The Boundaries are Blurred!
by Derek L. Hastings
Sunday started out like any normal morning when the Hike is on, dreams are rudely interrupted by the alarm at 3:30AM and that momentary disorientation that comes from too little sleep causes you to find excuses why you don’t really need to go on this trip. But, you soon find yourself standing in front of the mirror seeking a handle on reality.
Part of the morning I wondered if Scott got the message we are to meet at David’s at 4:30AM. But, as I am getting out of the car at David’s, Scott drives up and all is well.
God has interesting plans for those that find beauty in HIS Creation. Sometimes He is closer to us than we think. And, sometimes He blurr’s the boundaries between Heaven and Earth. Little did we know that this day would be . . . just a tad out of the ordinary.
Good friends can make time go by quickly, and the ride up Highway 36 sped by fast and fun. As we wound our way up into the mountains the sun began to show between the Mountains and a black mass of thunderclouds. An occasional streak of lightening interrupted the early dawn gloom while mornings light illuminated the underside of the clouds. Our thoughts grew a bit anxious about the trip as we drew closer to the curtains of rain hanging below the thunderheads.
I remember listening to David and Scott discuss art, and feeling a trance like sense of leaving one world and entering another. Similar to what Alice must have felt when she dropped down the rabbit hole. But, then Scott asked me a question about my writing, ending the moment.
The rest of the trip was normal as we wound our way past the thunderclouds to the eastern side of Lassen Park and found our jumping off point. Only a few cars dotted the parking lot we chose. As we tied on our boots and prepared our walking implements, that sense of timelessness began to creep up on me again. But, I didn’t say anything to David or Scott, as I didn’t want them thinking I was any stranger of a person than they already believed.
But, soon we were on the road . . . literally . . . on the park pavement hiking towards our first trailhead at Hat Creek. David set an excellent and quick pace right off the bat. And, I believe that the pace picked up as the first few clouds of Mosquitoes descended upon us, intent on making us their breakfast. Quickly we put on the repellant and boogied on down the road.
I have to believe that I was not the only one of the three of us that was picking up signs of “other-worldliness”. Scott commented as we made our way past the Peak Trailhead, as only an Artist/Visual Documentarian can, on the unique ambiance the dawn lighting was projecting upon the mountains’ rock structures. Indeed, the light was perfectly balanced to give an almost cinematic hue to the land.
As the sun started to tinge the tops of the Pines, we settled into a steady ground eating pace.
David is a walking Horticultural Dictionary, and as we marched, he directed our attention towards many different kind of flowers — between Mosquito slaps. The morning was starting out perfectly (except for the Skeeters), but I began to feel as though we were being watched. It grew into that feeling where you just “KNOW” you have forgotten something. Or, where you are trying to remember a name . . . and it is just there at the tip of your tongue, or we missed something unique or beautiful, just over the horizon, or around the bend . . . but we just couldn’t get there. At one point we caught a glimpse of a Mule Deer Doe about a quarter of a mile ahead crossing the road, but when we arrived at that point there was no sign of the deer. This sense of something missing, or something about to happen had me edgy, and the feeling became palpable to me. So I decided to pray, and together we lifted up a prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide us through this adventure. To keep us safe and to open our eyes to see His Wonders.
As we crested a gently curving ridge on the road and began to descend to Hat Creek, I saw a Hawk launch itself from the top of a pine along the side of the Creek. But, again the Hawk was just out of range for identification. Almost as if a primitive early “Hiker” warning system had been triggered by our presence. Causing the animals to hide before we could arrive. Something was just plain OFF! My internal radar antenna — my knower — was fully extended and alert.
As we approached the trailhead David seemed to be preoccupied by the Mosquitoes, and Scott was fully engaged with the visual documentarian spirit. Without breaking stride we disappeared into the Hat Creek Trailhead. Absentmindedly and with a touch of angst filled wonder I looked back at the disappearing road wondering what I had just walked into.
The sun was not high enough to penetrate through the branches yet, to make our hike uncomfortable. The humidity from the rain had tempered the cold. I had also been smart enough this time to wear a long sleeve shirt. The extra time on the Treadmill also seemed to be paying off as we settled into — or perhaps David’s understanding of pacing created — an excellent cadence. I really dislike being a deadweight on any trip so I concentrated on my breathing and drinking so as to keep up with Scott’s long legs and David’s powerful gait. Within a few moments of leaving the road, I forgot about the strangeness of the morning and settled into the start of a great hike into Lassen Park.
