My sturdy, red Honda Accord slowed to a stop around the bend at Staunton Rocks State Park – about 20 minutes outside of the foothills of Morrison, Colorado. They’re open! Yes!
I was a sight for sore eyes. With a car that has a duct-taped driver-side window (oh, and it’s not just grey duct tape either, it’s Colorado Buffalo themed-tape to boot), with Otis Redding tunes spilling out, the park ranger must have been thinking, oh boy.
I had awoken Christmas Eve morning, ate a hearty bowl of oatmeal (with banana and cookie butter, obviously) and decided that with a couple hours of free time on my hands, one should be outside. Exploring. Why not? I made no plan (this is typical of my behavior), gathered my hiking boots, gloves, and backpack full of the essentials – a cliff bar, my journal, a water bottle, camera, and a coffee mug to go. As the highway stretched further towards the high country I simply smiled and thought, I’ll find the right spot.
Stumbling into Conifer – and the State Park – I knew I did. I pulled up to the window.
“Hi there! I am excited to see you are open today.”
She warmly waved and exclaimed, “Oh yeah! We are open every day of the year. You got yourself until 5:00 today with a day pass. Have fun!”
I paid and continued onward. Parking my car close to the entrance, I chose to do one of the main trail loops – Staunton Rocks. In totality, the round-trip hike can last up to 12 miles; I chose a shorter circle, something around 3.3 miles. Not bad for a holiday jaunt.
Though snow was ubiquitous, my boots – purchased from a mountaineer-garage sale last winter – crunched everything in my path. The joy of a good pair of boots is unparalleled – at least for outdoorsy folk.
At mile 2, in the midst of my prayers, thoughts, and contemplations, I sat on a damp log, with a view of the Continental Divide; that’s a view that’s hard to beat.
As I eyed the peaks of Colorado with gratitude, and journal and pen in hand, Mike and Brad walked by. With walking sticks and snow-shoes, they had greeted me earlier in the trail and now had managed to catch up to my speedy ways.
“Are we going to be in your story?”
I looked up. I smiled. I told them, “We’ll see; you never know…”
In a serious tone they asked, “Are you a journalist?”
Camera. Journal. Inquisitive behavior. Am I that obvious? I laughed and with a resounding “no” explained that though I wasn’t a journalist, I was a writer, and found it far easier to write when I was away from the noise, from the distractions – from real life.
They paused and thought for a moment. I went on to share that what was most amazing to me was that we live in world with scenes like the Rocky Mountains and the hills of Rwanda – and the innumerable sights in between. We live in a world soaked with beauty, and it’s overwhelming sometimes. As I rambled about these musings, Mike agreed and said that when he was younger, that was what had kept him travelling. His friend, from Wisconsin I would learn, Brad, interjected,
“Yes…we certainly are privileged.”
They walked away a few minutes later but it was this simple statement from Brad that kept me thinking. Not only am I privileged in terms of materials, experiences, knowledge, opportunity, food, relationships (I could go on), but on this day, on Christmas Eve, I feel all the more privileged because even in my doubts and questions and against the grit of life, I know there really is such deep and purposeful intention in life. I am privileged to trust in a God that really does love me. A God that doesn’t make mistakes – and certainly, a God who desires mercy – not sacrifice. I am privileged because I am His child.
I sat on this log and thought about that for a while.
I think about my friends in Rwanda who so intensely comprehend this truth that each day, each moment is done in gratitude towards God. I consider those in my family who have sought and found God in impossible situations – my mother, namely, who in deep concern for her child, turned all of her fear into hope in Him. I remember teachers, and pastors, and friends – all of whom echoed this idea. I find that in some parts of life, truth hits a lot harder, and when it comes to understanding privilege, I think being 27 and “figuring out life” is one of those points. I don’t know where life is headed – but I do know who I am.
I looked at these incredible, albeit leafless Aspens and considered that when we forget our truth, our identity, we are frayed – like the extending, frazzled branches. But in truth, we are rooted. We are privileged – much like the strong, single trunk of the tree.
Christmas is a holiday sometimes filled with joy, sometimes with loneliness. A season where we thank God for what we have – but admittedly consider what we don’t. And yet, His gift is greater than all of this. We celebrate Jesus, because it’s a gift of life – from God Himself.
This life isn’t for nothing. I forget that all the time. And so, it’s why I have to drive myself away from the world sometimes, find a log, and be gently reminded by the people around. I am privileged to be a child of God. In potlucks of food, in carols of Christmas, and in exchanges of gifts, it’s this truth I pray I will hold onto.