Is There Renewal in the Wilderness?

I’ve been at enough national parks to know that when you see a significant number of cars pulled to the side of the road, it’s best to join them and then discover why you’ve stopped. Today it was a moose standing in a pond just as we entered Grand Teton National Park. Spotting a moose has been a dream of Melissa’s for a long time. Ten cars had pulled over ahead of us. If they hadn’t, we would have zoomed right by.

Phil LaBelle, 2017.

Fifteen minutes later we pulled up to the place we’ll call home for the next couple of days; a camping area that overlooks the Teton range. It’s remarkable. Breathtaking. Majestic.

I’ve been reading Dan White’s Under the Stars: How America Fell in Love with Camping this week. White explores how camping got established in the late 1800s just as the Industrial Revolution led jobs to be more inside and monotonous. People went outdoors to find solace.

But White wonders if there were people who went out into the woods just to go out into the woods, without needing to find spirituality or wholeness or restoration. Can we go to the woods without the desire to find renewal?

Sure, I guess. I am focusing on Wilderness Spirituality during this sabbatical so I’m probably not the best person to ask. However, I do think that whether people like it or not, we get renewed out under the stars as we explore amazing sights and encounter animals in their natural surroundings. Something happens inside us as we step outside. Perhaps it’s just a pleasant side effect, but it’s worth it to me.

I can’t help but see the beauty of God reflected in nature. And when I deeply breathe in the mountain air I realize there’s so much more to the world and life than the things that might be causing me stress. Everything gets put in perspective. I realize that perhaps it’s not always life or death.

But that’s me, a priest rambling around the country, hiking trails in the wilderness and looking for renewal. I can’t imagine it any other way.