In our contemporary world, it takes quite a bit to move us. We’re utterly uninspired by the day-to-day actions in the world around us. These thoughts consume my mind with the season of advent just behind us. My husband and I are focused most recently on seeking out the extraordinary in what we might typically find mundane. The challenge was first posed to us by the church we’re attending in Seattle during this past advent season. The devotional prodded with Michael Horton’s words, “'Ordinary' has to be one of the loneliest words in our vocabulary. Who wants a bumper sticker that announces to the neighborhood, 'My child is an ordinary student at Bubbling Brook Elementary'? Who wants to be that ordinary person who lives in an ordinary town, is a member of an ordinary church, and has ordinary friends and works an ordinary job? Our life has to count! We have to leave our mark, have a legacy, and make a difference. And all of this should be something that can be managed, measured, and maintained. We have to live up to our Facebook profile. It's one of the newer versions of salvation by works.”
We ponder how refreshing it would be to see the world as the special place it could be. What might it be like to find beauty in the everyday world? What if we all realize that each day and each life is special, and that we need not feel competition with one another to be happy in life? Our own weekend adventures would be no exception. With these words in consideration, we drive out of the city one cool morning to navigate the winding roads of the Cascade Mountain range. Pulling into the drive where the trailhead begins seems ordinary enough. It's then that I realize I've left my camera behind, meaning I only have the ordinary iPhone for photography. I consider that even extraordinary journeys might seem simple enough at the start.
As we navigated the undemanding trail, I might normally scoff at its simplicity and briefness. I mean, come on... throw me a real challenge. With my fresh perspective, I instead prompt myself to consider that briefer and easier trails must exist too in order for everyone to have the possibility of experiencing the stillness and richness of nature. Most frequently we search for trails that will provide the right amount of challenge, in order to consistently push ourselves farther and farther. However, this occasion affords peace, time to think, and a calmness of spirit. The trail has a few switchbacks, steadily winding its way closer to the main event. The forest is truly beautiful… The trees are the evergreens we so adore with their branches seemingly touching the sky, a deep green contrasting the very clear, blue sky. The day is a sunny one, an absolute delight to us, even with the freezing temperature. Through the trees, we see the large, rocky mountains also reaching for the sky. Their look is quite majestic, queuing the sounds of the “Misty Mountains” in the back of my mind. It never ceases to amaze me how much closer legends and fairytales seem when you’ve lost yourself to the magic of the forest and mountains. It’s as if everything suddenly seems possible. This thought alone reminds me that the journey is usually seen as less beautiful than the end goal.
As we approach the final switchback, the ice caves gradually become more visible with their pristine, icy edges arriving into view. And, extraordinary they are, set in the side of the mountain and formed entirely of ice! What an amazing world we live in where something of this kind can even exist (see… magic).
They are nestled into the bottom of the mountain, their white hue set against the gray backdrop of the stony mountain. Two large openings lay in front, just as the entrance of a cave should look. Signs warn of avalanche danger, and the online material we’d studied before our journey warns that you should not stray from the trail or enter the caves. Obviously, we make a mad dash from the trail to the ice caves, stumbling over the many rocks and boulders that lay in our way, fallen from glory as once majestic pieces of that very mountain. We suddenly come to a halt with that feeling of awe and wonder. When you stop to really consider what is in front you, it’s almost unfathomable.
We enter the cave slowly, photographing the breathtaking majesty in front of us. Moving slowly and carefully, we maneuver our way over the rocks and boulders under our feet and find ourselves in the back of the cave. The cave is high above us with the then weak sun casting a very dim light through the area. A waterfall looms above us through the tiny opening in the back of the cave, frozen in time. Each creak, each movement reverberates throughout the cave, causing us to exercise extreme caution, lest we cause too much of a disturbance. As we lock eyes, we need no words to communicate how we feel at this very moment.
We eventually climb out of the cave, with the realization we’ve seen a true wonder in this world that many people will never experience. Hiking back to the parking lot, I consider that for so many of us, we compare ourselves far too often to others. We compare our journeys, as if our journey might seem less than stellar in contrast with others’. Our hike isn’t as adventurous. Our view isn’t as breathtaking. We fear so often that we will be ordinary. But, what if we all realize that each of us could never be ordinary because we witness the extraordinary each and every day. Whether it's a man buying dinner for the homeless, a stranger's kindness allowing another driver over in traffic, a stranger smiling on the sidewalk, and yes, the beauty of natural world around us, we have each been granted the opportunity to be extraordinary. We have the power within us to be extraordinary every single day, and what could ever be more beautiful than that?
"You've always had the power, my dear. You've had it all along."
-Glinda, the good witch