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Humble beginnings (01/22/2006)
By Janet Lewis Burns

To live with tears in your eyes, smiles on your lips, awareness in your gaze, and scents of the earth on your hands, is to live richly.

Delicate flowers are a delightful contrast to man's crude handiwork. A tuft of hearty, purple and yellow pansies pokes through a crack in a cement driveway. How strong the roots are! A passerby's double take substantiates a miracle.

Simple sightings can jar a person's perceptions. Nature's displays, each intricate detail, are inscrutable wonders. No human has the know-how to replicate foxtail barley grass swaying in a pink, rhythmic ballet...lush summer oaks silhouetted by twilight's last flaming sigh...

...unbroken snow across open fields in sweeping patterns...an arrangement of wildflowers bathed in morning dew in a forest clearing...ivy entwined the length and width of a brick wall...four seasons of wild sumac, weeping willows, and rolling hills of Winona County.

Christopher Morley wrote, "Be prepared for truth at all hours and in the most fantastic disguises."

I recall sightseeing in the Phoenix area, and being amazed that the houses are built right into sandstone bluffs. Shrubbery, native vegetation, and flowers seem to resurrect themselves through burnt sienna-colored stone. Streets curl around marbled cliffs and boulders, which had previously existed untouched by man for centuries.

During one Arizona vacation, Pat and I had hiked up rugged steps to view the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. It's plain but elegant design and coloring blends into scenic terrain, a notable contrast between the natural and the short-lived human creation. Mankind hasn't destroyed everything in its path!

I'm reminded of an old tune, written by Joni Mitchell and recorded by Sonny and Cher, which bemoans, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." It's the difference in individual pursuits and ventures. One guy may stand in the midst of an open field or a dense woodland and exclaim, "What can I develop and construct here?"

Knowledge is not always wise.

The next fellow, standing in the same span of unoccupied land, might proclaim, "How can I help to preserve and protect this wilderness area?"

There remain unconquered areas all over this world. Hundreds of years ago clans survived in treacherous, relentless territories, respecting the resources and leaving natural ecosystems as they found them.

In Arizona's Sedona region, archeologists discovered cliff-dwelling ruins constructed approximately 800 years ago by the Sinagua tribe. It's estimated that the dwelling contained about 200 rooms. "Honanki" was home to around 300 to 400 Sinagua.

To view massive, towering walls, where openings indicate entryways and jutting slabs of variegated rock were maneuvered as dwellers moved from place to place, is dizzying. It's as though ancestors of the Hopi Indians sprang from the red earth that housed them.

The Grand Canyon Park has been in existence since 1919. Four million visit each year. Native inhabitants have been farming in Havasu Canyon just outside of the park, where they've lived simply for at least 700 years. There are no roads or means of transportation.

An old Hopi talked to Virginia Morell for her Grand Canyon story in January's National Geographic, saying, "All the canyon land is covered with our footprints. It's where we have our genesis; where some of our clans farmed and lived until we were called to the mesas."

"It is where we make our sacred salt trek. It is where our spirits go when we die. It is where we learned the Hopi way of life, and the lessons that guide us. And the key lesson is the lesson of humility."

Whether bending to fetch warm and dusty vegetables from your garden or leaning light-headed over a lookout at the Grand Canyon, know that you sing praises to the Creator merely by your humble delight and adulation.

Happy trails! 


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