There is a very special place in the backcountry of Colorado; those that really know me not only know where it is, they have probably been there with me. It does not fit the image of what many imagine Colorado to be, the landscape less the expected soft blues and greens, instead more harsh oranges and reds. But hidden in a small grove at the base of a sandstone cliff is a tiny spring; sometimes flowing freely, other times not so much, but it’s always there. It’s as sacred a place as any man-made cathedral, which often seem created more to honor the men that build them rather than the Creator they purportedly would glorify.
As Charlie and I rolled into this spot today, I was initially struck with horror; it appeared that the harsh hand of man had struck again. The ground was littered with what I took to be mounds of sawdust. But to my relief, it wasn’t shredded tree flesh at all, but piles of fallen cottonwood leaves, silent yellow reminders of last year’s fall waiting patiently to be swept away by the upcoming storms of spring.
When I was young, I believed in Heaven because I was told I was wrong not to. I’ve never stopped believing, although I took issue with the version I was taught; that ruling and reigning over others sermed to be a primary objective. Eventually, I worked my way around to the belief that Heaven is a place of eternal happiness, however the particular devotee defines it. This is why I’m utterly convinced that there will be dogs “up yonder”. The Bible says “whatsover shall be bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever shall be loosed on earth, shall be loosed in heaven”; how can I then be released from the feelings I have here on earth for those, human, canine or otherwise, that I will eventually leave behind?
Or those that have, or will eventually, leave me?
I have read that some of the ancient religions believe that heaven is a place where all of the stories of all of our lives are sung like hymns, and that’s what makes the hard times bearable. Knowing that our current suffering is not in vain, but will be remembered and rewarded; that’s a version of the afterlife that I can wrap my head around.
Charlie and I were picking our way through the fallen rocks when I was shocked to hear a single racking sob reverberate from the canyon walls. What the…? Who could that possibly be? And how dare they interrupt our solitude? I then realized that I was the guilty party, that the involuntary choking sound had come from my own throat at the thought that someday I would be making this trip on my own again. Gor every thing there is a season, and Charlie will someday be gone, as well as eventually everyone else.
But there are two sides to every coin; deep desolation at the thought of future loss can be countered by the immediate euphoria that we are still here together today. And also the knowledge that when that dreadful time does come, there can be peace in the knowledge that someday we will all be reunited.
But not yet; sometimes heaven is right now, right here on earth.
Gateway Colorado 2021