by Emily Meeks
“I believe that this life is an extraordinary gift, a blink of bright light between vast darknesses.” – Bryan Doyle, from Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies
The clouds rolled in and braided in colors of sunset as the day’s final moments gave way to night. We stood on rocks and dust, our bodies refueled from the day’s hike-in with tortillas, beans and guacamole smashed in camp bowls.
It was day one of our young adult backpacking trip to the Goat Rocks Wilderness and all had gone as planned except two of our friends were still not to camp, having taken a later start from Seattle to finish up some work projects. We gave directions on possible campsite destinations but knew it could be an alpine maze up 2,000 feet of elevation in the setting sun. We also had landed on a slightly higher campsite nestled in a meadow lined in wildflowers with wide sweeping views of Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.
As we waited, we began Evening Prayer, listening to the words of the gospel from the day – John 11:1-44 – where Jesus goes to Bethany, to the tomb of Lazarus and calls him from the tomb to new life.
We reflected on the day, the light changing, and wondered whether we should call it a night or continue keeping watch for our friends. The liturgy ended in silence, a moment encircled by breath and final whispers of light.
Our eyes looked up, around and down. There were two bright twinkling lights beaming up from the lower meadow. The lights flickered. We waved our headlamps and jumped in the air. And then the lights disappeared. We knew the trail quickly turned into a section of trees, and we stayed hopeful that soon we would see the lights again, longing for them to reveal our friends. Our hearts raced and the chatter of anticipation seemed to deflect the growing chill of the wind. Could it be them? Could it be our friends?
The two lights did appear again and this time much closer – at the trail junction just below our campsite. But, just like before, the lights flickered for moments and then went dark like fading stars. This time we yelled their names. “That’s them,” we heard from below.
As the two figures came up the path and their faces emerged, we knew our friends had found our camp. There was so much longing and joy that had been stitched in fifteen minutes in between blinking lights. As a group, we remarked about the holiness of it all – the shifting of Evening Prayer to two bright lights marking hope in the darkness.
I want to be reminded of this story from both perspectives. From that of our belated friends’ who pushed through switchbacks in the dark – when tired, frustrated and ready to be done and pitch a tent, to look for markers to know to keep going or to know to stop. From that of our waiting perch – to be patient, to not lose patience for what you are waiting for, to reflect back light, and to do so in the presence of community. To seek and know that bright light can show forth in between the sections of darkness.
God yearns for our return, holds our beginnings and endings, and guides us into a fullness of time and community.
Moon and stars rise above us; wind stirs around us.
May our hearts be glad and our minds calm for this day is done.
Love beside us, within us and around us,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
– Prayers for Pilgrims, Grace Church, Bainbridge Island
Emily Meeks loves finding adventure and connection outside, especially while running, biking, hiking and kayaking. She attends and serves at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.