From The Book Of Firsts

(A prayer written from last night’s campsite)

 

Dear God,

I have been leaving messages for you over the last few days. I’m not sure if they are going through or if you’ve had time to check them with your schedule being as it is. In order to feel close to you, I took a climb and headed up Dater Mountain between Breakneck Pond and the second reservoir.
For the first time in my 43 years, I stayed out for an overnight camping trip. I watched the sun go down below the mountaintops on the west side the world. And come morning, I watched the sun return on the east.

I have never seen the sky or this world so perfectly uninterrupted. Safe to say, there were some sounds I could not identify, which came from the woods, and left me on somewhat of a high alert.
Or maybe I was just supposed to be up. Maybe I was supposed to be awake—this way, I could see all the things I saw last night. In all honesty, I felt like a young boy again.
In all the years of my life, I have never seen the stars so clearly pronounced. I cooked on an open fire and had campfire coffee.

Our campsite was slightly higher than the reservoir, allowing us to see the reflection of trees and the higher elevations of mountains that surrounded us. I figured if there was ever anyplace I could find you instead of simply leaving a message; this would be the right place to go.

I saw my first hummingbird this morning. I watched the sunrise reflect against the lake. We ate breakfast using water from the reservoir, boiling it over the fire, and filling my small camping pot with maple flavored oatmeal.

In no other words can I tell you how I felt aside from this; I was grateful. I was grateful to wake before the sun came up here on Project Earth. I was grateful to have made my trip with a heavy pack on my shoulders.
Next time—I plan to travel a bit lighter though. This time I made it up the four miles slope with a backpack on that weighed about the same as the weight I just lost.
Almost 40lbs lighter, I took the commitment to carry the extra weight  and make it up to see you.

Someone told me about a very simple math when it comes to hiking. I was told, “One pound on the backpack is equal to 5lbs on the legs.” I can see where they get this math. I am sore now. My legs hurt and so does my back; however, the pain cannot take away the reward of my accomplishment.

Heavenly Father,
I believe this math relates to life in more ways than just hiking. I have been carrying so much weight for so long. I have been carrying not only excess weight on my body, but on my mind and soul as well. This is why I took the commitment to carry the heavy backpack. I chose to do this as a testament of what I lost as well as what else I need to get rid of. This overnight hike of mine was more than a camping trip. I chose to see it as this: I have been carrying extra weight on my shoulders for more than four decades. It is time to let go.

Last night, sitting beneath the scenery of stars with a three-quarter moon reflecting on the quiet surface of the beautifully clear lake. I watched the firelight and the orange embers glow beneath it from the screen of my tent.
I could smell the burning wood and feel a sense of connection. I could not help but to wonder who I would have been had I been shown this in my younger years. I could not help but wonder what my life would be like had I made a right turn instead of left at any given crucial point on any given day of my life.

I began to replay the times I wished I had walked away. I thought about all the times when I thought to myself, “I could leave right now.”
I remembered the crucial times—the times when I absolutely recognized the warning signs and the red flags, but yet, I went ahead as planned while knowing deep down, “Someday, I will regret this.”

I thought about the pivotal moment when the crowds I hung around split up into different groups. I thought of how we became fractions in the different sects of popularity. I thought about status and how cool kids became cool kids. Then I wondered who it was that decided these standards and how they got this power.
I thought about the very first party I went to without adult supervision. This party left a mark on me because this was the first time I saw the rumor factory at work.
The next day, a few of my inaccurate secrets leaked through the hallways at school. It was the first time I understood the term cruelty and how it felt to be a victim.
Since this time and other times like this, one of my biggest fears is feeling like a victim. And over the years, I have spent all of my energy battling an unseen demon and fighting an imaginary war to victimize my surroundings instead of feeling the fears of becoming victimized myself.

Blessed Father,
these are my yesterdays, and though they belong to me, I certainly do not want to belong to them. They are too heavy for me and I can no longer hold them. This is why I brought them with me in a figurative way. This is why I chose to carry the extra weight.

I began wondering what I could have been like had I been from a different town. What would I have dressed like? Would I have been say, considered cool, good-looking, or popular? Could I have been beautiful according to the beauty of my own standards?

If this was the case, would I have fit in differently and been regarded differently? Would I have been revered and desired if indeed, I was noticed at all?
If I had come from someplace else and grew up with someone else, would I be the same man that I am today?

I suppose in a figurative way, each of these questions represented some of the weight in my backpack.
In fairness; this was my first time going on an overnight camping trip. Now that I have experienced this for the first time, I see where I can cut my necessities down to lighten the load, so to speak.

All I need is my tent, something to lie down upon; something to cover me, a little bit of food, the proper amount of water, some lightweight tools, which would be enough to start a fire, and most importantly, I need my cup so that I can raise it up to the Heavens before sipping my coffee.

Life is not much different when traveled in a lighter fashion. Half of what I believe I need is completely unnecessary. Most often, what I tend to need is overlooked for the things I want.
It is apparent to me that I tend to cling to the things I want for reasons of comfort. In the same sense; I tend to be afraid to let them go out of fear.
Even when comfort becomes uncomfortable—I tend to hold on for dear life because I am too afraid to let go of my routine, as well as all the things, which I believe could keep me sane.

Heavenly Father,
I took this extra weight with me and carried them up Dater Mountain. I carried the weight to you with hopes to lighten my load. I am sorry to have walked in to your place of business like this, but I left you messages, and again, I felt unsure if you had the time to check them.

I did not sleep much last night. Aside from the basic nervousness of being in the middle of the woods and hearing unidentified noises rustling through the nearby bushes; I was deep in thought and taken in by this breathtaking version of Project Earth.

The truth is, I cannot say who I would be had I grown someplace else. I cannot say what I would have looked like or how I would have acted if I grew up on the Parkway side or in the Barnum Woods section of my crazy town instead of on Merrick Avenue in East Meadow.
I cannot say what I would have dressed like if I grew up in a place called Paradise, Arizona. I am not sure if I would be any different than I was if someone took me by the hand and showed me what this side of the world looked like.
Maybe I was unreachable. Maybe I was unable to grasp the depth and the purity of what I saw last night. Maybe I was simply unable to see, touch, or feel so incredibly vulnerable beneath a nighttime sky with nothing to hold on to and no one else around me.

For the first time in 43 years, I spent the night beneath You without holding to the comforts I have clung to throughout my life. I carried the weight up to the highest elevation, and figuratively speaking, I left the unnecessary excess with up there on top of Dater Mountain.

We left camp somewhere around 9:30. We cleaned up behind ourselves and made sure to leave the grounds exactly as we found them; without litter and untouched by man. We took the yellow trail down to red, and adjusted to the red bar trail until we reached the bottom of the mountain. Wholeheartedly, I felt more than 40lbs lighter and grateful.

Blessed Father,
Thank you for taking these things from me.

Amen.

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One thought on “From The Book Of Firsts

  1. So beautiful Ben You gave me some true food for thought and inspiration to face some things that weigh heavy on my heart. I thank you for your words and the help they brought to my soul.

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