I just returned from a week of hiking and kayaking in the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin. For me, hiking is a deeply spiritual experience – the sights, the sounds, the smells – everything is drenched with God’s presence. Walking through a pine forest and feeling the carpet of pine needles under my feet, standing still and closing my eyes and hearing nothing but the sounds of the birds and the trees moving in the wind, looking up through the trees and seeing the rays of the sun peeking through – all is part of a wonderful communion with God and God’s creation.
I’m almost giddy with joy as I wander through days like these. I hear over and over again in my soul the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” And I wonder: how can anyone experience this and have any doubt about the existence of God and God’s love for us?
And the truth is, I don’t think anyone can have experiences like this without recognizing the touch of the sacred. I was struck by the similarity of language in the various films in visitors centers or in the brochures I saw. Frequent direct references to the power and majesty of God, along with lines like: “A silence in which it seems sacriledge to speak.” “The first snow flakes came like a benediction.” This suggests something universal in my experience.
So, if you haven’t done so in a while, go take a walk in the woods, or stand at the edge of the ocean or a big lake. Look. Listen. Feel…feel the presence of God.