Tomorrow I will head to the mountains. But today I am standing on Wrightsville Beach. The sun is out, the wind is cold. When the ocean water fills up my boot because I underestimated an approaching wave, the billow of white-foamed water stings through my socks.
I want to know what is more beautiful. The oceans or the mountains?
The ocean stretches out flat, breaching the horizon, and continuing on through an imagined infinity. The clouds are pushed over its surface and will fall into the water before reaching their destination. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
The long-exposed cord-grass, whipped by the coming front, and clouds shoved by those same global forces, the earth and water are gilded into promises and assurances. Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden…
I pull out of the driveway at five in the morning and, after stopping off at Whitewater Falls, found Gorges State Park fifteen minutes after one o’clock. The marker at the trail says Rainbow Falls is that way, which is down. It also says the trail hike is “strenuous.” This is just the sort of reason I needed to pass. It's cold, in the low 20’s, maybe even in the upper teen’s. And a strenuous trail that cascades down wintered-shadowed ravines with ice-slicked rocks only means that I will have to come back the same trail. Why would I do that? I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want.
In the time it takes me to loop around the parking lot, I realize I am doing it again. I give myself permission to not do the very thing I set out to do. I do that all the time. In defiance of myself, I park and head down the trail.
Every step became a journey longer than I want to make. The trail snakes up and down, bending backwards like cautious steps on the back of a monster. When, an hour after I started, I round an elevating corner, I step into another realm. A single-noted cacophony silences the chirps of birds and mutes my footfalls. The world blanketed with broken sticks and bare trees and brittle, brown leaves is assuaged by the icy mist of Rainbow Falls. By the breath of God ice is given, and broad waters are frozen fast.
Why does the warmth of my body make me cold? The icy mist had overlaid me in something like a dome, shining like crystal. It melts and saturates through my jacket. I hike back and venture again and again. The falls are freezing. It is winter in the mountains. The ice knots. The old rocks crack.
It was an uninteresting question that brought me here. Like Saul chasing David in the Rocks of the Wild Goats, I notice later that my jacket has been torn. And I wonder, what manner of grace am I trying to champion by making false distinctions? In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
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