Friday, August 15, 2014

Up on the roof . . .

     In the early 1960's,  the songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King teamed up with "The Drifters" to release, what came to be a huge hit, "Up on the roof".  Many have heard those opening lines over the last fifty years:
When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face (Up on the roof)
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space (Up on the roof)

On the roof, it's peaceful as can be
And there, the world below can't bother me
Let me tell you now
That song, of course, represented a very urban reality, as later lines would make quite clear.  The idea, on the other hand, of finding a place of respite in a busy world is as real a concern in the suburbs or rural areas.  We all need a place where "all our cares just drift right into space."
       When we were in the process of moving to Denver several years ago, some Denver-based friends took me on a driving tour of the city to offer their advice about where we might want to find our next home.  One of the things they told me was "Make sure you find a place where you can see the mountains in the morning."  Fortunately, for those of us in Denver, that's not that hard.  And we were fortunate to end up in a neighborhood that allows me to see the mountains just about every time I leave the house.  I've seen the sun rise on them; I've seen them snow-covered; I've seen storm clouds develop behind them.  They are gorgeous.  There is a very good reason that their silhouette forms the backdrop for the Colorado license plates!
       This summer, however, I've probably spent more time experiencing the mountains than in the last few years.  I've hiked, I've fished, I've camped, I've bird-watched, I've breathed the thin clear air.  I've driven on the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. (Trail Ridge Rd in Rocky Mountain National Park).  And I've come away each time from those experiences renewed, refreshed, and VERY anxious to return again, as soon as I can.
       Those experiences called to mind the fact that I grew up in the shadow of several mountains, most significantly Mt. Hood in Oregon (above), as well as Mt. St. Helen's (no longer as tall as it was in my youth!).  AS I grew up, we camped every summer on its slopes.  I back-packed a lot of the area in high school and early college.  The mountains and the accompanying forests became part of my environmental DNA.  I will admit, however, that once I moved away from Oregon and lived in other areas -- not as mountainous -- I forgot what rejuvenation those heights would provide.  It has only really come back to me in the last couple of years, and I'm grateful for its return.
       That recollection brought new meaning to a favorite psalm from the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 121, which begins (in the King James Version) "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help."  For a number of years I've used that line as motivation as I ride my bike up a long and/or steep inclines, recognizing that the exertion it requires will, ultimately, strengthen me.  Now I see that there is a different kind of "
help" that those hills provide -- not necessarily help that comes from labored breathing, but rather relaxed breathing.  A breathing that allows for a very different kind of Presence to make itself known. 
       My friends were right; there IS something restorative about seeing those mountains everyday.  But Goffin/King/"The Drifters" were right, too, that "up on the roof . . . my cares drift right into space."  May we all (re-)discover such a place before the cares of the upcoming academic year begin to "get us down".  And, once we find such a place, may we visit it often!

Chaplain Gary

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