“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The Lord has made both of them” (Proverbs 20:12).
Sometimes it feels like the advertising industry and our culture conspire to keep us distanced from our bodies: we perfume them and pill them and manipulate them (and why the use of the word “them” when our bodies are our very selves?) to remain compliant and (yeah, right) controlled.
And then we step away from all that and become students of our flesh. For me, becoming reacquainted with wonder is one of the huge gifts of embarking on a Boundary Waters trip.
Suddenly, with the first water-dipped paddle, awareness grows that this “thing” we walk our brains around in is an essential and elemental miracle. And, it is fragile and capable of amazing feats and aches, both.
I have just returned from a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota. I went with eleven other women from our church (two groups) for four nights.
Looking at maps and planning routes is part of the fun – sort of like looking at travel brochures, only better, because imagination is the only visual available. Tales shared by others about great routes or lakes are guidance.
And then, after months of imaginings, the route unfolds before you. The remembered weight of a canoe balanced on your shoulders is reality, and the real work of carrying your house and provisions in a pack is commenced.
This trip featured some awful portages (a portage, for the uninitiated, is a trail connecting one lake with another). They were rocky, steep, muddy and many, and we did them with a goodly chorus of laughter and muttering.
Our destination was a lake six portages in. We set up camp in a gorgeous spot and savored our efforts through the torrential thunderstorms (five plus inches of water during one of them!) and hot days. Our return trip was full of white-capped winds. It was not pretty.
We worked. We lived. We laughed. We were so blessed to be creatures aware of the wonder of bodies able to lift and move and we were able to relish days during which we let go of agenda and life swirl.
Sitting around camp fires, sharing meals under a minuscule tarp with rain sheeting from the sky, enjoying conversation circles while bobbing in a crystal lake, waking through the night to the movement of the moon, and marking the wonder of ankles that support, knees that bend, arms that propel and bellies that laugh is elemental wonder.
Savoring the uniqueness of the Holy as it lives in each person in the group is reminder that we carry within us essential grace fired by the imagination of our Creator.
I return from BWCA trips so full of gratitude. Immersion in elemental wonder revives and reminds.
The swirl of life is real. So too is the amazing wisdom and strength of the flesh.