View from Above

4 Dec

I stand at the top of an old stone church in the rainforest. The roof long ago crumbled, leaving the stars to shower down light at night and visitors to see the treetops surging into the distance. Endless green, with only purple, red and orange flowers to punctuate its otherworldly color. But such green I never have seen, a thousand shades, all different, all with some other fleck of color adding to it. A green leaf with stripes of fiery red or another leaf with streaks of purple. The birds screech and swoop through the trees, the bugs burrow in the ground and flit through the air and the leaves, so large and thick, seem animated. They reach their gigantic, bulky selves toward us on the trail inquiring who we are and why we’re here walking. They whisper together at our strange speech and clothing.

I see over the clouds that gather at the tops of the trees, spreading out like a white, porous blanket. The hike leaves me breathless but the view more so. I put my hands on the cool stone of the church and lean, letting its weight absorb my weakness. Up here the heat melts into a welcome cool, a treat after the steamy jungle air below. I imagine the missionaries who brought each stone mile after mile into the dense forest of Puerto Rico, up hills and across streams to build this church in the clouds. A monument to God. But no one worships in the church anymore, not in an organized way. To reach the top of the church, we climbed a stone, winding staircase. I felt the stone brush my sides at time it was so narrow and, until the light appeared, inky black. It seemed those stairs never would end but then in a burst of color, air and sound the top appeared, and we fanned out across it, each lost in our own thoughts. Words fail in the sight of profound beauty. It silences. It put us rightly in our place. We are humbled, awed and unable to speak. It was so that day.

After some time, we gather together in a loose cluster, and David asks if I’m feeling better. On the van ride up the mountain, I jostled, bumped and careened along with everyone else as we rode to the rainforest. Half-way up, I felt sick, and upon arriving, nearly threw up but managed to avoid it. He noticed and asked if he could help me somehow. I said he couldn’t. It would take time to feel better. After a half hour of steady walking, my stomach evened itself back out again, and I could enjoy my surroundings. I tell David I’m wonderful now, and I appreciate his concern.

I wish I could take this moment, this feeling, this ethereal beauty back down the mountain with me. But I know I cannot. I know the moment so resplendent now will soon become a memory. It will fade dimmer and darker just as the clouds dancing in and out of the treetops do as it nears night.  I am ecstatic and sad at the same time, for in the moment I know the beauty intimately and yet also must bid it goodbye. Dew fills the air, and it refreshes me, wrapping around me, cooling my skin. I lean against the stone for a long time and keep looking across the treetops, across the clouds and in the far distance, the endless blue ocean. How perfect they three fit together, how lovely and divine. After some time, we leave the top of the stone church, walk back down the winding stair case and find ourselves once again below the clouds with the soft ground underneath our feet. I unscrew the top from my water bottle and take a long drink, preparing for the hike down the mountainside.

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One Response to “View from Above”

  1. Grayquill December 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    NICE!
    You painted a great picture. I could see it. Your trip sounds like a trip of a life time. Your writing is really good.

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