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Martin LeFevre: A Stark Contrast

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

A Stark Contrast

The verdant slopes beyond the gorge are adorned with thousands of brilliant orange poppies and deep blue lupines. The swollen creek is over a hundred meters directly below. It wends its way around dark volcanic rocks that look as if they just hardened from their molten state. Above, a procession of clouds of every shape skate across an azure sky.

I sit with my back to the sun for an hour looking up the canyon within the canyon. Directly across the narrow chasm is a huge slab dripping a gentle curtain of water. The massive rocks press in upon me from the other side of the divide, giving the feeling that I can reach out and touch them.

There is a large oak tree in front of me. Its branches are still bare, and its limbs stretch out and rest on rocks to the left and right. One of them is a rectangular slab that looks as if the hand of man rather than the randomness of nature has carefully placed it in a vertical position. Where the gnarled branch of the oak meets the slab, it melds together so seamlessly that you cannot tell where the branch ends and the slab begins.

The beauty is so intense that I feel any thought is a blasphemy. It’s literally hard to think, so I don’t try. Even the most pressing and profound questions have little meaning in the face of such magnificence. Philosophy can wait.

Against the backdrop of the larger canyon wall rising precipitously from a meadow a quarter mile away, sunlight reflects again and again off the white portion of a hawk’s under wing as it circles in the updraft. It dips and turns, the angles of its wings, of its flight, and of the canyon forming a wondrous symmetry, and my spirit soars.

Once in a while someone walks by on the trail on the other side of the rock wall to my left. One or two carry beverages; all seem far away in every way.

The Upper Park is a favorite party place for the college kids in town. Especially late in the week and late in the day, some bring cases of beer and spend a few hours imbibing amidst nature’s grandeur. The beauty of the gorge and canyon provide a good backdrop for drinking oneself insensate I guess.

Getting smashed has been a part of college life in America for decades, but it has reached new levels in college towns across the country in the last ten years or so. Of course, binge-drinking college kids aren’t the problem; they are symptomatic of this culture. Young people deaden their feeling against a culture saturated with darkness, fearing to see and face what they all know, but neither they nor their professors dare to articulate.

It’s only Wednesday, but it’s late in the afternoon. In the meditative state one feels more than deduces when the atmosphere changes. The gravel road is closed some distance away, but I hear a muffled noise, and later, a siren. The silence and beauty of the late afternoon engulf the interruption instantly, and I forget about it until after a walk along the trails.

As I approach the car, a jacked-up truck races up the road, spitting stones as it swerves into the parking lot. The sense during the sitting is confirmed; something more than the usual raucousness is in the air.

Both of the small parking lots near the closed gate are empty. There is a palpable contrast between the human and natural worlds, all the more pronounced because there are only two vehicles as far as the eye can see.

It’s two miles to the front gate and paved road. Just as I leave the open section of the park with a view of the canyon and enter a wooded area, I pass a cop car. In front of it is a big black truck, overturned, its roof completely smashed down to the seats.

I’m barely able to inch by on the narrow road. There’s also a fire truck and a rescue vehicle parked on the road. Policemen, firemen, and rescue workers are standing motionless along the side. One of them gives a knowing look and says hello as I slowly pass the surreal scene.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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