The sun lost its struggle to break through the clouds and prepared to dip below the horizon. And yet the effort painted the clouds with a strange orange hue.
The parson pulled his car into the left hand lane close to the curb as he stopped beside the mailbox. Lowering the window he reached out to retrieve the day’s mail. Charlie Brown, his faithful canine companion, roused himself on the back seat and awaited the next stop.
Parking the car, the parson stepped out, opened the rear door and headed inside. Quickly he sorted the mail, checked for messages, made a couple of notes on things to do, and then quickly prepared to leave again.
On impulse the parson sat himself down, leaned his head back, closed his eyes, exhaled deeply and expelled his breath as he felt his fatigue. He looked around, taking in the details for the thousandth time. Outside the sun slipped down beneath the horizon and the light began to fail. Where the parson sat fading light enveloped in an aura of peace.
The took in the space again. There was something about it, a quietness, a stillness, and a mystery. The parson breathed deeply as though to inhale the essence of the room. He rose from his seat and moved to the door.
Outside Charlie Brown sat beside the car in anticipation of another ride. The parson opened the read door. Charlie Brown jumped in and with an audible grunt lowered himself to lay upon the seat. The parson moved behind the wheel. He cranked the car and reached for the gear shift.
He stopped and stared at the door from which he’d just exited. He remembered the sermons preached inside, the congregation that surprised him with their accomplishments and frustrated him to distraction with the limits of their faith. He thought of the frustrations the weekly appearance in that room brought him, the sermons needing more than he’d delivered, the people barely listening, the complaints that Aunt Mandy’s favorite hymn had not been sung in months. The room was symbolic of all that confronted a pastor.
The parson marveled at the mystery of sanctuaries and the hold they had always had on his life, from the chapel at the youth camp in his high school years, to the balcony pew of his home church in his teenage years, to the front pews in the years of his discovery, and distinctive mystery of each sanctuary whose walls had absorbed his words.
The parson had left his fatigue inside. Now he drove away with a lighter demeanor, marveling at the healing power of sanctuaries, especially empty ones.
The fog clung desperately to the ground stubbornly dedicated to enveloping the peak moistness. Vision was obscured by the airborne wetness. But it barely slowed the parson’s progress upon the all too familiar path.
Before dawn awakened the parson was on the road traveling the forty miles to the sacred site. Progress slowed as hybrid slowly ascended through the clouds toward the mountain’s peak. Entering the state park he hung his park pass upon the rearview and headed toward the parking area.
The wetness of the air hung heavily giving the sacred place once again the mystical attraction it exuded two thousand years before. The parson’s boots now trod upon the same stony paths carved by moccasins long ago. He pulled the zipper to his parka up to his neck as a barrier to the cold while wondering what hides those who had come before wrapped about their torsos.
Though the fog prohibited sight beyond ten feet off the path, the parson knew his way from frequent hikes and arrived at the wall in good time. There he sat waiting the sun’s dispensing of the moistness.
The wall disappeared into the fog, but the parson knew it stretched a hundred yards before him. The East / West line was broken in places by a zig zag, a zig zag that corresponded to the lines on ancient Woodland Indian pottery, zig zag lines believed to map the movement of the heavenly bodies crossing the skies. It was quiet on the ancient observatory.
The parson pulled two fig newton bars from his pack. He chewed them silently, washing them down with water from his old canteen. Finished, he carefully tucked the wrappings into the pocket of his parka. He leaned against a tree bordering the wall and listened to the symphony of the silence, accompanied by the chill of the barely stirring wind.
The sound of the owl hundreds of feet below announced the crescendo of the movement and gave warning of a rising sun. The parson stirred, stretched, and proceeded up the path beside the sacred wall. The floating wet seemed to part in anticipation of his booted steps. He paused at the intersection of the North / South path. There he sat, waiting.
With an almost imperceptible movement the suspended particles began to lift from the ground until they floated suspended a foot above the parson’s head. The parson looked to the East; he looked to the West. The wall was becoming visible along its entire length. He wondered at what sacred ceremonies were once held here where he sat. He marveled that about the time his spiritual ancestors were crawling out of the catacombs the people who inhabited the valleys below had come to this mountain and with infinite care constructed this wall. What was their liturgy? What was their credo? Did the ordained lead their gathering upon this sacred mountain.
A hawk swooped down through the rising fog and soared almost parallel to the parson’s eyes. He disappeared into the trees. The parson roused from his wondering turned and headed up the path. Over the crest of the mountain he proceeded and then down the other side. His pace was quickened now as the fog was lifting and
his line of sight increased. Soon he came to the spot where the rocks jutted out over the valley below. There on the rock sat the parson.
He drank again from his canteen and waited, quietly he waited. The morning glow began to give way to daylight as the sun’s rays pushed their way across the valley floor below. The world was waking. The parson was watching. The hawk flew by again on her way to the valley floor a half mile below.
Time stood still. The world was hushed. The wind barely moved. And then the birds announced the coming of day.
The parson rose. He looked down upon the valley and knew why those ancients had come here. Like Moses on Sinai and Jesus on Gethsemane and the parson on a chilly September morning, they were seeking to be closer to God.
Copyright The material on this site, unless otherwise noted, is the property of the author. Church-related use is permissible, but a small nod of the head in the direction of the author will be appreciated.