Our hike scribed a triangle from the start to the finish in the parking lot. Somewhere during this first leg of the triangle, the blur happened. At first it was just the little things. A sound off in the distance, a jumble of trees that seemed to present a simian countenance, lichens that formed illusory but intelligible symbols on glacially polished granite, landscapes so gently coiffed it seemed staged. The air was perfect. Gentle breezes moved thru the trees and across the stream. We steadily climbed the trail alongside the loudly cascading stream, the only thing breaking the perfection of the moment was our conversation and my ever present attempt to gather oxygen into my lungs. Or to put it more simply . . . my gasping for breath. This gasping kept most of my attention on myself and not on the ever changing environment.
Then we were there. Paradise Meadow. And, the undercurrent of the fantastic broke through the boundary of reality. There before my eyes was a home. Situated on the far side of the meadow, artfully hidden amongst the pines away from the talus slope, peeked a 2 story granite and timber great house. All three of us stood dumbfounded. This is a National Park! What’s a house doing there?!?!? But, the house only formed part of the mysterious picture. There were people over there. Hundreds of them.
Scott took action and grabbed his camera. David and I looked at him as if to say, “Quick, get the picture before we all wake up or something!!” We just stood there 500 yards from the house, not daring to move while Scott took the picture. I remember standing staring at the house, and hearing Scott say, “NO, that’s not possible!” We gathered around the digital camera to look at the picture he had just taken . . . and there was no picture. Well, there was a picture but no house IN the picture. And, when we turned back to look at the house. It was gone. And, the people as well.
Needless to say, at this point we all started comparing notes and observations. It turns out that all of us had observed the subtle indicators of a supernatural tinge on the day. But, what to do now? Do we go over across the meadow to explore? Could we find that House?
We decided to do the sane thing and press on.
A few moments later and a couple of hundred yards down the trail, Scott and David found some especially intriguing flowers near where we crossed the stream towards the ridge overlooking Paradise Meadow. So I decided to press on ahead at my slower pace and perhaps, I thought, I would get to the top as they caught up. It was here where I became separated from them for what seemed like hours.
It did not take long before I had lost sight of Scott and David. The trail rose moderately and I settled into a good “Plodding Pace” where my lungs could handle the pain and I could go longer distances between rest stops. But, I soon began to wonder why the other two had not caught up with me, and my glances back down the trail were becoming more frequent. I started to wonder if I should go back down the trail to find them when I heard a gentle voice above and behind me. There sitting on a strange couch shaped granite boulder was a tiny man. Looking somewhat oriental in dress and facial features, he smiled at me and said, “Don’t worry about those two . . . they will be along shortly.” And, with that he hopped down from the couch and asked me if he could tag along. He sidled up next to me and slapped my knee as if to check whether I was real or not. He only stood as tall as my knee, and barely made any noise when he walked.
Amazed, I just stood there and stared. Here was a man that looked like a cross between a Lemurian, a Leprechaun, and a Hobbit. For this gentleman was not wearing any shoes. Indeed, his feet were large and furry.
He looked up at me looking down at him and he said, “I’ll give ya three guesses.”
I said, “What? Three guesses? Oh, you mean, three guesses as to who you are?”
He chuckled a grin and said, “Yeah, you look like your brain is about to go into overdrive trying figure out what is going on.”
“Yeah, that would help.” I admitted. “Who or What are you?”
He just grinned that funny grin, and taking off his bowler, gave a little hop like a Commedia Dell’arte Clown, and exclaimed, “I am one of His Angels. Particularly, one of His Groundskeepers. I live here. This is my home and my responsibility . . . well actually, mine and my family’s. This section of the Creation is our guardianship. We have lived here since the beginning tending to the land and watching over those that Love Him. For some reason, today is one of those special days where The Creator allows the Kingdom of Heaven’s boundaries, the physical boundaries to blur. Normally, you and I would not be here walking and talking together. I guess” As he scratched his head. “You could call this a preview.”
