Snowfall in Zion softens the hard ledges of cliffs, turns the shrieks of stellar jays into mere chirps. Zion is more intimate than Grand Canyon or Canyonlands. The canyons tends to be narrow, and Zion Valley, carved by the Virgin River, is sheltered by sheer canyon walls. The world scales down here. From a cliff top, you can survey the winding valley below. Cozy.
In Zion, you start at the floor, work yourself up to the rooftop, so that the second half of the day, you glide down the escarpment escalator. I felt heavy this morning, working my way up the trails. Why? I only had a day pack. Couldn’t be that. Wasn’t the altitude. Wait a minute, wait a minute. I’m packing in some extra baggage.
As I wound my way up a cliffside trail, I took off my pack and found I’d been packing in some garbage: resentments. Mmmm. Those’ll come in handy if I break my ankle, won’t they?
Back home in the flatlands, I can carry resentments around all day. I drive them to the mall, take them with me to work, I even sleep with them. They’re like an adhesive mooch who follows me around until I give him a cigarette. At lower altitudes, I don’t even notice the load. But any extra baggage on an uphill climb has to go.
Now I’m not just the kind of guy who gathers up minor mads. No, I accumulate resentments of historical proportions: against epochs and empires; movements and ministers of government. I’m the only guy I know who holds a grudge against the French Revolution. Ruling the world is one heavy load, man. People steps on zee toes.
One by one, I drop them overboard, hearing each one batter against the cliff on its way down. I didn’t know emotional flotsam could be so loud. (My resentment against the dinosaurs roared the loudest). I released the past. By the time I arrived at the rim, I could really survey the valley below because I’d wiped the windshield of my inner vision.
My first day out on any trip, I use this exercise to help me let go of all the mental and emotional trash I’ve been toting around the last few months, maybe the last year if I haven’t been out and about in the wild for awhile. I do it so I can enjoy the rest of the trip. I also do it because I accumulate mental compost quite easily.
Sometimes, I think all I’m asked to do on this earth is to let go; and be willing. Maybe willingness the only power I really possess, and surrender is the only effective action I can take. By releasing, I make room for what inevitably must inflow to fill a natural vacuum. The positive is waiting to rush in and fill the void, waiting for me to relinquish the negativity I’ve created as a defense against what I think is too good to be true—that unreasonable happiness is not only possible, but inevitable.
© 2014 by Michael C. Just