Getting Out: Finding solace in the beauty of nature

Getting Out: Finding solace in the beauty of nature

Tuesday morning, I heard news of the tragic and unbearable loss
of a young life. It was the kind of news that prompts one to
ask,

How can it be?

If this is a good world, how can such a thing happen?
Tuesday morning, I heard news of the tragic and unbearable loss of a young life. It was the kind of news that prompts one to ask, “How can it be?” If this is a good world, how can such a thing happen?

Of course, this is not a “good” world. It is only the world that it is – full of unimaginable joy and beauty as well as unendurable pain and loss. It is at these emotional edges – the joyful ones and the painful ones – that we ask the big “How” and “Why” questions. In the end, the answers are beyond our ken, and the best we can do is move forward with our own brand of faith in the world, the universe and our presence here.

One night last week, after a day of hiking in the thin air of the Sierra crest, I drove along a washboard-rutted dirt road that cut through the sagebrush of the high desert near Mono Lake. I peered into the twin cones of light, looking for a place to roll out my sleeping bag for the night. I found a nice spot, unrolled my bag, and, after a short session of counting shooting stars, surrendered to sleep.

The next morning, alone in a vast silent landscape, I rolled up and set out for another day on the trail. Bouncing along that desert road, I was distracted by the soft morning light streaking low across the gray-green sagebrush and the 13,000-foot peaks beyond. I pulled over, grabbed my camera and started walking.

A desert can be a hot, dry and forbidding place, but this morning was cool and fresh. I walked along one of the many Mono Lake-bound streams that descend from the high peaks close by. It created a ribbon of lush grass and flowers that sliced through the dry sagebrush. There was beauty in every direction, and I tried my best to package it in pixels – a futile effort.

But the picture that accompanies this piece best reminds me of what I felt that morning: solitude, deafening silence, fresh morning light and vast distances all combined into a moment of inestimable beauty.

Times like this, in places like this, move me to ask the “How” and “Why” questions prompted by life’s wonderful moments. They fill one with a sense of hope and promise – that life is not some purposeless and futile struggle, and they can provide solace to those whose pain and despair drive them to ask the painful “How” and “Why” questions.

The First Noble Truth, taught by the Buddha 2,500 years ago, is that life is suffering. So, get used to it. We are all in line for some dose of struggle and pain. Each of us must find a way to bear it and keep on going, still able to conjure a smile. Whatever your method is for coping, or, better yet, finding peace through life’s difficulties, I suggest adding a walk along the seashore, a slog to a mountaintop or a hike through a desert sunrise. You will find a special peace and comfort there.

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