We’ve been lucky enough to do a driving holiday the past few weeks … you know the old saying, if you have the money you don’t have the time, and if you have the time you don’t have the money. Well, DH and I decided that we could use up our Aeroplan points to book hotels, and drive out to Alberta (from Ontario) to visit my Grandpa, and several Aunts, Uncles and Cousins who live out west. Right now, we have the time! We both enjoy driving and have mostly enjoyed our accommodations at Best Western hotels (especially when they have the waffle maker as part of their breakfast … mmm!). We’ve taken in a few sights along the way as well.
We went over to Drumheller, Alberta to see the dinosaur bones and the Badlands there. The territory there is absolutely amazing – kind of like the flat prairie land that we saw in Saskatchewan, but then cut through with gorges (called “coulee” from what I can tell – amazing vegetation, visible layers of sediment in the hills – it is an arid land, not desert but not lush either. It just has a wild beauty all its own. Anyway, on our Drumheller day we decided to go see the hoodoos also (strange rock formations that look a bit like primitive statues of people, but have been worn by erosion out of the surrounding rock due to a protective rock cap that looks like the head). We were late getting going and when we got to the Royal Tyrrell museum (amazing dioramas, skeletons, fossils … ) and looked at the schedules of hikes, I realized how much I’d love to go on the “7 wonders of the badlands” hike – but the time was not going to work out so well for our schedule. DH would have gone if we’d caught the morning time but didn’t want to go in the afternoon (for several good reasons, including the fact that the kids’ routine would be disrupted). I was, frankly, annoyed and p.o.’d about this because I really wanted to go – I am fascinated by the geology of this place and I so wanted to learn more about it as you can only learn on a guided tour when you can ask a guide questions. Wikipedia is a good first step but it isn’t the same as seeing, touching, and asking questions right there.
So, I worked on giving my feelings about this over to God, to find the good in here somewhere. It struck me that not only was I annoyed at not getting my way, but that I have a very strong drive to understand things. Not that that’s bad, but there was a danger here at being so wrapped up in my negativity that I would miss the beauty all around me, thinking about what I was missing. That I could, indeed, enjoy this beauty even without having a good understanding of it. However I think it is in my nature that things get more and more beautiful the more I understand and know about them.
One reason I am passionate about science is that it gives this opportunity. There is a miracle when you look into the microscope and see the incredible detail at such miniscule levels – but for me, that sense of the miraculous – of God’s fingerprints, as it were – is greatly amplified by understanding. The same goes for looking into the cosmos, or studying weather, or ancient ruins – they are more beautiful to me when I know more about them.
Perhaps I have never developed the gift of looking, appreciating, getting carried away by beauty without bringing in the intellect. The only area of my life that I can think of where I don’t seek understanding is when listening to music. Music is very powerful for me – another glimpse of the divine. Yet I don’t seek to understand what the composer was thinking of, or what his/her story was. I can just sink into its amazing power and beauty. One of my very favourites is Pachelbel’s canon, yet I know nothing about it except that it was his only hit!
I have occasionally had almost this experience with art, but not so often. I tend to want to know the story behind the picture. At the Louvre, I read pretty much every plaque beside the amazing pictures, instead of just absorbing them and moving on without engaging the intellect. Renoir may be the only artist that gets close, but even then I want to read all about his work.
I wonder what else I’m missing out on. Perhaps the gift of the intellect and the appreciation of beauty working together to give glimpses of the eternal has become unbalanced. That day, for some time I was unable to open myself up to the glory all around me, because I was hampered by all I couldn’t understand – so I was unable or unwilling to see what my eyes alone could absorb.
We went on to have adventures at the suspension bridge and the hoodoos and go for a strenuous climb/hike together, all of which was great (we even saw a cactus at the top of the hill above the hoodoos). I did “see” but always with a sense of loss that I couldn’t fully understand as well as see. I wonder if I’d have felt the same had I never seen the description of that hike?
As part of this same trip, we spent a night in Banff and took the gondola up Sulfur Mountain (amazing views). DH is a mountain person and loves, loves, loves to be in the mountains. I’m fortunate to have been there 3 times and as always, I sang the hymn that flows to me at this time:
For the beauty of the earth
For the beauty of the skies
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies
Lord, we raise our hymn
Our hymn of grateful praise.
For joy of ear
For joy of eye
For mystic harmonies of sound and sight
Lord, we raise our hymn
Our hymn of grateful praise.
The 2 verses are different tunes that sound so beautiful when sung together!