Springs from Nowhere

Crater Lake National Park, like all our parks, is being loved to death. Throngs of annual visitors hug the rim to get the best selfie, tromping beyond stone barriers meant to protect delicate wildflowers and prevent unwary folks from hurtling into the caldera. I have visited this park over 70 times in the span of 50 years and changes from insensitive human impact saddens me. Still, I can go exploring nearly alone when I hike away from the rim into less visited terrain.

On this particular day, Tarn and I hike down a hot August-scorched trail to some hidden springs. The water pours out of the base of a dry hill, arising from nowhere only to disappear downstream into porous cindery soil. Along the way, moist meadows host a profusion of wildflowers and riparian life, a momentary oasis in an otherwise arid area. Old growth trees frame these unexpected springs that seem out of place and unsurprising at the same time. Why wouldn’t springs be here?

I often observe nature doing the unexpected and realize this is usually the way of things. If we believe there is something consistent about life, we are destined to be disappointed. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” When the mind expands in awareness, nothing is consistent. Everything is unexpected and perfectly imperfect.

As we follow a little spring-fed stream, it eventually meanders out into an open treeless plain. The soil here is so porous it literally sucks life out of the water and the stream vanishes into a pumice desert. Here one moment, gone the next—a dream of water, a dream of desert—all in a flash of awareness. This hike mirrors the unconditioned (and very inconsistent) wildness of mind—always surprising, natural, and wonder-full.

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