Dan and I recently hiked Enchanted Rock monolith, a billion-year-old pink granite rock a few miles outside of Fredericksburg, Texas. This huge stone rises 425 feet above the base, is 1,825 feet above sea level, covers 640 acres, and climbing it is like climbing the stairs of a 30-40 story building. The day we hiked it, it was cold, windy and spitting rain.
Before going up, we stopped at the Ranger Station and read that human occupation has been documented here for 11,000 years and that the Tonkawa, Apache, Comanche tribes both revered and feared this spot. There are several myths surrounding the spot, most involving women sacrificed here, or men killed here, and some ghost who is trapped here and whose footprints are up and down the mountain. Looking at this straight up rock, I understood their fears. Not calming me down at all, we were told by the rangers that before attempting an ascent one MUST be prepared with adequate clothing and head gear, one MUST take water, and if it started raining in earnest, one MUST immediately make one’s way down because the granite becomes incredibly slick.
As we started the straight-up trail, my pesky inner voice reminded me that the time I climbed a good ways up frozen Angel Falls in Yosemite, my attempt to descend involved three men helping me. Fortunately, my other, less pesky inner voice helped me take deep, calming yoga breaths, and suggested I look only for the next foothold, not up.
As we began our ascent, I was able place my feet in the mythical ghost’s footprints, footprints which science less creatively informs are erosion-caused indentions, but which, mythical or scientifically, made my hike less perilous. The further up the trail we went, the stronger the wind blew, at times stealing our breath, and causing several stops along the way to just breathe.
When we reached the summit, the area surrounding us showed itself in all its glory. As we explored the top, we saw small pools of water full of entire worlds of plants and fairy shrimp. There were small wind-blown trees that grew out of cracks in the rock, and which, combined with a handy boulder or two, provided partial shelter from the wind.
I thought about the scholars and rabbis who believe that when the letters of God’s most sacred name, “YHWH,” are inhaled and exhaled correctly, we speak His name. In other words, we breath God with every breath.
Dan and I were standing on a spot recognized by fellow humans for at least 11,000 years as sacred. We were participating in ancient humanity, in a spot that requires a lot of breath, breathing and worshiping our divine being. Chains of humans throughout the ages, breathing worship and peace. Peace, ancient humans and friends, peace.
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.