Time…time…time. It’s ticking away.
We’re all getting older—and closer to the grave. It’s something we’d like to ignore, but every once in a while we come face to face with eternal things…and our own mortality.
I myself am turning 50, which is well into the “Middle Ages,” but not yet to the “Golden Years.” A rather scary place to be…The monumental half-century mark! What was I going to do on this birthday to make it worth remembering?
My husband settled that question for me on the morning of my birthday. “Get ready,” he said, “We’re going on a road-trip…a Mystery Tour to the High Country.”
Although Michael didn’t blindfold me, he may as well have. I was mystified. I had no idea where we would end up.
The sun was bright and the sky was cloudless—a perfect day for a road-trip. We meandered through the historic mountain villages of NorCal, and then went on into Oregon, stopping to sample from the fruit trees that grew along the way. Apples. Pears. Plums.
At last toward evening, my husband pulled to a stop in the mountain community of Ashland, Oregon—a wealthy college town known for its culture and Shakespearean Festivals. “Look! This is Lithia Park,” he said, and by his tone, I knew it was very important to him. “Now,” he said. “We’ll get out and walk.”
I looked around me. It wasn’t just a Park…it was a nature habitat. There were lots of little creatures—birds, squirrels, ducks, and chipmunks…Lots of lovely trees and pools and a burbling creek. The trails and wooden footbridges everywhere created an air of wonder and adventure waiting around the next bend.
“Years ago,” Michael said, “my grandmother was the Curator of this Park—the overseer of all the shrubs and flowers and greenery planted here. Grandma was a renowned botanist and author, you know…Well-respected on the West Coast.”
Ah. Now I understood why this place was so important to him.
I wandered the shady pathways beside my husband—the Grandson of the famous botanist/curator/author. I marveled at it all, reveling in the beauty around me. The trails wove in and out for well over a mile. We worked our way higher and higher up the canyon as the sun sank low in the west.
Soon, my legs grew weary, but I dared not stop. Michael was still urging me onward. At last, we rounded a bend and there in the gathering dusk was a remarkable sight.
It appeared to be a cemetery full of tall, narrow gravestones. On closer inspection, it turned out to be the haven of a most patient Rock-Stacker. Years ago, a renowned artist had spent endless hours stacking rock upon rock. Perfectly balanced, the stones formed delicate spires—rising high into the air—some of them towering over our heads.
It was like a miniature “Stonehenge,” but much more fragile and beautiful. I gazed about me awestruck.
What a strange paradox…To see a garden, not made of living foliage or lovely blossoms, but created from the most humble objects on earth. Stones. Smooth, flat stones…unremarkable in themselves, yet unique in their towering sculptures. A garden wrought from countless hours of painstaking patience.
How many times these same spires must have toppled before they attained their elegant stance!
All it would take was one deranged vandal to make shambles of this place in a matter of moments, and yet these towering stones had been this way for years…A hushed sanctuary that instilled respect in all who passed by.
I’d never seen anything like it.
We stood in the twilight, transfixed, gazing at the fragile little garden. Then silently, my husband and I turned to go.
It was nearly dark now, but by the light of the old-fashioned park lamps, we could see shadowy shapes moving about us. Deer were grazing on the grass nearby, nibbling on the acorns scattered throughout the park. Does and their young…and even a few antlered bucks grazing just a few yards away from us, unperturbed by our nearness.
It brought to mind the pastoral, heavenly scenes portrayed in biblical paintings. Docile deer grazing amid the glories of Heaven. Unafraid. In perfect harmony with all of Creation.
The heavenly scene was also reflected in the bright glow of windows high above us on the canyon wall. Mansions…Multimillion-dollar palaces were perched there, half-hidden by the trees. Through the lighted windows, we could see the glimmer of wealth. Sparkling chandeliers and elaborate wall hangings. Golden fixtures and bejeweled artifacts.
It was like glimpsing Heaven from afar. “My mansion in Heaven will be that beautiful,” I whispered.
“Oh no!” my husband said. “It will be much finer!” I could only sigh with contentment.
And so it was…on my 50th birthday, I got a glimpse of Heaven, as it were. I had stepped into a higher realm. It was a tantalizing preview of the things that await us on the other side.
I went away with a new appreciation—knowing that Heaven will be so glorious. It will be far greater than anything we can imagine!
I’ll never forget that trek to the High Country…the wonders of the Mystery Tour…and the treasured memories of my half-century birthday. I will never forget…Not if I live to be 100!