From the San Joaquin Valley, the rounded, grassy Sierra foothills rise. Following up the Kaweah river, you enter a valley which deepens into a canyon with ever-higher sides. Oaks and chaparral clothe its slopes. Far up the canyon a sharp summit splits the sky. Then the road switchbacks three thousand feet up the canyonside to a plateau. Here deep forest and mighty redwoods rise toward the blue. Here as a youth I learned to love the mountains and forest with my family.
When I was ready, I began to explore with friends the high ridges and basins beckoning beyond. We sat by lush green meadows. We marvelled at bright wildflowers and the precise control of hummingbirds gathering pollen from them. We camped near quiet sappire lakes. We walked beside rushing streams. We learned of the unquenchable force of life from hardy subalpine trees and thick matts of alpine sedge. We scaled peaks and cliffs, sharing intimately in their reality. We enjoyed the mountains in all their seasons in countless trips over dozens of years. I had many experiences, most shared with friends, some savored in solitude, but not real solidude–it was the mountains and me together.
I cherished the blessing of these experiences, which have become part of me. Finally, near the summit of a high peak I recieved the greatest blessing of all. As I stood there overwhelmed by the beauty and wonder around me, I suddenly knew with certainty that I, despite my shortcomings and mis-steps in life, had been made part of all this, a full member–in the deepest, most personal way possible.
Minutes later, as I savored a celebratory can of V-8 on the summit and pondered this reality, I realized that as it was true for me, it’s true for everyone. As part of this wonderful, vast world and universe, each person has unmeasurable worth and deserves respect.
If we all thought this way, would we have wars?