Last weekend our local community of the Casa de Caridad went to Ruidoso, NM for an end-of-the-summer-get-away. We rented a cabin on the Ruidoso River which is very low because of the drought but beautiful and trickling nonetheless. On Saturday morning after a hearty grand slam breakfast we left Sister Peggy in charge of the cabin (her favorite vacation: sitting on the deck with a good mystery and a big bowl of seedless watermelon!) and went in search of a hiking trail.
We decided to head toward Sierra Blanca, site of one of the only downhill ski areas of southern New Mexico and found a trailhead in the Cedar Creek area. The serious hikers were way out in front but Romina and I stopped to admire the flowers (and catch my breath) on the steep uphill climb. Just being in the pine forest and cooler air was so refreshing after the oppressive heat of the desert where we live. We caught up with the group at the top of the ridge and the sign said we had climbed just 1/4 mile! At that point I decided I was ready to find a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the beauty while others continued on the trail.
I picked my way through lots of fallen trees and stumps, trying out a few spots that were too sunny, too bumpy, too stickery until I found an area that was just right. I settled onto the pine needles and arranged my pack, my journal, my insect repellant and finally with a great sigh of contentment I looked up. The vista took my breath away! Sierra Blanca was framed perfectly from my place on the ridge. I sat and watched as the clouds created shadows on the mountain. Favorite scripture passages came to mind, one after another: “I lift my eyes to the mountains from whence shall come my help…” “Though the mountains may fall and the hills be shaken, the love of God endures forever…” “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mountain “Move!” and it would be accomplished.”
The mountains have always provided an image of God’s fidelity, of the constancy of God’s love. As I sat there I thought of Elizabeth Seton and her frequent admonition to her Sisters, her daughters, her friends to “Look up!” Whether to the mountains or the heavens, she was reminding them to rely on God and to trust in God’s care, God’s will, God’s love.
Finally I laid back on the pine needles, breathing deeply of the fresh air. I had a different awareness of the mountain from that perspective. Now, instead of the majestic vista in the distance, the mountain was a firm foundation beneath me. My mantra from Ecuador returned with my breathing: “No se preocupe. Don’t worry.” I felt what it is to be “grounded” in the deepest sense of the word.
At some point I heard my name called and I knew the rest of the hikers had returned. I stood up and saw them heading down the trail, thinking that I was already down at the car. Later, near the bottom of the trail, I met Carol and Andrea running back up to find me. “You broke the first rule of hiking! Don’t go off by yourself !” I told them I hadn’t strayed far off and didn’t hear them call me except once…
I must have been in a particularly sheltered place on the ridge. And I was lost in my thoughts, looking upwards to the mountains and remembering God my strength.