Inspiration comes in all shapes, sizes, and formats. This little piece was inspired by a friend commenting on a post asking people to share the most beautiful place they’ve visited. Being the analytical nerd I am, I read a few responses and realized I had to write about the matter.
First, as you’ve read or heard many times, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, as I wrote some years ago in “A Blind Eye,” humans can find ways to see only what they wish to see in everything, from a mountain vista to their belief in God. So, just like one’s religious or spiritual beliefs, beauty depends on more than simply the colors, shapes, lighting, and setting of a view.
Take my first parachute jump, for instance. It was early 1969 at Fort Benning, Georgia. I was wrapping up my training and would be heading back to Texas in a couple of weeks, but I still had to step out of the door of an airplane at 1,200 feet a few times to earn my Jump Wings. And, as luck would have it, I was the first guy to jump in my platoon.
That meant the Jump Master had me step up and stand in the door of that noisy old C-119 forever as we approached the drop zone. As I’ve written before, I counted the rivets on the engine boom while standing there. I was afraid to look down for fear I’d freeze when the Jump Master yelled, “Jump!
He yelled. I jumped and remembered little except the rushing wind battering me until I felt a tug and looked up. My parachute was unfolding just as it was designed, and I cannot tell you how beautiful that was. Then I could look down and enjoy the view from a thousand feet in the air as I drifted over the forest toward the drop zone.
So what has all this above got to do with the point of this piece? First, the beauty I felt when I realized my equipment worked and I would not die that day differs from the beauty one may see on vacation or a less dramatic visit to a scenic area or locale.
I have been blessed to travel to some gorgeous places. I’ve been as far south as Brazil, west as Hawaii, east as Wales and England, and north as Alaska. I’ve been to mountain tops, the bottoms of canyons, the depths of caves, and many points in between.
From magnificent vistas in the Rocky Mountains National Park to a boat near Niagara Falls and swimming with the dolphins in the Caribbean, I’ve had some wonderful experiences and seen some beautiful things. The most magnificent was Glacier Bay.
Yes, Glacier Bay is at the top of my list. It is not there because of mountains, glaciers, the bay, or any one thing you might normally identify with something beautiful. In fact, the day we were there, it was overcast and hazy.
Also, there was the distraction of tourist groups full of chatterboxes yammering about everything and running around as if the rest of us were blind or didn’t exist. And there are always those who cannot wait their turn to get to the railing. They had to push to the rail to get a picture, even if it meant ruining someone else’s shot.
Eventually, the pushy, noisy groups were satisfied. They went back to their cabins or down to the lounge. Wherever they went, everyone remaining stood in awed silence or spoke in hushed tones to avoid disrupting someone else’s experience.
As we stood there taking it in, the glaciers would groan. An iceberg would occasionally be calved with a sound like a cannon shot. And a line of ships floated motionless and silent, strung out the length of the bay. It was magnificent, and it would be hard to imagine anything more beautiful. Even the critters were in awe.
Okay! The little critter below did not appear in awe as it floated around on its little iceberg. Instead, it exhumed an air of disdain and grudging tolerance. It was just waiting patiently for captains to crank up the engines and leave this piece of paradise to its natural inhabitants.
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