Looking Up

The trail to Green Lakes is one of the busiest in the Central Oregon Cascades. One is lucky to find a parking spot near the trailhead. We decide to take a chance on this unseasonably warm October day, hoping the late season weekday will be less crowded. That proves to be a miscalculation as the lot is full—except for one spot. We are lucky.

Despite the crowd, the trail is beautiful as ever. A series of cascading falls greet hikers along the aptly named Fall Creek. The air is fresh and, although warmer than usual for this time of year, a slight coolness in the breeze carries a hint of crisp autumn weather. Melted puddles on portions of the path are remnants of an early snowfall a couple of weeks past.

I am sweating from the work of alternately lifting my boots and planting my trekking poles, so I pause to take another drink from my water bottle. I realize it is nearly empty so I tilt my head way back to catch the last drop and my eyes follow the ascending line of a huge mountain hemlock tree. The line terminates abruptly—the result of losing its top in a storm or lightning strike. This tree holds the energy of the storm, speaking a kind of history through her scars. 

My imagination sweeps through and I am assaulted by a ferocious thunderstorm. Winds howl and swirl through an old growth forest—trees bent over like twigs nearing their breaking point. A  lightning flash temporarily blinds me and the crown of an old hemlock comes crashing to the ground dangerously close by. Running to find shelter, I hunker down under the overhang of a basalt boulder until the storm abates. 

Back to the sensations of this moment, I feel refreshed by a past storm telling me a story of the tree before me, a story I could not hear until I looked up. These days so many of us are looking down at our gadgets or otherwise occupied by a plethora of thoughts. It only takes a moment to look up, and the trance is broken. We are then offered the gift of seeing the world with fresh eyes, unclouded by our distractions. 

I smile at the tree who offers me this gift and recall Buddha’s words, “When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”

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