Gone was any semblance of tiredness, my breathing was normal and my legs felt refreshed. All around me evidence of Angelic Husbandry jumped out at me. As if a veil had been lifted. The granite crags were definitely arranged in an order that, although not logical from a Human point of view, made sense in my heart. The Trees were swaying in an orderly almost dance like motion and their branches made a soft musical rhythm. And, there it was again. That sound I had heard earlier that was just beyond my recognition. The sound that was unnaturally natural in the midst, or better yet, underneath the rest of the forest sounds. I could hear it and understand it now. It was laughter or perhaps a song, or maybe both, a joyful musical laughter. There amongst the increasingly sparse vegetation (I was moving higher onto the ridge, closer to the granite peaks) were what looked like miniatures of my companion.
“Those are my brothers and sisters.” He motioned. “They are busy working with the Creation, otherwise they would come over and say hello.”
The world had taken on a whole new quality, technicolor couldn’t describe the color palette, and everything blended with and enhanced everything else. There was not a stone or a bug or a flower that was not where it was intended to be.
Eventually I got ahold of myself and asked “What is your name? Or do you have a name? I don’t want to seem rude or anything, and I have met my guardian angel before, so I know this is possible.” I realised that I was babbling like a teenager on his first date. “But, how is this possible?”
The Angel didn’t answer me. He just took me by my pointy finger (I guess it was easier for him to grab) and began to lead me on a tour. The Angel and I walked around and he showed me many things on the side of that ridge. At one point he took me to a cliff face and we could see back down into Paradise Meadow. There was the house. And, there were two teams of angels out in the meadow playing what looked like . . . soccer?
I really lost track of time at this point. It was like walking in the most innovative environmentally integrated landscape project ever devised. I was so absorbed in the beauty of what God had created I forgot that the Angel had not answered my question about his name.
It was then that the Angel stopped, we were back at the trail, we turned and looked back down the trail. There about 300 yards away were David and Scott. They were walking at a good pace, but they did not seem to notice the troop of Angels skipping along beside them singing. Singing a song that played with the sound, the song underneath everything else. Bounced off of it, mingled with it, and mimicked it.
Through the song I sensed the LOVE. An overwhelming sense of Love surrounded me at that point. And, I realized this was Jesus pouring out His Love for the three of us. And, as I turned to the Angel to ask him about the song. I realised he was gone and David and Scott were standing next to me.
David asked how I was doing. Whoa!! How to explain this!? I knew if I went off on that tangent . . . well I just didn’t want to go there.
I just smiled crookedly (I imagine) and said, “Great, legs strong, lungs better than I thought, AMAZING DAY! How about you two? Took ya long enough!!” I didn’t say it but I felt intoxicated. I could only hope it didn’t show.
Standing at the top of the trail where it intersected with our third leg of the hike, we found ourselves standing by an amazing granite outcropping that projected straight up out of the mountain. And, the glorious scene from just a moment before now seemed to be somehow back to just plain rock. Scott and David began to look at the glacial striations left by a rock that had been dragged across the mountain by an ancient glacier, and I wandered over to where I had seen some beautiful designs worked into the granite, before the angel had disappeared. But, now there were just those same strange lichen markings. I turned my head to the side to see if my peripheral vision could make out the designs, but nothing worked. I wanted to shout out, “Come Back!!”
After a short break for Scott and David we headed down on the third leg of our triangle. We were doing well, I think it was somewhere around 10:30 AM at this point. But, I felt as though it had been a week. I let David and Scott lead the way down the trail and took up the tail end in an attempt to sort out my feelings. How would I explain something like this. I couldn’t point anything out to them. But, then again they had seen the house also. Perhaps, they had seen other things while we had been separated. I hesitated. I couldn’t. As long as they were silent about this . . . I decided I would remain that way also.
That lasted for as long as it took to get to the first lake.
There on the lake, arrayed in ranks were the fastest looking racing rowboats I had ever seen. The shores of the lake were teeming with Angels. And, we found ourselves in the midst of hundreds of laughing talking and singing angels all heading down to the lake. When we got to the first lake there stood my friend. Perched on a platform at one end of the lake with a very ornate obsidian megaphone in his hand, and a very official top hat that said “Head Groundskeeper”. He looked at me and smiled. “Hi there guys, welcome to the 2000th anniversary of the Angelic Sculling Championships for the Old Tehema Volcanic league. Sorry, I had to leave so abruptly” he said as he pulled a stopwatch out of his vest pocket. “But The Father gave me a gentle nudge. The kids were getting impatient down here. I guess sitting around in a row boat for more than a few minutes get’s rough on their behinds. Hey, there is a concession stand down at the end of the lake, or maybe down at the next lake below, so help yourselves to some of the goodies. Maybe I will catch you all later after the races are done.” With that he turned and began to address the crowd.
