We live in a paradoxical world. Despite the heartache, the suffering and the tragic events that occur in this world, there still exist places of pure serenity and peace. Yosemite is one of those places. Yosemite is a true heaven that exists on this earth with her vast beautiful valley, majestic falls, granite mountains, rock formations, flowing waters, and ancient pine and sequoia trees. For my 21st birthday I could think of no other place I’d rather be. So, following my finals my dear friend Ashley and I headed up north to embark on a spontaneous journey to Yosemite.
Our road trip was filled with long talks about life, God, philosophy, meaning and beauty. I cannot express my gratitude to have a friend like Ashley; I not only view her as a kindred spirit, but also as a sister. To have a friend that I can share thoughts, beliefs, doubts, questions and struggles with is an immeasurable gift.
After a long drive filled with Sufjan Stevens and sweet conversations, we were greeted by chilly winds and fresh mountain air as we exited Ashley’s black pathfinder. On the first night of our journey we stayed with Ashley’s sweet grandmother, who lives around 45 minutes outside of the park. Ashley’s grandmother’s home is simple and heated by a single wood-burning stove. The moments of calm spent in her home were precious. Ashley and I awoke to a prepared breakfast and breathtaking scenic views that surrounded the quaint home. I enjoyed looking through the old photographs and art pieces that are on display throughout the home. After lots of hugs and thanksgiving, Ashley and I set out for Yosemite.
Upon entering the park, my heart began to race as the misty, scenic views began to surround the car. The exquisite beauty of the park muted the faint hum of Ben Howard’s song “Old Pine” which quickly became the theme song of our trip. After making it to the valley, we headed to the upper pines campsite, where we set up camp in the snow. We then headed out on our first hike towards Mirror Lake.
Mirror Lake is stunning, with her vivid reflections and beautiful valley views, it sparked many thoughts. I thought about the fact that many of us, throughout our lives, may marvel at the reflections that we encounter yet fail to acknowledge the reality of the actual views before us. Moreover, reflections though they are incredible, are missing the depth and the radiant hues of reality. What we perceive in this world is a reflection of reality, yet I know that each of us sometimes believe that our own perceptions are reality, but we must not confuse the reflections and the realities that exist in our lives.
After the hike, Ashley and I headed over to the Yosemite Village General Store, where I bought my first alcoholic beverage (in the U.S.) as a 21 year old: a small bottle of moscato rose sparkling wine. We also bought packets of Indian food, which we happily enjoyed sitting around the campfire (which we built ourselves, I may add). It was a perfect birthday, thanks not only to Yosemite but also to my true friend, Ashley. We spent the remainder of the night stargazing, listening the crackle of the fire, and enjoying each other’s company.
The following morning we set out for the upper falls trail. The hike was incredible. It took about six hours round trip and led to the highest waterfall in North America. At the start of the hike there was a light rain that greeted us, which made the trail a bit slippery. As we trekked onwards, snowfall began, and at one point we were walking through calf-deep snow. Though our feet quickly became numb, our frigid bodies were thawed and warmed by the breathtaking views that we encountered.
The views of the valley, of the granite rock formations, of half dome, of the mist-covered pine trees, each brought me peace and a sense of comfort and connection. A connection to the earth and her endless beauty. Though I felt somewhat small in comparison to the stunning views that surrounded me, I felt more significant than ever. Breath by breath, step-by-step, snowflake after snowflake, every moment, every snow-covered pine tree passed and gorgeous view that stood before us, refreshed and revived my spirit and reminded me of what true freedom feels like.
At the top of the peak Ashley and I made a little snowman.
We used goji berries for the eyes and a cashew for the smile (though it fell off). As we were making the snowman, the sun’s rays broke through the mist-filled sky and reflected her brilliant light onto the mountains. This added a shimmery glow to the already magnificent views. Of course no photograph could ever capture the presence and the beauty of that moment. There is something so special about our experiences in life… The best things in life cannot be captured.
On our third and final day in Yosemite, Ashley and I trekked up to Vernal Falls. Though the trail was technically closed due to the massive foot long icicles and the ice-covered trails, we, like any true adventurers, ignored the signs and hiked to the waterfall.
This particular hike was a prayer and meditative hike. We walked, prayed silently and reflected on 1 Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.” During that hike, as I repeated and declared that verse over my thoughts, my steps and myself, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. The God of all peoples is greater than religion, is greater than our individual circumstances and our doubts, God is a God for everyone and God is a God of peace.
I would naturally compare confusion, not with peace, but with clarity. However Paul, in 1 Corinthians compares confusion with peace. While we may think that adhering to a certain faith tradition or religion may bring us clarity, the verse does not say that. It says that God is a God of peace but peace does not necessarily mean clarity. Sometimes I feel as though we chase after the wrong things, we look for clarity in a confusing world rather than peace in a universal God. So, as we face our confusion and our doubts let us find peace in a God that is greater than our confusion. I will never have anything truly figured out and I will always have doubts, though I am working through them, but let us all find hope in a universal and great God who is a God of peace in a world of confusion.
My trip to Yosemite was refreshing and revitalizing. I hope and pray that each of you have a year of peace, take a hike every so often and take the time to reground yourselves to this beautiful earth of ours. From one pilgrim to another: we are all on a journey, though my journey may be different than yours, each is unique and beautiful and is a mere twinkle of light in this vast universe. We must constantly remind ourselves of our own vitality and connection to this earth as we move through the motions of everyday life.
We must take quiet moments of reflection and look for the sweet, simple joys that are present within each of our lives. We are finite beings. We are here then we are gone. But, our joy, our love, and our peace that we share with this world can live forever through those we impact. I pray that each of you would take the time to experience life without fear, that you would find your places of sweet freedom, like I have found in nature and like I did in Yosemite. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.