Reading time: 2 minutes
Psalm 90 [NIV]
A prayer of Moses the man of God.
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
This verse was part of the Bible readings today in church and immediately called to mind my day yesterday. Because it was the first weekend in November, I longed to see some of the fall foliage at its peak before it began to fade. This was the last Saturday I would have free for a while, now that the holiday whirlwind has already begun. My family and I decided to go to Hawk Mountain for the day to celebrate the final days of fall by hiking the rocky trails and possibly glimpsing some raptors soaring in the mountain air.
Hawk Mountain is an amazing place to visit. It is one of the major migration routes for raptors travelling between North America and South America. On clear days during migration season, you can see falcons, hawks, vultures, and even bald eagles while sitting at one of its many scenic overlooks. It is one of my favorite places, as it makes me pine a bit for my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.
It was a glorious, sunny day, and the leaves were as beautiful as I had hoped. Unfortunately, nearly all people in the northeast had the same idea as my family, so it was very crowded up on the mountain. It took about twenty minutes to find a parking place, but we finally created one on the side of the twisting mountain road. Walking slowly up the road, we were amazed to see license plates not just from Pennsylvania, but from New York, New Jersey, and other states. We walked to the visitors’ center and could barely get in due to the crush of people there. It was amazing to think that all of these people, from babies to folks walking with canes, were there to experience the wonder of the outdoors.
My husband and kids had gone ahead of me to climb the more challenging trails, and I decided to rest at one of the overlooks. I nestled myself between some rocks and marveled at the sight spread out in front of me. Bright reds and golds mixed with burnished copper, the valley floor resembling a furry quilt resting upon its bed of mountains. As I sat quietly, others came to my spot at the overlook. I quickly found myself growing irritated as my peaceful atmosphere was interrupted over and over again by noisy onlookers. Two couples stood beside me for at least twenty minutes with their binoculars, discussing not the birds they were seeing, but the unusual names their daughter-in-law was considering for their grandchildren and how unhappy their nephew was in his job. Another young family made it up to the overlook point and immediately opened up snacks and began feasting on Fruit Roll-Ups and nuts. A group of teenagers came and inevitably began taking selfies, laughing at each other and making faces. One even called someone on his phone, saying, “Yeah, we’re up here at the overlook at Hawk Mountain. It’s really cool…”
I realize everyone comes to places of nature for different reasons, but I always wonder why people seem to be afraid of silence, afraid of being awed. I use the word awe not in the way we have come to know it in its overused form today—“awesome”—but in its definition as “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder” (according to my google search). It is the feeling of witnessing a place or event that looms, huge and consequential, and finding oneself small and insignificant in its shadow. As humans, we tend to be uncomfortable in such situations, so what do we do? We act to assure ourselves that we matter, that we aren’t a speck standing on the side of a mountain. We talk. We eat. We laugh loudly. We take pictures of ourselves in front of the majesty as a way of mastering it by capturing it on the tiny screen of our cell-phones. That way, we can make ourselves look bigger in front of it somehow. “See? All of that is in the background, but I’m in front of it!”
Eventually, I decided being angry was pointless. These people were there to absorb the beauty of the day just like I was, and instead of celebrating it quietly, they were choosing to do so in a different way. I pulled up my hood, both because it was getting chilly, and because it allowed me to feel more isolated from the voices around me. I settled in my chair hewn from the rocks, breathed deeply, and smiled out over the majesty before me. I found it comforting (and, yes, awesome) to think that all of these wondrous things are not held or controlled by me; they have been here for millennia, and they will still remain for millennia, “from everlasting, to everlasting.”
What places or situations inspire awe in you, B-Flat Christian? What makes you “live in awe”? Share your thoughts in the comments on this page.