I looked at David and he was smiling from ear to ear. Scott was also, and was fumbling with his pack trying to get his camera out. But, as he pulled it out of a pocket in his pack an Angel stepped up and said in a very friendly smiley kinda way. “Ummmmm . . . that won’t work here. You can try if you want, no rules in The Kingdom against trying, buuuuuttttt kind of a waste of time. So just chill out and enjoy the moment, why-dontcha!”
The three of us looked at each other. Then David said, “I don’t know about you two, but if I have the opportunity to really sample some true Angel Food . . . ummm Angel Food anything, I am not going to waste this opportunity”. With that David lead us out of our moment of amazement down the trail in the direction the Head Groundskeeper had indicated.
We were surrounded on all sides by smiling, bowing, saluting, dancing, singing, little hobbit like angels of every description, wearing everything from classic Leprechaun to what looked almost like late 18th Century Barnum and Bailey clown outfits. The variety of clothing and colors defied our need to categorize, to understand. The angels themselves were as diverse physically as their clothing. Some of them had pointy ears and hobbit feet, some had small wings like dragonflies, some wore doves wings, while many others seemed to reflect a native american origin. I then realised where all the legends of leprechauns and hobbits and lemurians and elves must have come from. It was almost beyond our ability to mentally organize and keep straight.
As we walked towards the concession stand I looked out at the races going on; those boats were flying over the water! And, as they approached the far end of the lake, where to my mind they should have stopped . . . or at least turned around. . . they flew over the lake bank and began to fly between the trees and over the hill towards the lake below us.
We were standing very near to where these boats left the surface of the lake and “Dove” over the mountains side. Each boat had 4 scullers and as they launched themselves over the edge of the mountain they were laughing so loudly that I wondered where they got the strength to row!? Their joy as they flew past us was so contagious that I lost all of my reservations and allowed the contagious laughter to flow through me. David and Scott were way ahead of me as they began to chase the tree dodging flying row boats over the edge of the hill, down the trail towards what looked to be a larger lake below us.
Eventually, we found ourselves down at this lower lake with an even larger crowd of angels near the finish line. The boats had beaten us there. A massive celebration had commenced to celebrate the winners of the race. The victors were being lifted up on the shoulders of some of the larger Angels and there were tables upon tables of food set out for everyone to enjoy. Scott was already at one of the tables where there seemed to be a gigantic haunch of some kind of meat and all the trimmings arrayed. And, there was this energetic Angel that was helping Scott to heap all kinds of goodies on what must have been a platter for the Angels, but served nicely as a plate for Scott. I turned to try and locate David and he had already found a large bowl filled with all kinds of Fruits, some of which I don’t think I could describe to you. I thought it was funny to see David as he tried to identify each fruit, until finally he just laughed this humongous laugh and shoved this peach like fruit into his face and in 3 or 4 large bites devoured it.
I then found my way to a table and an Angel helped me take off my pack. I think I mentioned something about how this was going to beat the heck out of the PB&J sandwich I had in my pack, when the Angel that was serving me asked me if he could have my PB&J? I said, “Well of course.” He explained that PB&J was a delicacy on this side of reality, and was highly prized. So I traded my PB&J for some of the most amazingly tasty, sausages, cheeses, and this wonderful Cider.
I am really not sure how long all this lasted. Time took a break as the Guardians of Lassen Park partied like there was no tomorrow; which I figure is actually very true for them. There is no tomorrow. Tomorrow doesn’t exist in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. I do know, or perhaps I remember, or I have a vestige of a memory defined by a Loving Brilliance covered in sticky, gooey, yummy, delectable Joy, that I didn’t want the celebration to end. So eventually when David rounded us up and herded us back towards the trail, I fought a kind of sadness that I can only guess must come after a near death visit to heaven and back.
