Day 54 Thursday, September 1 Gardnerville, NV Rest Day 17 errand miles
Wind. Is God humbling me, teaching me, or is the pattern of this unfolding pilgrimage just coincidental? How is it that yesterday I was nearly broken by the power of the wind and today the wind was the source of such beauty and grace? I feel humbled in a new way today–that I could go from cursing God or life or Nevada itself for the wind and today see the wind as one of God’s truly great gifts. I almost feel bad for turning so sour yesterday except for the fact that I was where I was yesterday and I have learned to honor whatever feelings I have whether I am moved to ecstasy or bitterness.
Let me explain. I am staying my second night at Gabe and Joanie’s house. Gabe is a glider pilot and instructor. He and Joanie moved to Gardnerville after Gabe had been commuting from Missouri to here on a monthly basis for his work for Soaring NV, a glider company and school. I am sure you can see where I am going. If there is one thing gliders depend on it is wind, especially a certain kind of wind called updrafts. Gliders don’t fight the wind; they learn to harness it and follow its rhythm and patterns. Gabe wears a T-shirt with the Minden (sister city to Gardnerville) wind pattern silk screened on it. This man is serious about wind. He studies it and talks about it with a certain gleam in his eyes and admitted that there are times when it is a spiritual experience for him.
Today I had a treat that no amount of queasiness was going to stop me from experiencing. Gabe took me on my first ever glider ride. With the glider tied on behind the tow plane we were given our lift up to the mountains just above Lake Tahoe. Then the tow rope was released and Gabe expertly felt around in the skies for updrafts and we ascended another 2000 feet until we were at 10,000 feet. Gabe certainly wanted me to see the beauty of the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe, but he received as much pleasure explaining and showing me how he uses the wind to gain altitude, direct the plane to new destinations, and even perform a couple of aerial maneuvers. Gabe was really kind about this as he could see that I was a lightweight and my stomach was only going to hold on for so long.
I am pondering today how the same natural force can elicit in me such different feelings. I know intellectually I could distance myself from my reactions and rationalize that wind is not personal. It doesn’t choose to treat me badly one day and then reward me the next day. I could try to take a more objective view and decide the next time I get into a punishing headwind I will say, “This too shall pass”, and not get so worked up about it. But then, does that not also mean that as I was gliding above Lake Tahoe that I should step back and be a little more objective and also say, “This too shall pass. Don’t get too excited about the grace and beauty of this glorious moment in the heavens”? How can I distance myself from one experience and not the other?
I think I am just humbled by the experience of life today and how it can take us to the heights of ecstasy at one moment and to the depths of despair in another moment. This is life. This is what we get when we engage with life head on, when we choose to get involved, when we get dirt under our fingernails. This is what we get when we care about something or someone deeply, passionately, wholly and without reservation. My God, it hurts so much sometimes, and my God, it is so unbelievably rich and beautiful and full at other times. It’s all a part of the package.
Tomorrow is another day. I climb Carson Pass at 8573 feet before descending to sea level where I started eight weeks ago. If it is anything like the days before this there will moments of pure grace and gratitude. And there will stretches where I look to the heavens and say, “Why me? Why now?” Ecclesiastes says there is a season for every matter under heaven. I am beginning to believe that. There is a season for headwinds and tailwinds. There is a season for ecstasy and despair. Job would even say there is a season for gratitude and there is a season for cursing. It’s all good. Yesterday it hurt like hell. Today, I was lifted to the heavens. Tomorrow will be what it will be, but I will keep my heart open to the sacred nature of it all. What an amazing journey this thing called life is.