It’s mid July, and it’s hot. Except for the whine and buzz of insects, the forest hangs limp and still in the noon-day heat. Although I can hear the river racing from the shoulders of the Olympic Mountains toward the valley, it’s too far below the trail to reach easily; so I continue to climb toward the alpine meadows of swaying grasses and multi-colored nodding flowers.
The sun, suspended in space like the fiery core of a blast furnace, is relentless in its glaring heat through which I’ve been walking for hours with a heavy pack clinging to my sweaty back. Rounding a bend, I see through an opening in the trees a patch of white glistening in the meadow above the trail. From the edge of the meadow, I see a deep bank of snow part way up the slope. The snowbank has a tunnel penetrating its length through rushes a stream, and in the middle of the stream just below the tunnel’s entrance is a boulder. Dropping my pack at the edge of the water, I wade to the boulder and sit on its hunched back.
The sun’s heat falls away as the breeze from the tunnel cools me. The breeze, heated by the sun, gives up its heat to the icy walls of the stream’s tunnel making them hard and shiny. And yet, there are places in the tunnel were the ice is melting and returning via the stream as water to the sea.
Here, in this instant in time, wind and water and fire and ice are together with me in a relationship that will happen just once in forever. This instant will never again be coordinated as it is today.
Water, technically “defined” as a clear, colorless, nearly odorless and tasteless liquid, H2O, essential for plant and animal life, is the most widely used of all solvents. But what is water? How did the two hydrogen and single oxygen atoms happen to be here in this particular time, in this particular place, under this particular circumstance to form water, snow, and ice? Where did the atoms come from before they joined to become water, snow, and ice? How long will the atoms be recognizable as water, snow, and ice before they will be recycled through the atomic exchange system of the universal to become something else, and then something else, and then something else again, ad infinitum?
What was the rock on which I’m sitting one, two, or three million years ago? How did it come to be in this place at this time? How long has the light and the heat from the sun been traveling through space to reach this tiny place on Earth? It has taken me over seventeen years to get here for I am just three months shy of my eighteenth birthday.
That instant on that day so long ago was perfect and sacred in its being, and in all of time there will never be another like it.
Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.