“Life goes by at a frantic pace. Embrace this moment for yourself and share it with those around you. Savor this rocky mountain moment.” I read these words at the top of Tunnel Mountain, a small mountain within the city limits of Banff in the Canadian province of Alberta. Because Tunnel Mountain is so accessible, hundreds of locals and tourists climb to the summit every day in order to get some fresh air, exercise, and enjoy amazing views of the Canadian Rockies.
It’s the last week of my time away this summer, and Gary and I and two of our children are relishing daily hikes in the rugged mountains surrounding both Banff and Lake Louise. Although Tunnel Mountain is the shortest of our hikes, it is spectacular, partly because of the variety of people we encounter along the trail, including an elderly woman who hikes to the top five times a week and a group of seven young mothers with babies in backpacks.
People from many countries, languages, and cultures come to hike Tunnel Mountain. My heart and soul are at peace as I walk. I am fully alive and one with creation. I give thanks to God for the gift of being able to hike, especially when I read a large sign at the top. It’s the kind of sign you don’t see very often on the trail.
“Congratulations! You have made it to the summit of a mountain in the Canadian Rockies! Tunnel Mountain stands at an elevation of 1,692 meters (5,076 feet). Throughout the year, locals and visitors hike, run, walk, and even climb this mountain for fitness and to enjoy the scenery.
“If you think you are short of breath now, just wait until you get around the corner – the view is breathtaking! Continue along the trail for another 30 meters to enjoy the spectacular scenery. You have worked hard to reach the top, so take some time to sit back, relax, and smell the mountain air. Look around you and appreciate the hardiness of the trees and the wildlife that call this area home.
“Life goes by at a frantic pace. Embrace this moment for yourself and share it with those around you. Savor this rocky mountain moment.”
I am still savoring my rocky mountain moment. Whenever I have a chance to let go of my everyday life and get away, even if only for a day, it reminds me of how very beautiful our world is and how very precious human life is. Life goes by at a frantic pace for many of us, and we often forget to take the time to smell the roses and share our experience with others.
We find many people of all ages sitting on rocks at the top of Tunnel Mountain, enjoying the beauty. Some are building cairns, joining dozens of other cairns at the summit. A cairn is a human-made pile of stones. The word “cairn” comes from the Scottish Gaelic: càrn. From prehistoric times to the present, cairns have been and still are used for a broad variety of purposes, including as directional markers or simply as signs of God’s presence.
I am also pleasantly surprised to find two red chairs overlooking the Rocky Mountains. It’s part of the Canada Parks national campaign to promote their national parks with what is called the Red Chair Experience. Officials say they came up with the national campaign for the Red Chair Experience Program about five years ago in order to encourage people to seek out as many of the chairs as possible on their visits to the parks.
According to the Canada Parks website, “We anticipate these chairs will give people reasons to seek out these locations so they can enjoy the wonderful places they are put, to enjoy the nature that’s protected there for them.” We sit in the red chairs for a while, drinking in the beauty and serenity of the moment. We remark that even though Tunnel Mountain is not tall as far as the Rockies go, it’s a lot taller than the highest point in Iowa, Hawkeye Point, in the northwest, which is only 1,670 feet high!
There is another sign at the top about local resident Ann Ness, who is credited with hiking to the top of Tunnel Mountain more than eight thousand times over a span of forty years, sometimes twice in one day! In case you’re wondering, that averages out to two hundred times a year and is the equivalent of climbing the height of Mount Everest over 275 times. As I look out over the beauty of the world below and marvel at the variety of people who climb this mountain, Psalm 113 comes to mind.
Praise the Lord!
You who serve the Lord – praise!
Praise the Lord’s name!
2 Let the Lord’s name be blessed
from now until forever from now!
3 From sunrise to sunset,
let the Lord’s name be praised!
4 The Lord is high over all the nations;
God’s glory is higher than the skies!
5 Who could possibly compare to the Lord our God?
God rules from on high;
6 he has to come down to even see heaven and earth!
7 God lifts up the poor from the dirt
and raises up the needy from the garbage pile
8 to seat them with leaders –
with the leaders of his own people!
9 God nests the once barren woman at home –
now a joyful mother with children!
Praise the Lord!
Why praise the Lord? Why embrace this moment? Why look around and appreciate the hardiness of the trees and the wildlife that call this area home? Because God not only rules from on high, but because God’s majesty is expressed as a preferential option for the poor. Is it any surprise, then, that in the reign of God, the poor are lifted up from the dirt, the needy are raised up from the garbage pile, and those who are barren are gifted with a household of children?
Life goes by at a frantic pace. Will you take time to stop this week and embrace those around you with love and care? Will you pause to pray for all those who have been affected by Hurricane Florence and make a contribution to Hurricane relief through the United Methodist Committee on Relief? Will you appreciate the beauty of our earth and vow to gently care for this one precious world that God has so lovingly created?
Savor this “rocky mountain moment” for yourself, wherever it is. Sit in a red chair and look around you. As you do, may your heart be sensitized to the cries of the needy. And may you always be ready to embody and share the love of Jesus with those who desperately need us to be the hands, eyes, ears, and body of Christ. Praise the Lord!