So we quietly and somewhat morosely began to take the trail over the eastern edge of our second lake. Now however, the landscape was definitely not our normal earthly terrain. Now all three of us could clearly see the effects of the Angelic Landscape crews. Intellectually we could see where the terrain would look normal in the other reality. But, walking in this special place, we could see the Hand of God in everything.
Eventually we found our legs again. And, saying goodbye to the crowd of celebrating rowing enthusiasts walking with us we worked our way to our next objective, Cliff Lake.
It was here I realised that Cliff Lake reminded me of another place and another time in the Trinity’s. I wondered if this blurring effect worked with time as well as perception. Then we heard a different more jarring noise. When we turned to see what it was all but one of the Angels had disappeared.
Walking down the trail was a beautiful young woman. She seemed to be lost and in somewhat of a daze. We were standing on the bank of Cliff Lake taking pictures and talking to our Angel friend, when she walked up. All of us were dazzled by what we saw. Dressed modestly in what seemed like her nightgown her physical beauty brought a lonely human tinge to the landscape. We all three said hello, but she did not seem to notice us at all. She merely walked up to the edge of the lake with a distant gaze, as if seeing something entirely different than us.
We all three looked to the last remaining Angel as if to ask, “What now?”
He motioned for us to leave her there and to proceed back to the main trail. But, as we walked up the trail we all three became concerned by her situation here in this forest so we decided to pray for her. It just seemed correct that in the presence of Angels . . . DUH . . . that we should ask for their help to bless her. And, before we could finish our prayer, she appeared next to us. When we were finally able to engage her in conversation, she explained in difficult russian tinged english that she had been caught up in a moment of prayer in a garden near her home in Moscow Russia, and somehow had found herself walking down this path. We noticed that she was carrying an ornate crystal flask the color of her dress, and that it was empty. So the Angel suggested that we give her some of the cider that we had filled our bottles with at the Feast. So we did. She thanked us the best she could and then she walked up the trail back towards the lake. I assumed that she would be taken care of by the Angels.
After that our pace quickened as we sensed that our hike was close to being finished. The trail began to flatten out and our pace became quicker and more measured. At this point I think we had covered almost 7 – 8 miles. But, it did not feel that way.
As we walked down the trail I realised that that sense of Love I had felt way back at the top of the trail, was still with us. It was such a comfortable feeling that I toyed with the idea of staying in the forest. But, there my thoughts stopped and bumped up against reality. David, Scott, the Angel and I, came to an abrupt halt. 25 yards ahead was a Momma Bear and her twin cubs. We startled each other and in that moment just stood staring waiting for the first one to move. My mind was telling me “It’s not good to be this close to a Momma Bear!” And, part of me was getting ready to climb the nearest tree, when the Momma Bear talked!
Momma Bear stood up on her hind legs, put her front paws on her hips and motioning her cubs to keep going, turned to us and said, “What!?! You never seen a bear before? Look, this is my trail. And, if you weren’t with Mr Smarty Pants Angel there, I would be collecting a toll from you city folk. But, since you seem to have the Favor of The Father all over you . . . (saying this with a sigh) get out your cameras. I have about 5 minutes for posed shots then I gotta get back to the kids.”
Then she dropped to all fours and moved over to this large downed log and began clawing at it as if she was digging for grubs. David and I both had to elbow Scott to get him to get his camera out. And, all three of us looked at the Angel as if to ask if the camera would work this time, and he just nodded “yes” to us.
You should have seen Scott! He made us all proud. He got right up there next to the Momma Bear clicking away. She kept digging and pulling out these big juicy grubs and smiling at Scott. I guess they were putting on a real show because about 15 feet away I happened to notice the two bear cubs sitting up on this big fallen log pointing at Scott and laughing. But, in the end the Angel went over to the Momma Bear and said something to her that caused them both to laugh pretty hard. Oh, what I would have given to be a Termite on that log right then. After that the Momma Bear and her two cubs just waved to us and we waved back and then she was gone.
Well, the rest of the story is pretty tame. We walked the remaining 1.5 miles through pretty boring flat forest land. We never noticed when the last Angel left us. But, the blur ended when we were about 50 yards from the park road and we could hear the cars going by.
So David told me that I should write this story. He also said that none of you would believe us . . . but to write it anyway. Because, it makes a heck of a yarn.