I wasn't in church this weekend. I was, however, with many members of my church on our first annual ski trip. We went to New Hampshire. Most of the folks who went are actual skiers who stay upright going downhill and look cool while they are doing it. Good for them. I am pretty sure I have never looked cool doing anything. Anyway, on Saturday my wife (who always looks cool) opted for cross-country skis and took two of the kids for the morning. I went snow shoeing with Son #2.
There was a period in our lives not too long ago when he and I spent a great deal of time on snow shoes. Here in this blog you can find numerous articles describing the year when I took sabbatical time and he took a year off from conventional education to hang out with me. One of our big projects involved trooping around in the woods with me taking pictures and him working on projects (artistic and scientific) based in the natural world. It was a great year and it was great to be able to spend some time this weekend re-living it. We are both older, of course, and we have been back to the usual stuff for the better part of three years.
We also took along Son #1 in the afternoon. During that time we got lost and ended up in an adjacent wilderness area. Also my trusty camera froze. During the home-school year it saw a lot of action and I think there is some water in it now. Eventually (obviously) we made it back and had stories to tell about what we saw.
Honestly---though I love being in church---it was great having the chance to spend the weekend this way. My faith (as with that of most of the church's members) doesn't limit me worship in one set form and in one sort of location. God is still speaking, after all, and God speaks in the slow walk through the snow with sons who have become good friends (or daughters, I just don't have any). The falling snow and the frozen stream provide reminders of this vast creation as well as the reassurance that for a short time we get to be a part of it. For the other folks on our trip I can only imagine that the same sort of relationship and realization occurred while barreling down the mountain with the wind in both ears feeling the terrain under their skis and the rush of excitement as the run came to an end. Pretty cool, right?
Thoreau begins his essay On Walking with the short preamble:
"I WISH TO SPEAK a word for nature, for absolute Freedom and Wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and Culture merely civil, — to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make a emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization; the minister, and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that."
Even though he lists my profession among the champions of civilization I think we religious people need to do more of this. I don't mean skipping church, of course, but instead of going out of the "civilized world" together. A community of faith can learn a great deal both in the woods and in the cities. We can grow in understanding anywhere we can experience something out of the ordinary and reflect on it.
Then maybe learning will be transformed into doing. Maybe we will find ourselves motivated to change our lives after experiencing the snowstorm up close or seeing both the joy and suffering in the life of someone else.
So...it was a good trip. I can't wait for the next one...