On Purple Mountain Fireworks

» Posted in Tomi's Blog | 0 comments

On Purple Mountain Fireworks

On Purple Mountain Fireworks:

I felt small. Standing at 6,035 feet above sea level in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I gazed toward the summit of Pikes Peak. It would not be impossible to climb, but it would cost me time and sweat. I thought I could make it—if I trained.

For years, I desired to ascend the purple mountain mentioned in the patriotic song “America the Beautiful.” Katharine Lee Bates penned the lyrics, first as a poem, after her inspiring trip in 1893 to the top of Pikes Peak, Colorado.

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea! . . .

And I was excited to trek through unspoiled nature; from forest to timberline, to barren tundra, to the 14,110 foot summit. My husband and daughter agreed to climb with me. For weeks, we trained on the lower elevations, between 6,600 and 10,000 feet, to acclimate to the change of altitude. Finally, one late June morning, we were ready to make the ascent.

At the rising of the sun, we approached the trailhead. The three of us hiked somewhat together. As a team, we encouraged one another. Yet each one responded with his own will and determination.

On the trailhead, I ambled along like a turtle. And on a few occasions, my husband and daughter stopped and waited for me to catch up to them. Once after I rejoined them, I turned my head and glanced back at the vista and view below of Colorado Springs. My heart pounded and my soul leaped. I was proud of how far I had come—until I turned back around, lifted my chin and gazed—toward how far I needed to go.

Overwhelmed, I simply placed one foot in front of the other. I drank plenty of water and prayed a lot. My hiking boots crunched over pebbles and kicked up dust. A scent of pine filled the air. While drawing in deep breaths, I mastered one switchback, then the next. Junipers, pines and wildflowers colored the terrain.

After passing through aspens and firs, I again caught up with my family. We sat at a picnic table at Barr Camp. At an elevation of about 10,200 feet, we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and rested a bit. Then we headed back to the trail. Our next stop would be the A-Frame shelter at about a mile below timberline. Finally, after conquering a few more switchbacks in the higher elevations, my body kicked into rhythm. I stayed true to my turtle pace and believed that I would make it to the top. Glimpses at the inspiring peak nudged me up, up, up.

Soon, though, it was harder for me to breathe. So I switched my focus from the difficulty of the climb to the chirp-like barks of marmots. Seemingly, they played hide-and-seek on the rocks. My daughter was a few feet ahead of me. My husband was a shout away.

Nearing the last mile of the ascent, I reached the infamous Sixteen Golden Stairs. There I stopped. There I cringed. I once read about these final switchbacks on Pikes Peak. By now, my boots seemed to weigh fifty pounds. I shuffled more than I stepped along the short switchbacks that led me through a steep, rocky terrain. I didn’t exactly count each of the sixteen switchbacks. Rumors were that the number was more like double the sixteen because switchbacks have two parts. Determination carried me along the naturally eroded and boulder-filled trail.

Suddenly, I sighed. I took my last step from the trail onto the summit.

Elated, I thought I should feel like Queen of Pikes Peak. After all, I ascended the infamous “America the Beautiful” purple mountain. I didn’t feel like a queen or even big. I felt even smaller than I did before the ascent. Of course, I was pleased that I reached my goal. I was also glad that I built a memory with my husband and daughter. But I couldn’t shake a sense of awe. It wasn’t about me or my accomplishment. It was about God who was with me, who gave me the ability, strength and determination to climb.

First, He allowed me to be born in a country that provides me with endless opportunities. Second, He led me to marry a man who encourages me immeasurably and helps me become the best that I can be. Third and most importantly, He sacrificed His Son Jesus Christ for the world, for me. And each day, He sheds His grace on us, on me. And so—I ask who can understand the ways of a Holy God?

Soon after my husband, daughter and I climbed Pikes Peak, my family and friends celebrated the 4th of July in Colorado Springs. I shall never forget that day. We sat on lawn chairs and blankets at Memorial Park. But before the symphony performed, thunderstorms crashed the event. It rained enough for much of the crowd to vacate the park. We were fortunate, that someone in our party prepared for rain. So we kept quasi dry while snuggling beneath a tarp. After the rain stopped, the conductor announced that the symphony would perform, and that there would be fireworks as planned. So with soggy grass under our feet and wet blankets beneath our bottoms, we sat. The symphony played. And we listened.

At dark, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture complete with cannons sounded. On this particular night, as the cannons boomed, the sky lit up. By now, the storm hovered mostly above Pikes Peak. And bolts of lightning cast a glorious silhouette above the peak. Boom – – Boom. The cannons fired. The lightening danced and brightened the darkened sky. Did I see the purple mountain majesties? I saw more than that. And I’m not sure any poet could adequately describe God’s fireworks on that particular 4th of July.

Again, I felt small, not because I am small, but because God shed His grace on the world, on me. And still, He colors for us purple mountains.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36 NASB).

Submit a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.