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Spiritually Speaking: Mountain Memories

By Rev. Connie Seifert

Their name literally means “Bark Eater.” They cover millions of acres. They were millions of years in the making. Their surface rock is the same as that found on the moon. At some point in ancient history they were higher than the Himalayan Mountains in Asia. The mile high peak of Mount Marcy was once covered with ice a mile thick. Of course, that was 5-10 million years ago. In case, Mount Marcy didn’t give it away, I’m talking about the Adirondack Mountains. They run through Clinton, Essex, Fulton, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Saint Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties. Lake Champlain and Lake George mark the eastern border and separate them from the Green Mountains of Vermont. The Mohawk Valley and Tug Hill Plateau serve as a southern and western boundary. Adirondack Park covers 6.1 million acres including thousands of streams, brooks and lakes making it a paradise for those who love to fish. There are 2.3 acres of forest preserved “forever wild” by our state constitution. Adirondack Park is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky and the Everglades combined. There’s a lot more to the history of this incredible place at http://www.adirondack-park.net/.

I spent five days basking in the serenity and beauty of the Adirondack’s at Silver Bay, NY on Lake George. Every shade of gold, yellow and orange made the foliage a glowing sight – rain or shine. The lake danced and sparkled when the sun shone. It was dotted with geese, ducks and a few brave kayakers. It rarely got past the mid 50’s temperature wise. As long as we wore a light jacket, it was great to be outdoors.

The building in which we stayed was on a hill overlooking the lake with a tree covered mountain in the background behind the lake. A porch ran the entire length of the building. There were many simple wooden rocking chairs. I couldn’t wait to try one out. They were awesomely comfortable!

There is something soothing to the soul about time in the mountains. I felt it all my days in Edwards. I loved driving around the North Country – especially out towards Star Lake, Cranberry Lake and Wanakena. The natural world feels close and homey. I always felt close to God as well. I felt that same way all the time we were in Silver Bay.

Each evening after supper, I would claim a rocking chair on the porch and let my soul be soothed simply watching the world go by, until my cold nose insisted that I head indoors. On the last morning, I started rocking around 6 a.m. in total darkness, and I watched as the world lit up. There was no sunshine that day, but observing the world of nature visually emerge from darkness – even though it emerged into grayness – it was awesome nonetheless. I didn’t want to leave.

Sometimes I rocked alone. Sometimes there were others rocking too. Sometimes it was silent except for the creak of the rockers. Other times we laughed and visited. Every day that rocking time meant drinking in my fill of all the spiritual sustenance the mountains had to offer.

My friend Elaine, who had flown in from Wisonsin for this “escape to the mountains” vacation shared an appreciation for this spiritual nourishment. We walked the outdoor Labryinth. This Labryinth is a path laid out with bricks. There is a grand view of the lake here, too. You walk the spiral path until you get to the center and then you retrace your steps to return to the outside. The labyrinth is an ancient symbol of wholeness. You pray and meditate as you walk opening yourself to receive whatever God and the world of nature yield. It may be just a walk with no discernible spiritual benefits. Sometimes you gain insights, see solutions to current situations, or feel God’s presence in a profound way. The first time we walked it, it was quite windy. We could hear the constant thuds of acorns falling – like a hailstorm just behind the labyrinth. Fortunately, the wind was not blowing them on the path where we were walking. The second time, we were surrounded by scores of sixth graders who were there as part of their science curriculum studying nature – not always quietly. The sounds of their shouting, laughing, and running at first intruded but soon faded into background noise as they moved further away and we moved deeper into our own thoughts. I would often stop to look out over the lake, to pick up a colorful leaf or to say a prayer. If you’ve never walked a labryinth as a spiritual exercise, I recommend it.

Cell phones don’t work at this retreat. There was no television. It was quiet. There were no distractions other than the mountains. It is good to get away. I’m always concerned that I will miss the computer and/or TV too much. I didn’t. I crocheted, I doodled, I read things for FUN – not for sermon preparation and I rocked. There was a piano and I did find a United Methodist hymnal. I played and sang all my favorite hymns. Then I rocked some more. The food was great and I didn’t have to prepare it or do the dishes after.

I took the ferry across Champlain into Vermont one day. On one side of the boat, there were NYS apples for sale. And on the opposite side, there was Vermont maple syrup. I visited the Vermont Wildflower Farm. There were lots of sunflowers – my favorite flower. Then I drove south to Weston Priory – a monastery in southern Vermont. The Monks of Weston Priory record their own music which is very good. I often used it for worship while in Edwards. Unfortunately, I did not arrive in time for the prayer service and did not want to wait for the next one at 5:30 p.m. so I bought one of their new CD’s and listened to it on the way back to NYS. The sun came in and out all day. I was surrounded by mountains on both sides and more glorious golden hued foliage for the entire day.

The new man in my life served as my navigator. I call him Jack. He is from Australia. Don’t get the wrong idea now. He is the voice I’ve chosen to use on my new Garmin – the little GPS gadget that can get you to any destination on the globe if you know how to make it work. I am loving this machine – and Jack, of course. He can, however, steer me wrong.

We depended on his guidance for the journey from Syracuse to Silver Bay. His route took a full hour longer than he said it would. Some of that extra time was my fault for misunderstanding his directions. Some was his for not understanding that there was a better way to go. On the way home, we heeded a colleague’s advice and drove Route 8 across the Adirondack Park. There aren’t many places to stop along this route, and it is mountain roads the whole way, but it is an infinitely easier way to go. It also maximizes the time one gets to spend in the mountains. And I’ll take as much time as I can get. I can’t wait to go back.

1 Comment

  1. I agree, silver Bay is one of the most magical places I have ever been. I love the rockers on the big porch. I worked for “Natures Classroom”, at Silver Bay. I never truly appreciated fall, until I saw it in the Adirondacks, at Silver Bay.

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