Rain was coming—again. In anticipation Jeff and I pulled up our hoods and hunched our shoulders, although we were long past the point where the incessant patter bothered us. It’s supposed to rain a lot in Alaska; that’s why the landscape is so green. I tried not to think about the two weeks of pure sunshine that had preceded our vacation, when I’d been working in Anchorage.
We were taking a short walk to Riley Creek near the campground where we were staying in Denali National Park. Our Alaska explorations had exceeded all our hopes, except for the weather, and we’d made a conscious decision not to mind the clouds and drizzle. At least it wasn’t cold. We’d managed to stay comfortable, except for the night we awoke to find water flowing through our tent. Now the trip was drawing to a close. The following afternoon we’d be leaving for Anchorage and our flight home. We strolled through alder and spruce, past moss and fern, reveling in the moist freshness of the north woods.
To reach the creek we had to pass beneath a high railroad trestle. As we neared it we heard an approaching locomotive. “Let’s go catch it!” I said, and sprinted toward the clearing where it would pass hundreds of feet overhead. I’ve always loved trains; my grandfather was a railroad engineer. To stand beneath a rolling train in wild country near a rushing creek seemed to me like a slice of Nirvana.
The rain arrived just before the locomotive. Fortunately, a simple wooden shelter had been built below the trestle, probably to protect hikers from falling train debris (I didn’t want to imagine what that might be). We took refuge there from the shower as the train roared by overhead. When the whistle sounded, I couldn’t help laughing. Within a few short minutes it had rolled past us.
It was only then that I noticed the words carefully printed on one of the shelter’s wooden posts:
Create No Sorrow.
How beautiful. I’m not a great fan of written graffiti, but I loved this one. I couldn’t resist glancing around for whoever had written it, though I knew the person was long gone. I took a picture; I posted it on Facebook; I wrote it on a scrap of paper to keep on my desk.
That was a year ago, almost exactly. Ten days ago Jeff and I were again in Alaska and hiking toward Riley Creek through that same deep forest. As I approached the little shelter, I couldn’t help looking forward to reading the saying on which I’d meditated all year.
Beneath the towering train bridge, the shelter looked like a doll house. As we walked closer—no rain, only great weather this year—I was dismayed to see that the posts and beams now held many snippets of graffiti, scrawled sideways or in sloping, sloppy script. What a shame! It had been such a beautiful little sanctuary.
But my heart lifted as I began to read:
*Forgive, Love and commit random acts of Kindness for a higher vibration.
*Live. Feel. Be
*Truth is like a work of ART. One Perspective is never enough for True Understanding.
*Luck is good, but love is better.
*Don’t let the sun go down on tomorrow before the sun rises today.
*We are all ONE Love.
There were several others, all of them echoing themes of love and mindfulness, and not a single profanity.
What were the chances that so many like-minded travelers would find their way to this one little shelter? In a landscape of great beauty, perhaps the chances were better than average. Who could say? Still, stumbling on it as we did, I couldn’t help feeling a deep gratitude.
I hope someday soon to live in a world where such experiences become more common, perhaps even the norm, and involve not just written words but actions that invoke the same sense of gratitude and grace. It’s possible, despite the considerable tribulations that face us. May I do all I can to bring that world into being.