One more mountain image, and then we move on…for awhile.

[On my Lenten personal journey, I’m looking through my photo collection and choosing an image-a-day to reflect on and write about. I’m glad you happened by today.]

Here we are, high in the Canadian Rockies. Whistler Mountain in 2012. No way we climbed here. We took a long tramway and a ski lift and did some easy hiking. A couple of days ago I wrote that I had told some youthful hikers that they could appreciate the view all-the-more since they had earned it through the aches and blisters of actually hiking to the summit. Now, at Whistler, my wife and I did no such thing. But we nonetheless gaped with reverence at what we saw around and below us.IMG_0729_edited-1.JPG

Around us, rocky peaks, wild flowers dancing in the heavy mountain breezes, and people, lots of people. In my video of this summit experience, I have a panoramic view of this and nearby peaks, with clear skies and snow covered crests, and there, if one looks closely, is a young man sitting on a jagged ledge — one solitary person, so small in that scene that he would be easy to overlook.

When I slowly zoomed in on that lone figure, I saw he was wearing headphones. What could he possibly be listening to that was more magnificent than the wind? Perhaps it wasn’t that he wanted to hear his music, but that he didn’t want to hear the noise of the crowds who made their way up and down Whistler’s paths, with kids’ shouts and laughing youths, the occasional parental call to caution along some hazardous pathway.

In this photo, the foreground includes that decidedly unnatural pile of rocks, a cairn. Originally, I suppose, cairns were erected as memorials or to mark a special place along the way, but the many stones we found here were more playfully stacked. This is a small version of a huge inukshuk nearby, the largest one standing perhaps over 25 feet high. Rooted in the Inuit culture, this formation has become a symbol of peace and friendship in Canada, this human figure with outstretched arms. (The one in this photo is a bit squat, maybe 18 inches tall, and the human form isn’t easily seen here!)

Some may see any cairn as an interruption of nature’s own beauty; others enjoy the delight of the formations, knowing that rarely would anyone build a cairn without smiling at the finish.

And then there is in this picture a view downward.  Look, way in the distance there’s that lake amid the green forested valley. There’s no sign of another human being in all that the lens has taken in. But you know they are there. Camping, sailing, fishing, working, living and dying…there. We just can’t see them. I don’t know: is there a village or a settlement amid the greenery? A tour bus along the road? A rafting expedition on the river? The cairn keeps its silent watch.

If that cairn is a bit of blight that mars nature’s wild and wonder-filled landscape, imagine the damage done by humans to the whole ecological balance of that one summit view from the peak. This looks pristine enough, but we can’t see ugly details from such a distance. From space, zoom out from the Rockies and pan over to major cities, zoom onto coastal areas, scan clear cut hills, and zoom into coal fields. I may be a person of faith, but I also respect the science that says the planet is at risk. That is one thing that theology and science have in common (among others): we are not being good stewards of “Mother the Earth” and “Father the Sky.”

If I had any guts, I’d have shouted from the highest peak, “Repent!” I mean, just the echo would have been awesome, right?

Almost finished. But referring back to that guy with the headphones? I imagine his listening to my favorite Dan Fogelberg song “Nether Lands.”

“High on this mountain, the clouds down below; I’m feeling so strong and alive. From this rocky perch I’ll continue the search for the wind, and the snow, and sky…” He has a vision of two roads, one leading to simple acceptance of life; the other road offering sweet peace. The song ends with the lines, “When I made my decision, my vision became my release.”

He never reveals the path he took. We must choose our own.

And it’s time to leave the mountaintop.