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  • Writer's pictureTimothy S. Colman

How I feel after hiking Boulder River in North Cascades

Many claim to have found God in the mountains. 

I don’t know what God is, but I admit to having sought her there too.

 Whatever my search, I have found that the pursuit of scientific inquiry —

 its own, necessarily limited kind of truth-seeking — 

can be as much an act of devotion as it is scholarly meditation.

 For to pay attention to the world, to seek its stories, 

to run your fingers along some crack of rock or furrow of tree bark,

 to admire a raptor in flight, to look, closely, at the construction

 of a previously unencountered wildflower —

 to wonder and to seek answers to how these things 

might have come to be in the world — 

are themselves acts of devotion,

 ways of knowing, 

ways of longing for communion.

The world around us is not what we see. 

It holds a life-giving, gift-giving,

 invisible order everywhere and always. 

It is an order of musical and exultant beauty. 

It has a mysterious and radiant splendor. 

Everywhere we look, if we would look,

 the natural world is making beauty, 

without fanfare, and the work is so plain,

 intelligent, playful, and devoted, 

that there is only one word for it: 


There is something numinous and joyful in these encounters, 

a way in which the boundary between the world we sense

 and the world that is beyond our senses becomes, 

for the briefest of moments, thin —

 almost transparent.

Up too early again.

 Listening to the patter of rain dripping from the tree limbs

 onto the tent and the hush of the creek in the darkness.

 Breathing in the scent of earth and rain. 

I can’t believe we are here, 

surrounded by these old trees and mountains, 

with days ahead of us. I’m a little boy all over again, 

incredulous that this place actually exists, 

and I am here in it. 

I want to get up and wander 

down to the creek and feel its black,

 wet, cold aliveness on my skin.

Richard J. Nevle and Steven Nightingale

excerpts from The Paradise Notebooks:

 90 Miles across the Sierra Nevada

with thanks to The Marginalian by Maria Popova

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