Last weekend I hiked with friends in Big Bend National Park. Situated at the bottom of Texas, the Chisos Mountains reach for the sky, and structure a striking basin surrounded by peaks which soar to 8,000 feet. Very isolated and refreshingly tranquil, the Park lies about 10 hours driving time from the hustle and bustle of Houston. In the middle of the basin lies a restaurant and a lodge, and the rooms have no TV and no phones.
In Boquillas Canyon, where the Rio Grande has sliced sheer cliffs by erosion over millions of years, we came upon a lone horseman from Mexico who was checking the money cans. Some artists who live across the river in Mexico have created small statuettes of scorpions and roadrunners fashioned of copper wire, and placed them on large boulders along the hiking route. I bought a few things including some crystals of black tourmaline and smoky white quartz, and deposited the money in a rusty tin can (two dollars for these items plus six for a hiking stick made from a yucca and decorated with a painted red cardinal).
From the top of a hill the horseman called hauntingly to me as we returned to the car. “Senor, did you put some money in the cans?” I replied that I had, waved, and turned my back and drove away. We later discussed the lonely horseman plodding up and down the hill to collect the meager offerings left by US and international visitors. In his job (if he has one) he probably makes only a few dollars an hour, if that much. And the few dollars he collected from the cans (the only dollars I saw were mine), go to his wife the artist to help raise the kids in Mexico. If I had to do it over, I would have left a twenty or a fifty in the cans, to help this horseman and his family. I forgot to realize what a wonderful country is ours, how lucky we are to live here, and that we are all rich by comparison with families from the undeveloped countries of the world. I missed an opportunity to help someone to hope.
The next day, we hiked to the Window, a U-shaped opening where all the water from the basin drainage spills over a cliff…..if it rains……which happens rarely. On the way we saw a tarantula wandering haphazardly across the path, and he did not seemed stressed at all, even when I leaned down close to photograph those long hairy legs. Further along, in a scene from the Discovery channel, four gray deer walked directly toward us. We stopped, fascinated by those large black eyes. When they realized humans were on their trail, they diverted into the long grass and brush. We remained perfectly still, peering over the brush at the deer. Suddenly one deer darted out onto the trail again and moved a couple of feet toward us, as if saying “Please move aside since you are blocking our trail”. Then he dashed back into the brush. We were transfixed. Pretty soon one of his sisters tried the same maneuver and skittered onto the trail to confront us. When she departed we decided to get off the trail, but the game of chicken was over and the deer had retreated.
We also discussed the deer and the tarantulas that evening in the restaurant. I commented how fortunate we were to be able to hike in and see these creatures. And later that night, under a blaze of stars, I quietly gave thanks to God for my eyes and my legs. How many times in my life have I given thanks for my eyes and my legs? In all my gray nomad years, I could probably count the number on my two hands.
Why do we take the gift of life for granted? We ooh and aah over babies, because we are gazing at the gift of life. But then we tend to forget as we mull over the faucet leak, or grouse because we did not get that promotion, or complain that we have a shoulder pain, or that one of our children is rebelling. At Bible study, the prayer requests always seem to outnumber the praises. Why is it so? I shall endeavor in this Thanksgiving season to give thanks to God for my eyes and my legs……and for the gift of life.
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers….
“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139, New King James version).
This blog is dedicated to Darby, my gifted grandson. If you would, please take 30 seconds to pray that God the Father will inject mercy and loving-kindness into his situation.
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