This story begins a number of winters ago during a visit to a place called Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The had day started with some of the finest skiing I had ever experienced in my life. Later that day, over a late lunch, I struck up a conversation with a couple from Alabama. During the course of our confabulation the couple made mention of a local hang-out that featured the opportunity to bath in natural, hot mineral springs. The place was called Strawberry Park and was a 20 minute drive outside the town of Steamboat Springs. They said that Strawberry Park was accessible only by car (4-wheel drive recommended), and, unfortunately they didn't have a car. I did however and being quick on the uptake (I am a Mensan after all ), suggested, that we could all go together that evening in my car. We agreed to meet later and at that time, along with another couple, the five of us left for Strawberry Park.
They had not lied when they said that a 4-wheel drive vehicle was suggested for the trip. The route to the "Springs" was your typical country mountain road, in addition to which there had been a 6 inch snowfall the night before and the county road maintenance ended 2 miles from the park's entrance. Within sight of the park gate the county road forked, widened and ended. This obviously was intended to be the "parking lot". Once we had all disembarked from the vehicle and reassembled as a group in the snow, the park guide, met us, collected our money ($5 U.S.) and proceeded to lead us to the mineral springs. He led us through a rough wooden arch hewn from logs, located at one end of the parking area. This was the 'official' park entrance. We then found ourselves on a small road that sloped gently downwards. A stone's throw from the arch, we made a 90 degree left turn onto a wide, snow covered path with shallow steps. Sometime thereafter the wide path narrowed and became what I imagined was, in less snowy times, a gravel path, interspaced with steeper steps. The steps ended and the path then narrowed again into a single file impression in the snow that eventually terminated at a wooden bench. The guide pointed his flashlight at the bench...then to a steaming pond...said "there ya' go", and left. There were no lights and beyond the bench, no man-made artifacts in sight. Clothes were optional after dark, so without any compunction I doffed my garments and was the first to ease myself into the pond and move off into the darkness. I found a spot in the darkness on that December night, and submerged myself in 3 1/2 feet of 101.5 F water (they had posted the water temperature at the entrance). The 18F air at the springs' elevation of 1 1/2 miles was crystal and clear. The 'park' became my personal outdoor theatre in which to experience the concert of nature. The orchestra was the music of the gurgling springhead and nearby river, the lighting was the millions of stars overhead and the play was the night sky. The stage set that evening had a softness to it....like black velvet, the stars' lights were like the silver glitter we all used to play with as children, at Christmastime. As I lay there motionless, suspended, disassociated from the real world, I was beholden for the gift of my life, of my body, my soul, my mind and my senses, that priviledged me to partake in this spectacle.
As I relaxed & floated in the life-blood of the Gaia phenomenon, it came upon me ever so gradually.. at first, it was something akin to the initial effects of inebriation, like the feelings of anticipation that build when you are opening the door to a secret room, a little at a time. When the door fully opened, I suddenly realized, that I, was on the edge of Heaven!
I counted shooting stars as they impinged upon the atmosphere. I thought of my existence, and realized that I was a mere femto-second in the overall timing of this Universal play, and yet, at the same time, I was a critical and important part of this play because if I were not there, none of what was unfolding would exist. I WAS GOD!!! An individual, inviolable, and sacred entity. The people here with me, were also God. The entire living world was God, and it was dying. Carelessness and ignorance were destroying the living world. Toxic algae, dying corals, crushed dolphins, whales dead of mercury poisoning, yearly tree destruction measurable in of acres per minute, bird populations decimated by insecticides & light pollution, species becoming extinct too fast to count, acidic oceans....and the list went on. Was there no end? I recalled a United Nations' report entitled "If you love this planet". A more appropriate title might have been "If you love your children", because, unless we as individuals, each and every one of us accept some personal responsibility and amend our actions on this earth, we may join that list of extinct species.
(Thank you International Dark-Sky Association - www.darksky.org - for their on-going efforts on our behalf)