Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Haze

As is often the case come August, Montana has been burning up all over the place, with lots of large wildfires burning all over the state, causing the skies to be a bit hazy, almost overcast-looking.  Montana is called Big Sky Country not just because of our wide open skies, unobstructed by a whole lot of buildings or infrastructure or, lets face it, leafy forests, but also because the skies are generally so gorgeous and dynamic.

Nothing is quite so beautifully, richly blue as a Montana sky in June, softened by the whitest, puffiest cumulus clouds in creation.  But summer is often a time of thunderstorms, too, with the sky being swarmed by multi-hued grey clouds and pierced by bright lightening.  The world seems brighter up here because the sky is so beautiful, and so active.

Its one of the things I missed most while living in the San Joaquin Valley, the sky.  There are a few glorious weeks in March, usually, where the valley skies look the way skies should.  But most of the year, the sky is lost in a grayish brown haze of smog, or a thick gray fog that hangs over it much of the winter.  When I first moved to the San Joaquin valley, it felt oppressive--but I got used to it.  I didn't ever truly forget about it, but in no conscious way did I notice the sky, or lack thereof.  I just got used to living in the haze.  Then we would take a trip up here and I'd remember:  there's a beautiful sky up there.  And that sky makes the whole world under it a bit more beautiful, too.  I miss that sky.

I think life is like that when we start to lose our grasp on joy--not temporary fun or occasional happiness, but that more resilient type of inner peace.  When it first starts to slip away, we feel the loss keenly.  But as time wears on, the haze becomes our new normal, and we start to forget what it feels like for things to be any different than they are:  we start to see even the past through the haze that envelopes us, so that all things that came before look much like we are now.

The causes are diverse, and so the solutions are as well.  Maybe the answer is more prayer.  Maybe its more self-honesty.  Maybe its exercise. Maybe its medication coupled with many of those things.  Maybe its having the humility to ask others to help us because we're carrying a burden that's a bit too big for our shoulders.  Maybe its having the humility to ask advice when we'd rather figure out the answer ourselves.

I've dedicated a lot the time I have so far been granted in this world to discovering more and better understanding Truth, and when I look back at the times I can now see were spent in the haze, I was unhappy because I didn't want an answer, I wanted an escape hatch.  In Lehi's dream, he speaks of mists of darkness pressing down on the people as they made their way down the path--I think I am starting to (in a very small way) understand the things of which he spoke.  Even the easiest life is rarely all that easy, and I sit in awe of those with hard paths who have managed to "press on" with great determination and hope.  But when those mists of darkness descend, we have to have the faith to hold to the rod and press on--things didn't get easier for those who let go of the rod.  They wandered off into strange paths and were lost.

Whatever mists press down on you, whatever stones there are in your path, keep holding on.  Sometimes the path is clear and bright, and at other times it is rugged and dark, but all you have to do is just keep putting one foot in front of another and the path will unfold itself before you.  One step at a time, we move forward, line upon line, until that little bit of light piercing the haze grows brighter and brighter until that perfect day.

And I'm quite certain that that perfect day looks an awful lot like a western Montana June sky.

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