The north edge of Phoenix still has vistas that remind the viewer of what this desert was like before population sprawled. No matter where I am, I play a little game: I try to imagine what the location must have been like before man casually and all too carelessly began tramping across the terrain. For instance, where I live—Illinois—what was the geography like before the forests and prairies were hewn away to make place for farmland? What was the swampy shoreline like that breached Lake Michigan before Chicago began to rise in her concrete and multi-storied splendor?
The parents were off vacationing in Florida, the grandkids had gotten themselves off to school, and I, on recess from grand-parenting, took off looking for a Starbucks where I could access a Wi-Fi connection. Suddenly, in the distance, beyond Interstate 17, beyond the shapes and forms of the new shopping mall, I could see a patch of what looked like twenty-or-so pillars of light ascending into the morning clouds. Rains had come to Arizona, and the morning horizon was crowded with billowing harbingers of more storms on the way—but light going up!—I must be seeing things.
That’s strange, I thought, steering myself around the unfamiliar streets. What would make light appear to be shiningup? I am trying to discipline myself to pause in the daily run of things when these sudden instances of beauty catch my attention, but morning traffic pushed me along.
By the time I had turned off 35th Avenue onto Happy Valley Road and was driving east, the direction of the pillars of light ascending to the heavens, they were gone. This was a matter of three minutes. In just a flash of my life time, I had spotted something magnificent, something I had never seen before and will probably never see again. The grey morning without the startling pillars of light was still beautiful framed by the roiling clouds, their edges shot with rising-sun silver, but I had seen this beauty before—I am from the Midwest, after all, where rainy days and storm clouds are common. I was haunted all day by the thought that I hadn’t paused to drink in the holy metaphor of these pillars of light no matter their cause—the earth sending up an ethereal sculpture of praise for the drought-parched land finally receiving drenching sustenance.
I should have stopped the car by the roadside, opened the door and stood gazing at this phenomenon with nothing to distract my attention. Were there beacons set into the land that Phoenix uses for special days of commendation and I had witnessed an early morning test? Were there atmospheric conditions, just right at that moment, so wind and air and moisture could produce a light show from the desert floor? Like many, however, I suffer from a common human failing: My personal agenda sets my path. Consequently, I am prone to miss exquisite moments of sublimity.
Jesus, frustrated with the denseness of many of His followers, pronounced an analysis that has been common to mankind throughout the centuries, “You have eyes to see but do not see…” I want to be a see-er, someone who is not negligent in observation, someone who is not rushing so much that wonder is abandoned. I want to become habitual in stopping, in looking, in attending. I want to have eyes that see.
I should have gotten down on my knees and raised my hands to the heaven, prayers of praise and worship rising from one human devotee there on the desert roadside in the same way the pillars of light rose to the sky. I should have breathed in the rain-blessed earth. I should have listened to the cry of the still-wild things and known myself for an intense fraction of time in harmony with all things that be, lifting my head to the graying, looming skies, my soul crying Selah!
Noticing is one of the better ways of getting through the days. If we do not turn to see, we all too often plod, the soul heavy, not knowing that the pillar of lights are shining skyward.
Other projects involving Karen Mains right now:
Karen Mains is beginning to build distance-learning opportunities, teaching wannabe writers how to be better at their craft. She is offering telementoring conference-call training twice a month for eight months. This current cycle is filled. If you are interested in future cycles of training, the Web site www.KarenBurtonMains.com is being built to facilitate this effort. We invite you to check it out for announcements of future classes.
About Karen Mains:
Karen Mains and her husband, David, have been in religious communications for decades—radio and television and print publication. The are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance and Tales of the Restoration. David has been working on a manuscript titled Revelation for My Grandchildren, and they are just beginning to brainstorm if this should be made into a fourth Tales book, Tales of the Revelation.