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At the Rogers Pass, a painting by John A. Fraser

Deep in the Woods, Stop the Trains

By Thomas Schmidt

My perspective on my values and the attitudes of the world and all the problems of the powers and principalities and my life changes when I’m in the wilderness. Actually, I am in no wilderness while on this trail, but in the past have experienced enough of being next to only life without human culture to recall the subtle chages. At my age, this far is sufficient. Here, deep in the Selkirks, things get simple real fast. I went to the end of the road and hiked to the Upper Priest Lake Falls, a hike I turned back from 30 years ago for lack of sunlight. Difficult, even when I take it slow. Steeply down a good trail, to the bottom of a canyon through a grove of very old cedar. Some had been big when Jesus walked his trails. Then next to a cold creek cloudy with glacially ground silt to the base of the falls. Beautiful, spacious camp sites and fire rings for those willing to take care of their own wastes. No one else was on this trail; no rubbish, no talk except for the hum of an occasional fly, a chirp of a bird, and my bear chant honoring any grizzly I might startle. “Yanu, Yoani, ah hu way nay:” Honor and worship to Yanu and Yoani, male and female bear, who incarnate the ability to live respectfully in most natural environments. Would that I ….

I was high, still am. Just below the falls was a sandy bottomed pool of calmly spiraling water, deep enough to take a splashing bath. Not quite icy this mid August. Miles of filtering sun and sand down-stream. No one else with possible objections for me to ignore.  Cooling, cleansing, rebirthing water, the vehicle of life. Not since my childhood on the Laramie river, in the mountains as the cold water burst forth onto the Wyoming plains, had I experienced and shared such joy. The ears of the universe could hear my gasps and laughter. I remember my father calling a break from the branding one afternoon and the cowboys stripping to their long johns and jumping in, playing like the children we all had a heart for. I remembered my mother pointing to the river saying “Go clean up and don’t drown. Have fun!”

An exhausting hike out. Downhill was hard, but I had little tolerance for the two miles steep hike back out. Energy sapping, but that was all right, I could creep up, pause when I felt like it, and breathe. It was the pain, back, hip, and knee – every step, double in the turns. I found that the pain helped me value the life in which I found myself embedded. All else, even the rocks, must feel pain. Broken crystals, fibers, bones, and relationships. Looking forward to the next step up I could think of curling up in the earth’s blanket and slowly melting, warm and soft, being received for the substance I was. Would that the peace I would feel would be felt by all. Every particle, every moment was followed by a “goodbye,” a thanks for having been there to add to the living, churning mix, celebrating God, the placement of the Eucharistic elements of all our bodies into the liturgy of the evolutionary development of growth, living. explosion of forceful creation. Green, gurgling, and infinitely gracious.

What are my values? Back in here they are the elementary rhythms of living interdependent on each other. Intelligently paying attention and respecting the processes involving us all, mightily including the memory that all this life has a past and is now supporting its incarnation with love, respect, nonviolence and joy. There may be pain, and with that pain comes respect, simplicity, the realization, I say, the realization that this moment ends but everything, in some way, will continue so long as we are there for the rest, the others. Lord, help me not stand in a selfish way that prevents others from also living. Help me, when I stand in front of that locomotive instrument that forces injustice and the victory of death, that caries sudden searing death, holding up my hand to scream, “Stop!”  Our lives, each and every one, are too precious, too interconnected, to be subjected to the forces of dominance, injustice, and self-aggrandizing  systems of wasted accumulation. Pharo will drown in his own mire.

Stop the false empire, the oppression, the acts of thoughtless self-preservation, or preservation of my group over yours.  Stop the destruction of the elementary balance of the carbon upon which our lives depend. Stop the forcing of the unprivileged to pay for my mistakes and thoughtless participation in the destruction.

Stop the carbon trains. Will you please be there?

Thomas Schmidt

About Thomas Schmidt

Thomas Schmidt is a retired psychotherapist and chemical dependency counselor who belongs to the Sufi Ruhiniat International order of Sufi’s and is a drummer in the Spokane Sufi group and an elder at the Country Homes Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church. He is a member of the Westar Institute (The Jesus Seminar people). He studied for the ministry in the late 1950’s at Texas Christian Church and twice married Janet Fowler, a member of a long tern TCU family and a Disciple minister. He was active in the Civil Rights Movement, studying philosophy at Columbia University and psychology in the University of North Carolina university system. He has taught philosophy and psychology, and was professionally active in Florida, North Carolina, and, for 25 years in Spokane. He has studied and practiced Siddha Yoga, Zen Buddhism and, since the mid 1970’s, Sufism and the Dances of Universal Peace. He has three sons and three grandchildren. With the death of his wife, Janet, he is continuing their concentration on human rights, ecology, and ecumenical and interfaith reconciliation.

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