For two weeks, Gerry and I have been camping in Waterton Lakes National Park. We’ve never been able to carve out this much uninterrupted time before and in the days leading up to our getaway I was practically giddy with anticipation.
Gerry and I have made the trek to Waterton every summer for more than a dozen years. We started in a borrowed tent trailer when our teen girls went to summer camp. We would bring our younger son for a little getaway. Before long, my brother took pity on us and he started dragging his 36-foot Rv to Waterton for us to stay in. Once he had it all set up, he would barbecue us some steaks, make us laugh, grab our son and take him home with him for a holiday with his kids. And Gerry and I would have five glorious days alone.
As the years passed, our kids grew up and the girls married and had babies and our Waterton holiday became a wonderful opportunity for a shared long weekend at the portable “cottage” since this was as close as we were ever going to get to having a “home at the beach”! So our 10-day Waterton sojourn would usually start with a few solo days, then a few crowded days with all the kids and grandkids, followed by a few more solo days. It was always fabulous and we loved it.
But this year was different. Both Gerry and I were really tired. Physically pooped. Emotionally exhausted. Spiritually sapped. So when our kids told us they were not going to visit us in Waterton this year, I was surprised, but not unhappy. I appreciated their sensitivity in recognizing that ma and pa needed some rest.
We packed up as much garden produce as we could, gathered our hiking gear, and drove three hours to the RV that was all set up and waiting for us. We couldn’t stop grinning. But there was one little glitch we had not counted on. One slight adjustment in our annual tradition that caught me by surprise. My bum leg.
The main activity that tourists engage in at this quaint little national jewel is hiking. Gerry and I have hiked pretty much every day hike in this area. Every day, we would study our guide book describing all the hikes and decide which one to take. Then we would pack our lunch, grab our gear and head off. By the end of the day we would stagger back to the campsite with tired limbs and sore feet and after a little rest we would consume a massive feast prepared from all the garden goodies we had hauled along. Glorious bliss.
But not this year. We discovered soon after arriving that something is amiss with one of my hips — they’ve always been big but until now have functioned properly as hinges — it was sore and stiff and my range of motion was limited. It hurt to hike. It hurt to walk. I developed a limp. The val-de-ree-val-de-rah cheery pace of 4.5 kph that we have fallen into easily over the years was no longer a possibility. I was bummed! Gerry was amazing: “No big deal. We’ll do other stuff.”
Did I mention that the main activity in Waterton is hiking? The lake is liquid ice so forget swimming. The beach has no sand, only rocks and pebbles. I despise shopping. There are two fabulous ice cream shops but I’m allergic to dairy for Pete’s sake! I wanted to hike! I wanted to sweat! I wanted tired muscles and guilt-free feasts at the end of a long jaunt! So we still tried. We made several little forays to places we had always scorned as too easy during our hiking years — lakeside walks, the townsite tour, small elevation stuff. It was slow and I didn’t sweat. I didn’t even glow. We stopped over and over and over to sit and rest.
And something wonderful happened. I began to see things I had never seen before in my headlong pursuit of “the burn” and the summit. Flowers and berries were everywhere. We stopped and sampled saskatoons, black currants, gooseberries and thimble berries every chance we got. We tried to identify unknown berries that were green, white and red; peering at them carefully and studying them. We noticed the stones on the beach are red and gold and silver, some smooth as glass, some rough, some soft as chalk, some hard as flint.
We walked by the lake when it was smooth as glass and stopped repeatedly to just stare at the beauty God spoke into existence. We stumbled along the lake when the gale-force wind made me tighten the chin strap on my tilley hat and marvelled at the wind surfers flying over the whitecaps. We sat on the beach, leaning back against the bleached driftwood and studied the various structures tourists had assembled so far this summer — rectangular shacks, teepees and even one that looked like a pyramid.
And God gave us rest. Rest for our body and food for our souls. If my hip recovers and I am able to hike next year, I don’t think we’ll go back to our old galloping ways. We missed too much. I think we’ll take it slow and soak up the beauty all around us and let God’s “book of nature” breathe it’s own kind of healing into our lives.
How about you? Have you found time to rest this summer? It’s not too late. Even if you walk with a limp, take some slow ambles outside while it is still warm and let God speak healing into your tired soul. Stop often. Look at stuff. Breathe. Listen for His whisper of love and let Him give you rest.