lives. Whenever we go on these hikes, I’m always struck by how quickly the hike goes by, but for the occasional moments where we pause, catch our breath, eat a peach in the dappled sunlight, take in a the smell of trees and low hum of insect sounds.
As we turned one corner of the trail on this particular adventure, I saw an older couple out of the corner of my eye, quietly paused on the edge of the trail by a bench, gazing out into the distance. I asked Jen if we could pause in our conversation so I could capture a quick photo once they left. I’m so glad we did.
A strange and centering peace flowed over me in that moment as I gazed out on Mt. Diablo in the distance. The heaviness of things that had been weighing me down seemed to softly evaporate in the warm air and the smell of Eucalyptus trees. And these words, from Psalm 121 (and from final scenes of The Sound of Music, if you happen to follow that classic story), came to me as I looked out on that great mountain.
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”
I realize, whenever I look up to the mountains, to the trees and the sunshine, when I attend to the silent and not-so-silent natural world outside the boundaries of my self-contained body, new perspectives come to my mind. The swirl and sideways bends of the life that I inhabit almost seem to subside like calm winds after a storm. I am reminded that there is something beyond that which I perceive, a greater spiritual force at play in the world. And I am at the mercy of it. I don’t claim to understand it. But something inside me surrenders. And in surrendering, I find simplicity and peace. Gazing at that mountain reminded me that, even in the labor of my days, there is joy to be found, gratitude to be had, a breathless quiet place “from whence cometh my help,” my rescue.
Jen and I continued on our hike. The day rolled on. The sideways bend of life has continued into this week. But I am holding that picture of the mountain in my mind, a reminder of what is real and simple.
May you find a place of quiet refuge and help in your life somewhere this week. If you need a cue, look to the mountains…
For more on finding joy amid the labor of life, check out this podcast from OnBeing.org.