Sunday, December 06, 2009

Zion is a State of Mind

Psalm 87:2-3 says, “The LORD loves the gates of Zion more 
than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are 
said of you, O city of God.”

Zion is a metaphor. In addition to its literal geographical meaning (Jerusalem), the term Zion has often been used as a metaphor for the Land of Israel, any other Promised Land, or any other distant but much wanted place or goal.

Zion stands for a Utopian place of unity, a place of peace and freedom, as opposed to Babylon, the oppressing and exploiting system of the western world and a place of evil.

In Latter-day Saint theology,  a metaphoric transformation of the term Zion occurred in the modern days, originating in the United States in the 1830s. In this interpretation, Zion refers to a specific location to which members of the millennial church are to be gathered together to live.

Ancient tears on wrinkled faces

There is no question in my mind why Zion National Park was called Zion.  To me, it is one of the holiest places on the face of the earth.  The beauty and majesty take my breath away.  In this place I feel closest to God.  I feel a part of the universe, so far away from the cares of this earth.  It is the place I am the happiest, at peace.

My love affair with the red rock canyons of southern Utah began in 1970, nearly forty years ago.

I was a twenty-year old student who survived in the deserts and canyons for thirty-days.  The best and worst thirty days of my life.  The course was called "Survival" taught by BYU.  Sixty students from ages fourteen to sixty endured every hardship imaginable.

We had no high-tech boots, backpacks, light-weight clothing or dehydrated food packs.  We traveled with only the basics.  A blanket, a pocket-knife, a journal, heavy-leather hiking boots, one change of clothes and a jacket. Most of us wore levis and denim shirts.  The temperature rose to 115 degrees in the daytime and dropped to 40 degrees at night.  Occasionally it rained in torrents.

We slept under the stars (nine hundred zillion).  We hiked 15 to 40 miles a day.  Our blisters bled. Our muscles ached.  We were hungry and thirsty most of the time.  We cooked oatmeal in billy cans over open fires.  We made fry bread with only flour and water.  We swatted flies and mosquitoes. We drank water from the creeks. We sang and prayed and wrote in our journals.  And we came home with lean, hard bodies and strong spirits.  We lost ourselves in the desert in order to find ourselves.

It was a soul-searching, soul-changing experience for everyone.  That's why the deserts and canyons of southern Utah are holy to me.  More sacred than any church.

I had hoped to go back often to renew myself.  But life happens.  Jobs. Children. Obligations. Homes to clean, lawns to mow. We have taken trips over the years to Bruce NP, Zion NP, Canyon Lands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Arches NP, Cedar Breaks and Snow Canyon.  We have so many awesome places in Utah.  Our trips are usually too short, too hurried. But I always feel the pull, the yearning to be part of the desert.

Our recent trip touched me powerfully.  Perhaps it is because as I get older, I feel the need to reconnect with my spiritual self, my real self.  The "me" God wants me to be.  Perhaps it is because I feel how I have fallen short and need to try harder. Zion brings out our most intense feelings.  

I wish my arthritic knees and feet would allow me to. . . .go take a HIKE!

"I say fly away to Zion, fly away home...
One bright morning when my work is over,
I will fly away home..."

Rastaman Chant


kenju said...

Wonderful photos of a glorious place. I hope I can see it someday.

Travelin'Oma said...

I posted a really poetic comment a minute ago. I know it was poetic because I'm under the influence of my ambien. But I forgot to click publish, and it disappeared. So now, since it's kicked in anad I can't remember anythingI wrote, you'll just to have to imagine what a great post those beautiful photos and your experience years ago inspired me to write.