Last summer, I backpacked part of the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park, from Crescent Meadow along the rim of the canyon cut by the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River.
One day on the trail, I wandered back alone after we set up camp, and parked myself on a rock overlooking a panoramic landscape of granite cliffs and tree-studded ridges above the vast gorge. The scent of pine and fir trees filled the air, and the distant sound of the river in motion murmured in the canyon below. It was nearing dusk on a hot summer day, and among the scattered clouds some showed the clear vertical patterns of rain. The view itself was enough to awe the most jaded city-dwelling office worker.
But the sun! I took off my long-sleeve shirt, so I could feel the warmth radiating off my shoulders and arms as I admired the view. Then, without warning, a rain cloud emerged above me. This cloud didn't come between me and the sun, so there was no shadow cast upon me as the rain drops hit my solar-heated skin. The direct warmth of the sun coupled with cool rain drops hitting my body at the same time was almost too much for my nearly overloaded senses. I sat, in a transcendent moment in time, overwhelmed with the beauty of the earth, the impact of nature on me, and an acute, visceral awareness of my being, which put my life into perspective.
I'm cognizant that I am an insignificant speck in the history of the world, but also aware, somehow, that the fact I was there that day last summer to experience this incredible moment somehow truly matters. Did I experience god, or "the divine?" I don't know. All I can say for certain is I will never forget that experience, which reminds me that I need to remain open to such encounters, and to spend more time on remote trails in this beautiful world of ours.
With a Perspective, I'm KC Greaney.
Dr. KC Greaney is director of the Office of Institutional Research at Santa Rosa Junior College.