Lessons Observations Reflection

Truths from Glacier National Park.

This is St. Mary Lake from Glacier National Park in Montana:


My time in the great outdoors reminded me of these truths that I often forget:

The world is much bigger than any of us. Those mountains have existed for much longer than we have and will continue to do so long after we are gone. While it is true that even mountains will one day disintegrate (… and glaciers will melt and inland seas will evaporate…), they will persist much longer than any of us.

What a way to put our problems and worries into perspective!

When we die (a detail we all neglect to remember), none of this stuff will matter. We shouldn’t get too attached to what we do or what the outcomes are. Those mountains, glaciers, lakes, and forests were doing their thing long before we were born… and they will continue to do so after we die. We are lucky to be here to experience all this stuff, but, in the grand scheme of the universe, we are mere blips in time.

Life is ephemeral, so appreciate The Moments while you can. We’re those people who are out on the trails before 7am. The morning light only shines for a few minutes, so you must appreciate the soft glow it casts across the sky, mountains, and valleys when it happens. You also know that you can’t stay on top of the mountain and look at the spectacular vista forever. And you realize—maybe with some sadness—that the camera cannot capture the colors, textures, width, and energy of the scene.

So you appreciate it for what it is… and then you let go of it because you must. There’s a lesson in there about gratitude and grace.

People take care of things. People who venture into the great outdoors are all there for the same reason: We want to see the grandeur and beauty of nature. And these people come from all over: They have different hair, eye, and skin colors.[1. To be clear, though, the vast majority of people we saw while hiking were white people. This is not a new observation. While no one at Glacier asked me if I can speak English, people at other national parks have. White People Love Hiking. Minorities Don’t. Here’s Why.] They speak in different accents, languages, and dialects. They dress in different styles and carry different accoutrements. They nonetheless make eye contact and greet you. They warn you about potentially dangerous wildlife up ahead. They take care of things for you: They don’t pick the wildflowers so you can see them. They pick up their trash so you don’t have to. They stay on the trail to prevent further erosion of the earth.

People can do ugly and violent things. People can also do beautiful and kind things, and not just in national parks.

The world is a beautiful place. Much of the world’s beauty arises from imperfection. Mountains are jagged, lakes are non-uniform shades of blue, glaciers have irregular borders and rough surfaces, trees are bent and twisted in strange ways, boulders are shattered into coarse rocks, and clouds have different textures as they stretch across the sky.

Nature is non-uniform, random, and imperfect—and therein lies its grandeur. Is it the same with us? In society we want “perfection”, whatever that is, but the very nature that we find so beautiful and breathtaking is all imperfect.

May you soon have the opportunity to remember those truths that you know you forget.