My dad is the best giver of gifts. I have yet to find someone more nuanced and thoughtful in his offerings. One of the most meaning filled gifts he's given me is a profound reverence for the natural world. He knows, on some metaphysical level, about the divine breath that animates the maple leaves and centipedes and birds of prey. He is like John in the Wilderness, foreseeing and proclaiming God's presence with every step. When I was little more than waist high, he walked me up the green and slippery mountains of the Columbia Gorge. He packed peanut butter and honey sandwiches and bruised bananas and plastic bags full of sweet, stale raisins. With each mountain walk, he shared a bit of new knowledge about the earth's flora and fauna including the satisfying tang of sorrel on your tongue and how to identify a sword fern by its zig zag leaves.
We hiked through Fairy Falls and Horsetail Falls and threw cream colored pebbles into Eagle Creek. For years we wandered those mountains, and by the time we came down to the dusty lot I was a young woman, ready to show the world the mysteries he had unveiled. Because of him, my entire childhood was saturated in God. God as waterfall. God as crawdad. God as oak tree and water ouzel.
My adulthood is still saturated in God. This time God as grasshopper. God as cacti. God as sandstorm and rattlesnake. Just as the Pacific Northwest peppered my past with pine needles and moss, the Southwestern desert coats my present with sagebrush and red rock.
My dad is a man who honors nature and thought to bring me to her sanctuary. Because of him, I feel a deep and immediate connection with the outside world, my prayers always floating down to the core of the earth to be cleansed before reaching heaven. I am grateful to him--everlasting--for teaching me to worship at this crude and sublime altar.