Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme. The theme for December is Wonder. This month’s post is offered by Fred Hulting.
The Path of Wonder
I can still recall the experience of standing on an 18,500-foot peak in the Himalayas, at 5:30 in the morning, with Mt Everest towering more than 10,000 feet above me: the sight of dawn breaking over the mountains; the tingle of 10 degrees on my skin; the sounds of swirling winds; the rapid movement of heart and lungs from the high altitude and a steep climb. And an overwhelming sense of wonder and awe.
Our Soul Matters theme for this month, “The Path of Wonder”, asks us to use these moments of wonder to move beyond feelings of being small and separate from nature, and to instead reflect on how these moments connect us to other people and to the world around us.
Why was I in Nepal? My brother Billy and I made the trip in October to retrace the steps our father took in 1980, from the airport in Lukla to the base camp of Mt Everest. In this part of the world, so many things feel exotic and mysterious. You hear the ringing of yak bells, and the chatter of locals and trekkers in dozens of languages. You encounter Buddhist temples and the chants of monks and the smell of burning juniper and rhododendron incense. And below the endless snow-capped mountains are wide valleys with glaciers and rivers and small towns with colorful flags offering prayers to the wind.
While it was a trip with many moments of wonder, it was also a trip that created inspiring moments of connection: with my brother, with the memory of my father, and with our group of 11 other non-USA trekkers and three sherpa guides. An especially powerful moment came when our Sherpa guides showed Billy and I how to use stones to build a stupa to hold some of our father’s ashes. They were deeply touched by our father’s love for their home region. Our fellow travelers helped to build it as well, and as they did it brought forward their own tears and memories of lost loved ones. Once finished, there was a moment of silence connecting all of us – no sound but the wind blowing across Lobuche pass – until our lead guide said, “your father has returned to the mountains.”
This group is now scattered around the world, back to the where and how we lived before the trip. The very real moments of wonder and connection in Nepal are now only memories. When will that next moment happen? The Soul Matters curriculum challenges us to not wait for these unique experiences, but instead “…to see the marvels in the daily rhythms of our lives.” And so, while I will work to hold on to the memories, I will also work at recognizing the wonder in my everyday activities: to find more “awe stories” within my community and to make every walk an “awe walk”.
— Fred Hulting
Member, UUCM Board of Trustees