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From Kim’s blog: I accepted a job. It was the most money I’ve ever been offered, but it meant temporarily uprooting my life and moving from my beautiful Rocky Mountains and more specifically the Yampa Valley I’ve grown to love to, uh, well a place looking out over the ocean in South Florida—yeah it was hell. Okay not the location but there’s often a little hell in the midst of heaven and vice versa.
It was one of those salary deals, so it was hard to turn off the computer; I was setting my alarm early, waking up in the middle of the night thinking about what I needed to be doing the next morning, then forgetting what time I needed to stop working. In the midst of a spreadsheet a thought erupted. “So this is how it is for people who can’t define the boundaries between work and rest! No wonder so many people don’t have time to think about God or ponder the Universe, and if a fleeting thought of the divine were to mysteriously emanate across their excel sheet, would it really matter whether Mary was a virgin?”
Okay, granted that last thought was truly random but it actually appeared because a lot of time and doctrine gets pumped into the preparation of a church leader–which I was once–and a precious amount of effort is focused upon convincing us whether the wine and bread are mysteriously the blood and flesh of Jesus or just symbols, or whether women are really allowed to teach in the church and what about ordaining those gays? No wonder most people don’t want to bother with the church and prefer to describe themselves as spiritual, not religious, if not agnostic or atheist.
As I continued to work, my eyes sometimes lifted from the laptop’s screen to glance at the calm aqua waters outside my window to observe a squadron of pelicans gain altitude before transforming their bodies into winged harpoons descending from heaven to pierce the surface of the water for a fresh catch. It was in those few moments between excel sheets and winged dive bombers that my mind grasped the absurdity of so many church doctrines that keep us from encountering the divine. I understood why the church simply doesn’t matter to most people—and rightfully so!
The next morning I entered dawn with a run before opening the laptop again and engaging my phone in doing all those things that smart phones do. The sun was lifting itself sleepily through frothy clouds covering the ocean’s glassy grey brim. I stopped to allow my eyes to follow the gaze of a lone woman as she pointed across the sand to a huge hump half buried in the crusty damp mixture of broken shells and dried seaweed.
We both watched in silence as the obviously exhausted sea turtle brushed sand over her fresh mound of eggs, then turned to begin a torturous pilgrimage toward the sea. A couple joined us and began to film the providential scene until we watched her final deep breath as a last push set her free into the morning waves.
Our small entourage of four dispersed in the glow of knowing we had shared in a divine moment. “Couldn’t it be that simple?” I thought, kicking sand as I walked while replaying scenes of the serendipitous encounter with the beautiful young turtle-mother bearing her gift of life and dancing in the rhythm of the kosmos. What if in a fleeting moment we had to flush centuries of doctrine down the eternal toilet and were left to ponder living with the life and love of the Christ consciousness or the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha mind? What if we relished in the impermanence of life and our infinite connection?
After sharing the morning’s excitement with several others, I entered into the job—-the one that paid more than I’d ever made and that seldom left my thoughts, and the one that also became the shortest lived job I’ve ever experienced. As quickly as it came, it was over. No coaching, no reason, no apology. I had uprooted my life and moved across the country. More so, I was devastated to lose the income that would finally offer a sense of financial freedom. Worse yet, I felt betrayed. After loading my belongings into the car, my sister drove as I sat beside her drinking a cold beer disguised in a Yeti cup. “I’m tired of finding meaning in losing!” I cried running my fingers through my hair, “For once I want to be the winner! The rich winner! I’m sure I could find meaning in winning if for once I could just win!”
But when I stepped off the plane into the cool mountain air and drove past fresh green hills spattered with the mule’s ears’ bright yellow blossoms spreading themselves like an old quilt to blanket the deep green fields, I tasted heaven again.
The next day I set out on my bright orange Salsa Spearfish to climb Emerald Mountain, pedaling her switchbacks, my heart racing from living at sea level over the previous weeks. Damp grasses and new leaves radiated the smells of summer as I rounded a long curve to see the huge rumps of two black bears scatter the field only a few yards away. “It’s super special to see a bear” one friend told me, “an encounter with the bear is an encounter with God.”
Then in less than a day, as my good friend Colten and I walked the dirt path around Stagecoach Reservoir, batting at the blackflies and midges, the clear sky and bold sun were darkened by a great shadow that immediately stopped us, forcing our faces to the sky and into the oncoming presence of a grand Bald Eagle flying so low above our heads that we could see the silver glimmer off the scales of the fish he held in his talons. Colten grabbed my shoulders. “Holy fucking shit! A bald eagle!” he exclaimed, as we turned to watch it fly over the fields behind us. “We just saw a holy fucking bald eagle with a fish in it’s talons!” he repeated as we finished the path back to the car with the new energy of having shared in another divine encounter.
This morning I walked to one of my many jobs. In the valley most of us work several jobs to get by. I smiled because I don’t have to think about how to create the boundaries between work and rest because I get paid by the hour. I can think about how wonderful it is not to wake up thinking about all those things I have to do for the job that paid more than I’ve ever made and I can think about how great it is not to have to think about doctrine or whether a woman has the wisdom, capacity and permission from God to teach a man. I can laugh out loud when I think how intelligent people will fight over whether Mary was a virgin when I doubt Jesus thought twice about whether he was the result of his mom having sex, even with his dad–seriously, who can stomach the image of their parents having sex? I get to think about how great it is to be back in my mountains, to see the beautiful faces of my friends and feel the heartbeat of the Universe all around resonate through me.
My walk took me alongside the Yampa River, full and bulging from the high country’s last snow melt. I listened to her waters slap at rocky edges and watched miniature waterfalls cascade large boulders. I felt the oneness with the waters and the grasses and the smiles of people who passed, and felt such gratitude for the jobs which have opened their doors to me, the coworkers who are happy to see me and the laughter and hugs from friends who have welcomed me back from the shortest job I’ve ever held–the one that paid the most I’ve ever made–for 10 days–and the one that made me thankful to savor heaven in my heart. There are no mistakes, only guideposts...like pelicans, sea turtles, bears, bald eagles and friends. Couldn’t it be as simple as that?