The lake is like translucent cobalt glass today. Barely a breath of wind produces a vast, mirror-like surface. Almost 2,000 feet deep, Crater Lake absorbs all but the deep blue frequencies of light. We see them reflected into our eyes from the depths of an ancient caldera. Most people who visit this magical environment come only to be wowed by the lake and stay an average of four hours. We have been here close to seventy times over fifty years and never want to leave.
On this visit, we discover part of a trail we had yet to traverse. Far away from the caldera rim, the path leads to a rock wall and boulder field of great geological beauty. Obsidian, andecite, dacite, rhyolite—all the usual suspects are here. A veritable smorgasbord of volcanic stone. Close up, little ribbons of igneous designs alternate and reflect light depending on the amount of siliceous glass present. From the right angle, the field of stone shines like a pile of crystals.
Back on the rim, we search for the elusive botrychium pumicola, commonly referred to as “pumice grape fern.” This rare species only inhabits high altitude pumice soils and is difficult to spot because of its diminutive size and subtle color. We have to use binoculars to scan an open area so as not to inadvertently step on a specimen. But others are not so kind. The pumice plain is now pock-marked with visitors’ footprints, even though the park service has created a rock wall barrier and placed signs every few feet warning of the delicate nature of this botanical area.
It seems people are only interested in taking macro-selfies overlooking the lake while ignoring the micro-environment beneath their feet. They say ignorance is bliss, but it causes a lot of harm. If one only experiences Crater Lake on a macro level, much is lost. When Tarn and I are are on our hands and knees investigating a delicate wildflower, we get a lot of strange looks. But a few folks join us and discover a world previously hidden to their senses. If we only experience life based on what we can see, we miss the opportunity to learn about our blindness.
The practice of meditation is the micro-view that helps us to more clearly understand the macro. When we let go of our habitual thought patterns based on our relative perception of form, we discover a vast field of awareness. We might encounter a metaphorical pumice grape fern inviting us to fall on our knees with gratitude. Maybe we will cease crushing our rare and magical insight with the clod-hoppers of our ignorance.