The Second Gaze – Wilderness


John Muir wrote:

Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.

John Muir in a letter to his wife in July 1888

When I took this photo a few days ago, it was maybe 15 degrees, Scout and I were the only ones out, and the only sounds we were hearing were the crunch of our feet on the snow, the chattering of birds, and the occasional gust of wind. Each also brought a physical sensation – the extra effort of a foot walking in day-old snow, the turning to try to find the unseen birds, and the tensing up from the additional cold from the gusts. All of it coming out of an awareness of the little wilderness space we were in.

It is in these spaces that I most readily feel and hear the leadings of God’s still-speaking Spirit. The many other things that are the “dust and hotels and baggage and chatter “aren’t with me. I breathe deep and full, I look around, I listen more intently, I feel much more. I pray. I speak. And when I return from such a space, I feel I am more able to bring that wilderness awareness to the rest of my day.

Wilderness was a regular part of Jesus’ life as well. There was the 40 days in the wilderness that began his story but many more times where we read of Jesus going off to a deserted (or wilderness) place to pray. It might have been easier in Jesus’ day to find those wilderness spaces but it is no less important for us today. Part of the way of Jesus is the way into the wilderness.

Muir also said,

“In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world.”

John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (1938), page 317
Categories: The Second GazeTags: , , , , , ,

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