Personal salvation has always been more easily achieved than solving the problems of the world. After the terrorist attacks four years ago, I went back-packing with my brother and two close friends across the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. "The church," as Mike calls it. Those endless hours of watching newscasters, and politicians, and grief-stricken survivors were over for now. Someone brought a copy of the Quran. Another brought poetry. There was a fishing pole and a bow and arrows. The skies were silent of jet traffic, the U.S seemed poised for retaliation, and we had no way of knowing what would happen in the world while we were gone.
We hiked a trail that took us 20 miles to the Selway River during elk season. We collected morels, fished in lakes and hunted grouse. After a few miles we came upon a summit overlooking many square miles of forest charred from a fire during the summer months. Hiking across it our boots became black from the ash.
Someone asked, "Do you think there will be a war?" The oldest among us answered, "There has always been a war."
There were tussles between some of us on the trail, intense conversations at night, and moments of shared, breathless beauty, On the third afternoon we found our way to a rocky ridge and camped in a small alpine meadow that had been protected from the blaze by large boulders. Our imaginations ran wild that evening. Would we be attacked again? Would civilization be there when we returned? Everyone in the camp that night was missing someone.
In the morning I discovered a small spring trickling through watercress and mosses which fed the small meadow. Within all the destruction was this fragile and complex world with miniature flowers and the first living things we had seen in miles. The meadow would soon be covered in deep snows—and yet last forever, emerging again and again.
"There has always been a peace," I thought, although it may take a slog through hell to get there. In the meadow, in the church, I began to consider what in life was really worth protecting, and what could be left behind. The process continues four years later, with new questions every day. As well as some answers. But it was never so clear as that morning in the meadow, as far away as we could get, yet close with all that matters.