Dodging Park Rangers

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I am married to a fun man. He has the best ideas, so when he said he was able to take a Saturday off so that we could take the kids to Mount Rainier for the first time, even though I couldn’t picture how it would go, I pulled out a basket and started packing a lunch.

It was a fantastic day.

The weather was perfect, just enough chill to feel like autumn and to make those state park bathrooms a place where you leapt in and out, your feet barely touching the ground (which is truly the most hygienic way to use those facilities anyway), and our drive was filled with laughter. I will admit that when a farming family goes traversing the land of state run “outdoor experiences”, there are sure to be a few worldview clashes and we bumped our noses into one at our first stop.

Reflection lake has a beautiful view of the top of the mountain (it is so funny that on the drive, you keep telling the kids to look out the window, see the mountain getting bigger and bigger? It means we are getting closer! But then, when you actually arrive and are on the mountain, you cannot see it at all. I wonder if there is a parallel there to our walk with Christ… when you first begin to follow, you see clearly the huge changes that are happening in your life. Everything is different! The closer you get to glory, the more like Him you actually become, it seems that you see the towering trees of your own sin more vividly than you did at the beginning and less of the changes He is making in you — don’t lose heart. If you are seeing more and more of your need, of the dire state of your soul apart from Christ, and you pine evermore to see the face of your Lord and to be relieved of the trees — you are on the mountain), and there are little trails that take you to oddly manicured benches where you can sit and observe the lake. But DO NOT touch it. See, all the trails are taped in with bright reflective tape, lest your wandering feet lure you off the beaten path and into (gasp) nature.

We sat with our bread and butter, homemade pickles, peppers and tomatoes from our garden, and a pan of lemon bars warm from the oven, wrapped in a towel (surely wild animals deserve a little dropped powdered sugar now and again too), observing the wild flowers and something called a sooty grouse (question: why is the acting of grousing named after this bird? Is that what we look like when we complain?). I know this because a very chipper park ranger with no makeup and five million laminated sheets clipped to her belt (it is impressive to have a bulky ranger khaki shirt tucked into spandex leggings. It was honestly difficult not to stare) came along to hand us pamphlets for identification and to tell us, with the sort of threatening gleam in her eye that I think can only be attained by those who think leggings are pants, that for every step taken outside the trail markings, 20 PLANTS DIED. This obviously raised more than one question in my mind, but seeing as of all the ways I have imagined dying, death by spandex-wearing park ranger is not at the top of my most-ideal-ways-to-die list, I kept them to myself.

But then the second round of rangers came along. This one was wearing pants at least, so it wasn’t quite as difficult to know where to put your eyes, and she was quite enthused about what she called the “restoration” of this patch of ground between the trail and the water. I didn’t see the decimation she obviously saw… I saw grasses and flowers and plants and grouses (grouse? grousii?) and a little trail down to the water. She sharply rebuked me — that is not a trail. That is a SCAR. And it will take 30 years of not touching this land for it to be restored to its natural state.

Huh, thought I.

I blame the lemon bars. I got reckless, and asked out loud if after the 30 years had passed, if the lake would be accessible again, if the trail, cough um, I mean scar, could be used once more. You would think I had asked if I could borrow her lapdog to use as taco meat at my upcoming barbecue. No, she hissed, it would remain untouched, pure, as nature intended.

Aha, said I.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day, identified many flowers, kids even scored some little Junior Ranger badges by lying through their teeth and taking a pledge at the ranger station about respecting plants or some such (their answers on the climate change question of their ranger booklet were fabulous. I may frame them) and as we flopped happy and weary back into the Earl of Towcester at the end of our adventure, it even got a few murmered, “best day ever”s.

But the question of conservation, as a principle, has been rattling around my brain ever since. Because as I looked on this stunning mountain, teeming with life (except for all those hikers tricked out in expensive clothes and marching quickly along, staring at their smartphones… I couldn’t actually perceive any signs of life there), it struck me what a sad waste it was to cordon off all the land, lest human touch ruin it, instead of cultivating something. And this, of course, made me think about homemaking.

Do you suppose we slip into becoming those park rangers to our children, to our husbands, to our communities? Do we have entire rooms that are off limits, lest a mess be made? Do we keep the special dishes on a high shelf, lest they be broken, or do we set them out and use them, knowing that it is better to be broken in obedience than to be a White Witch with a perfect set?

Beyond the physical applications, though, I find myself wondering if we have a tendency to be conservationists about our love, about our affection, about our time? Do people hesitate to come to us with their burdens or their needs because we are habitually too busy? Do our children feel confident that we will drop everything to hear their worries, their stories, their jokes… the same joke from yesterday? And the 18 days before that? Are we stingy with our energy — and if so, what do we think we are saving it for?

It is Monday as I write this. You and I are going to have ample opportunities to pour out our love and time and attention today — or to conserve. Pour it out. All of it. It is time to dodge that inner park ranger who follows you around, tsking you for not protecting those carefully manicured little patches of energy and time God has given you. Do you think you can outgive the God who gave you mountains and wildflowers, waffles and grouse, who gave you eyes to look at crayon pictures and ears to hear the same stories from elderly parents? Do you honestly believe He cannot handle your fatigue, that He cannot supply your needs? Tromp about in this meadow He has placed you in, give every last bit of yourself by faith and then watch in eager anticipation — you cannot even imagine the glory He will grow.

2 Responses

  1. Ellen
    | Reply

    Yum. This was a satisfying blog post indeed — generating all manner of reactions. The mountain/sanctification perspective a startling concept that I will need to continue to unpack. The spandex visual made me cringe. The “lap dog for taco meat” caused a guffaw and the expelling of coffee from my nose. Deep, deep sadness at not being present to observe your poker face, Emmy Award-winning performance as you engaged the Park Ranger with expertly concealed snark. And spiritual contrition from several other references which I am still pondering. ((hugs))

    • barb
      | Reply

      Snark? Me? I know not to what you refer.

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