In a society so often driven by productivity and profit, it may seem counter-intuitive to view resting as a beneficial way to live. Nature tells us otherwise. On this first day of November, as we head into late Autumn, we turn once again to a time of less activity, learning the hard lesson of our need for rest. John Keats described Autumn as a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.
This Fall, while hiking in Olympic National Park, we came upon the sign in the photo above expressing succinctly our soul’s need. The beautifully crafted, weather-worn sign was placed next to a former campsite along Hoh Lake (4500 feet elevation). Occasionally, the national park service will close a campsite for a season due to overuse, allowing a site “rest”. The rain and snow continue to fall; the sun and moon continue to shine; the deer and black bear continue to wander through (we saw both at Hoh Lake this year). Life seems unchanged.
Yet, something vital is happening while “this site is resting”. Boots, backpacks and tents are absent. The small, wild things are allowed to spring up undisturbed without being trampled underfoot. The snow falls, burying the site for months. The late spring sun melts the snow, overflowing the lake, running off the mountainsides into the great Hoh valley below. New shoots of life spring up from soil once beaten down by campers. New life springs forth, and bare soil is replaced with alpine meadowland glory. Mountain blueberries cover the ground, along with John Muir’s favorite wildflower, Cassiope, white heather with her luminous bells blooming in late summer.
None of this would have been possible without the gift of rest. The prophet Isaiah invited ancient Israel to come back to a time of rest. In returning and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it (Isaiah 30:15). Often, people today will have none of it as well, preferring the well-trodden paths of productivity and profit-making. Nothing wrong with being productive or earning a decent living. But all campsites, like all people, need their times of rest. In this gift comes the saving grace of God, quietly renewing our soul, strengthening our frame, and bringing back the beauty of meadowlands to our inner world.