The Beauty of Dependence

Heidi Wheeler AlaskaBackpackers are a rare breed. Many people find the idea of endlessly schlepping fifty pounds over hills and valleys, sleeping on the ground, and having to go to the bathroom, well, not in a bathroom less than ideal. But we devotees know the truth: it’s all worth it. For every inconvenience imposed, there are countless gifts received, and to be in nature unencumbered by technology or a cluttered schedule opens the soul to receive them.

The heart of a backpacker beats with the same timbre of an artist’s. We’re both aware that beauty isn’t extraneous; it’s necessary. Beauty encountered will not leave us untouched; creation, song, word, and aesthetic are requisite to experience the fullness of the Divine Christ and usher in the Kingdom of God on earth.

Sometimes finding beauty is easy. After days immersed in a blanket of glowing sunshine, the scent of pine and moss percolating, and the sky’s constant movement, I sense God in a tangible way, and my soul comes alive with the joy and intimacy of it.

But sometimes finding beauty is not so easy.

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Best Friends at Seventeen: Sitting in a Pillow Bin at Wal-mart

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Could you please pass the mustard?

I burned my finger taking a casserole out of the oven a while back. It was a Friday night, and some old friends were visiting. “Ouch!” I yelped, because I couldn’t help it; but I was in the kitchen all by myself, so no one heard me. It really hurt, but calling everyone’s attention to this newly burning pain was not my first response. Instead, I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t been more careful, so I blamed myself rather than the hot oven. Also, since these were friends we hadn’t seen in a long time and I wanted to make a good impression, I chose not to interrupt the smooth flowing conversation in the other room. Instead, I made myself a glass of ice water to drink and held it so the tip of my finger was submerged in the cold liquid.

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Over Mountain Weavers Guild

Over Mountain Weavers Guild in Kingsport, Tenn.

“This,” said Marita Swartz, waving her hand over the intricately woven pattern of threads taking shape from her loom, “gives me life.”

Swartz is one of over forty members of the Over Mountain Weavers Guild, a guild that gathers at least once a month at the Exchange Place, a kind of living history museum in Kingsport, Tennessee.

“It’s an art,” said Jean Green, “It makes you appreciate things. Not everything you can just go into Wal-Mart and buy.”

Many of the guild members are retired, though not all, and many see the art of weaving as a way to reconnect with the way things were done in the past. For some, it is cathartic, providing an opportunity to take something intangible and shape it into something real, something permanent.

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