Nature stirs the imagination to wonder – to deduce and to set forth on an empirical journey to learn and grow, viewing life through the natural lens. This lens understands hardship and adversity from bitter frozen winters and the rising sun of summer to fire and ash, rebirth and growing pains. This natural splendor reminds us that a beautiful life is not a life formed in a straight and narrow line; it is not matriculated in easy roads and circumstances. Rather life is beauty in the midst of hardship, and the ability to see the extraordinary in ordinary places. It is a dance in fire and ice and the ability to have faith and resilience to take each day, step by step without neglecting the scope of the journey. I struggle with this immensely as I get caught up in the petty fears and angst from honking at a rude driver to complaining about finding a spot at the mall parking lot (the concrete jungle as I jokingly refer to it). I was moved by an image today posted on the Yellowstone National Park page reminding me of how bleak circumstances can ignite a firestorm of color.
This photo is from https://www.facebook.com/YellowstoneNPS
This picture is striking. On first glance you witness a bleak, harsh, frozen scene of snow, ice and loneliness. Then you peel back you preconceptions and the glow of a halo of light illumines the landscape. The tree is a testament to survival, not only surviving but standing tall as the sky. Trees have roots to weather hardship and in fire they release seeds so life begins again. We are not called to stand idle, but we are called to have faith, hope and use critical thinking and imagination to move like the frozen rivers that flow on this plateau, breaking down and moving forward. The sun frames the tree in a rainbow arc of what is know as a ‘Sun Dog’ or ‘Phantom Sun’ The Phantom Sun is a testimony that life persists and struggle plods us on a necessary set of steps to a destination far more exciting and wonderful that our narrow peripheral vision can imagine.
And if you look closely you see a boardwalk traced in snow, the path is always there if we listen and look and are willing to move forward will humble intent. Humble intent – means you don’t just rush in without taking account, but you take stock and have faith that even in your weakness God is present and life is to be lived.
Throughout history a ‘Sun Dog’ has been a symbol of God’s hand, or an omen; take the War of the Roses or Descartes. I take it as an omen of grace – in this photo I only see light’s kiss on the land.
Sun dogs (or sundogs), mock suns or phantom suns, scientific name parhelia (singular parhelion), are an atmospheric phenomenon that consists of a pair of bright spots on either side on the Sun, often co-occurring with a luminous ring known as a 22° halo. (Wikipedia)
Sun dogs are a member of a large family of halos, created by light interacting with ice crystals in the atmosphere. Sun dogs typically appear as two subtly colored patches of light to the left and right of the Sun, approximately 22° distant and at the same elevation above the horizon as the Sun. They can be seen anywhere in the world during any season, but they are not always obvious or bright. Sun dogs are best seen and are most conspicuous when the Sun is close to the horizon.
I love the image, the science of a frozen atmosphere, ice crystals, tiny but defiant using the frozen grasp as a prism – funneling light into dark spaces. To me that is God’s divine hand in matter and it takes my complaining negative mind out of focus so I can perceive the reality of the situation in color, light, and allow the frost to invigorate instead of urge me to cower.
It takes gray, cold, wet hard snow to feed the ground for summer. In our lives the desert days should not emphasize our lack as much as strengthen our character to cut through narrow passages, learning to appreciate the gift of life and learn lessons that suffering provides. Lately I’ve been depressed by circumstances – you want to break the glass house of your life and grasp your long term goals. That is not how the process words, frustration only digs us deeper in a depression, it doesn’t bushwhack us into our new direction. To get from point A to point B and beyond you have to TRAVEL and in traveling you have to write your life’s map through experience and work (spiritual and physical)
Vagabond Warrior along with my other blog (Mad Savages – a writer’s pad) will at times get a little philosophical because travelers have an innate curiosity and desire to explore, allowing logic and intuition to work together to see beauty, grace and fathomless depths. Travel is a study of sociology, ethnography, cartography, history…it is a study of psychology and geography. Travel is fun because it pushes us out of boundaries and our comfort zones.
Sometimes as we trod our weary paths we beg God – ‘Why am I unable to see valley on the other side of the mountains, I have climbed and my lungs draw dry air…?” Why can’t I reach the destination. Instead of worrying about the destination, start focusing on the journey. In focusing on the journey you cannot get caught up in frustrations to the point they debilitate you from moving forward. Of course if you are camping in a downpour with freezing rain, mud and muck you are going to curse the circumstances, but don’t let setbacks prevent you from taking another step, or using your knowledge to access a better path forward. If giving up is giving in, don’t, if giving up is moving on the right path forward, then you bend with the fork in the road.
Stay posted to this blog as this image has inspired me to write a short story/myth about ‘Sun Dog and the Rise of the Phantom Sun.’