“If you shield the canyons from the windstorms you will never see the true beauty of their carvings.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
During recent travels my wife, Jean, and I visited Bryce Canyon National Park, in southern Utah. We decided to hike part of the canyon, and after descending to the canyon floor we followed a path that led us through a slit in one of the canyon’s walls. After about a half hour, we found ourselves in a remarkable stone chamber, the walls of which rose vertically for nearly one hundred feet, making us feel as if we were standing at the bottom of a sandstone silo. After our eyes adjusted to the light and the soaring height of rock above us, what we discovered seemed incredible! In fact, if asked to predict what we would discover in this room, a thousand educated guesses would not have zeroed in on the right answer.
Growing out of the stone and gravel on the floor of this chamber were several very tall pine trees. As the photo shows, the height of the trees exceeds that of the walls so that their “leaves,” the needles on the limbs, can bask in the sunlight above the shadowy enclosure, feeding the entire tree with light necessary to life. This image of life fighting extraordinarily harsh conditions to get what it needs to survive stunned us into rapt silence, especially since we weren’t expecting to see it.
If not for the hikers that swarmed around us, one would declare the deep rock chamber to be harsh, barren, and inhospitable in the extreme to life. Yet here stood these magnificent trees that appeared to thrive. I was transfixed by the wonder of it all.
A learned man once wrote that by definition a miracle must be witnessed. To his mind miracles don’t occur in a closet while no one is home. I would not put such a fine point on any wondrous act. Moreover, my threshold for declaring a miracle is probably lower than most – I thought my graduating from high school was a miracle! But there is no denying that something miraculous occurred in that canyon.
Perhaps the seeds that became these Bryce Canyon pines in this lonely spot were a little heartier than others. Then perhaps they were bathed in a nurturing rain at just the precise moment needed to bring them to life. I can’t tell you the bio-technicalities of it all. My conclusion is far simpler: Life will find a way. Nature divines that it will be so.
Haven’t we all come upon people who always find a way to flourish, even in the harshest of circumstances? People who amaze us by their resilience, practical creativity, and hearty vision of the future—both for themselves and for other individuals and society in general? People who have learned to ignore daily news outfits that broadcast a constant stream of human shortcomings, exhorting us by their selection of what’s “news” as well as by the angle they take on it to believe that ours is a barren, arid, foolish, and venal society barely capable of supporting life. That we are wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling reality-show contestants of every stripe and size—all presided over by master oracles, claiming that the whole country is The Biggest Loser.
It’s not so! My friends, I think we want to model our lives upon the example of those who demonstrate by their attitude and faithful actions that hope is possible and even present in the most desperate locations and circumstances. These learned souls, like tall and sturdy desert pines we saw rooted in the floor of Bryce Canyon with their limbs reaching for the sunny air one hundred and more feet above, show us that a divine and living force stands ready to provide us with the opportunity to have our most radiant dreams fulfilled.
And let’s not forget that those are most often the dreams that conscribe to the wise, miraculous natural law that brings life to hardy trees in a deep canyon in the great desert of the American West.