Sometimes you see something and it’s so beautiful you’re paralyzed. Your legs caught in quick-dry concrete, you find yourself fixed in space and time—you and the beauty. Your eyes open wider, your vision suddenly panoramic, and your attention narrows so you see in a thousand frames per second—this moment in time lapse. You drink like water from a fire hose and like hot chocolate in the rain and like champagne after a toast.
Today I am trying to describe Olympic National Park. I’m on the hunt for words. Regal words. Ancient words. Words with roots. Words with wings.
I stack the words, found objects, like rough rocks to build an altar.
I do not wish to forget beauty like that.
I will write that the mountains were like snow-crowned kings presiding over evergreen-wreathed valleys. I will say something about singing silence and the statue stillness and the way the sun annointed the view as if to announce (again) “It is good.”
My words will be small and my pencil eraser worn—because of me and my too-small stash of words and because big things like mountains shrink poorly. It’s why we take twenty pictures at the edge of the Grand Canyon and still can’t capture what our eyes and hearts see.
I think it’s why mankind’s been writing about God for a few thousand years, each of us piling every word we can carry onto an ever-growing heap of praise. We stand back and look at a trillion syllables reaching to the sky and we sigh in regret because it’s still too small an altar. We say with the Psalmist, “Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?”
And still we try.
Maybe my efforts at divine description prove I’m a writer, because I refuse to stop sketching God’s face in letters. More certainly my failures (bundled with the insufficiencies of much, much greater writers before me) prove God is God—because He persists in dramatically outshining our alphabet altars.