This Stuff of Heaven

This summer felt like just another summer with just another Powell trip. I’d been to Lake Powell a gazillion times, dating back long enough to memories unremembered.

And over the years, the lake had somewhat lost its lure.

Like New Yorkers who apathetically pass by supernatural skyscrapers each day;

or Parisians peering out into the landscape, seeing beyond their iconic Eiffel Tower;

or Californians who no longer detect the briny, beachy air they breathe.

Like them, I had become impassive about a place, remarkable in its offering; I’d ignored the powerful grandeur and native spirit exhaling from that lake.

But this year, this summer, I woke up. I saw Lake Powell as it was. My prosaic familiarity changed into awe, awe for the lake, awe for the change it created in me, and also reverence and gratitude for the change it allowed within those whom I call my best friends, those whom I love most, my family.

All of us arrived already exhausted, weary and on-edge. All of us struggling with the typical life rigor of providing for bare necessity. All of us striving to hone ourselves and our children, ardently attempting to refine and become better. And most especially, all of us with our unique infirmities, weighing on us so individually.

My sister-in-law, learning to navigate life as a new widow, without my brother. And the relentless strain of raising 4 little-ones all alone, with all the anxiety, and all the exhaustion, on top of all the grief.

A close brother, open about being gay, and apprehensive about how he is being received, and fearful how the religious chasms lingering between him and his loved ones might alter their relationships.

A husband and a brother with the weight of new companies and new employees to care for and the unyielding worry over work and family and the endless strain and constant demand that assists their new endeavors.

Brothers and husbands and sisters and wives and parents, all stricken with unique physical, mental and spiritual ailments, in manifest as we grow older. All of us trailing difficult histories. And all of us clenched with particular anxieties and worries about the imminent future.

And with our particular load, or perhaps in part of our individual pain, there felt a wedge, a wall around each of us, the wall pronouncing, “All of you don’t understand how hard and rough and relentless life has been for me.” Each one of us eager to feel validation for our personal life struggle.

“All of you don?t understand how hard and rough and relentless life has been for me.”

But as the days went on, I noticed a sort of mutation occurring in all of us. The lake and the red rock and the sun (and the lack of cell service) seemed to cleanse us of all that exterior load that had been so suffocating. That wall, that wedge had dissipated, dissolved of its divisive forces, as if the lake itself possessed a quiet power, gradually absorbing our anger and our hurt.

And we were left standing as we were, real in our vulnerability, and somehow freed from the laden stones weighing previously upon us. It became suddenly so clear, so easy to see each person authentically, so accurately. Like the honest intent and nature of our hearts were exposed. And it was compelling how similar our hearts were! We all had been wanting and needing and gasping for the same things: to feel loved, and to be heard, and to find peace.

We then experienced a unity and a communion which blossomed and fed and filled us. The bland, cordial kindness was replaced with truest interest and care, the awkward conversation turned to dancing and laughing and punching wars with my brothers that left my arm black for over a week. The grandpa and uncles filling in for missing fathers, and the love-filled teasing extended to those feeling out of place. Easing the pain, filling the pain that had once been our source of separation.

The rest of the week we soaked in that place, that milieu, filled with beautiful repose and comfort, sweet soluble comfort.

We had arrived, depleted and floundering, anxious to find solutions and answers and reprieve from our very individual life struggle; when finally it was realized,

we understood,

we were the solution, the answer to one another?s ailing all along.

We were each other’s solution.

It was there in Lake Powell, engulfed beneath towering walls of sandstones, it was there the walls of differing opinion, and heartache, and belief came crumbling down and it was there that I saw the necessity of combined hearts, the need to nurture and care and feed one another. The peace, the rest, we are all pleading, longing, aching for was, and is, only found in each other.

If a family of much the same upbringing can become so disjoined, think of all the variances within our culture, our nations, our world and how we can seem so far removed from one another’s frame of reference and how it is so easy to misunderstand one another and be misunderstood. We will disagree and have differing beliefs and will be influenced individually and separately by our unique life circumstances. But dwelling on these differences and disengaging from one another and even despising one another is not only diminutive,

but it is entirely fruitless.

Our peace, our hope, our rest is found in the comfort of one another.

We are each other’s solution.

We are all pleading, and longing and aching for rest, for joy, for peace and for love.

And we may just find that this stuff of heaven, is already in our midst. It is right in front of us, it is found in one another.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest?a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

– Albert Einstein


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(Photography by Julie Blackmon)


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