I see America, it is limitless, it is possibilities, it stretches before me, I am unable to take it all in, unable to comprehend all it conveys. My back to the meadows of Logan Pass, I look north. Diminishing with distance the Garden Wall marks the continental divide; it is home to Glacier’s signature hike, the Highline Trail. For more than half of my life this wall has been significant, it holds emotion, holds memories. I trace my love affair, my hiking, back to the Highline, the Highline and the Garden Wall.
All of Logan Pass is in focus, the details are vivid. I need not turn, my vision would limit the vision, it would limit me in time. For the moment, I prefer the randomness of memories; the ability to choose weather, wild flowers, snow cover. The ability to look beyond the bend in the trail, to see behind mountains, to share this with those in my past.
Returning to the present, I turn. Clements Mountain sits before me, looking peaceful against a pale blue sky. Moments ago a mountain storm rolled through this pass, chilling the unprepared with strong wind and heavy rain, threatening the exposed with bolts of lightening, nature emphasizing her power with thunder.
Logan slopes to my left before dropping steeply into an unseen ice carved valley; peaks outline the path of the glacier that cut this terrain. Approaching Clements, I see late summer flowers bordering quiet creeks. Searching for detail I pause, drawn to a small creek that recently fed this meadow.
It is gone, I am looking towards its origin, my eyes flowing where it once flowed. A dry rocky streambed cut into this landscape. Flowers trace the outline of its life, quiet color where water once played. I can see the rocks, the slope of the land, the bend in the channel. It is easy for me to imagine its life, I have watched many creeks give, watched them flow wild, demonstrate their uniqueness then mature as they quietly merged with other forces, forces larger than themselves. It gave its life for this vegetation, its existence for this growth, touching others as it lived. Herbivores browsed, pollinators visited, voles burrowed expanding the influence, increasing the contribution. It gave everything to sustain this corner, the life it knew; it gave until it could give no more.
Expanding my view, I encompass the meadow, wildflowers and the Garden Wall. Flowers before a wall, a wall holding memories from thirty plus years. Emerging from my past, I see another wall, a wall thousands of miles away, a wall bordered by flowers. How can one give that much for others? How can one lose all that others may choose? How can one lose all when others express indifference? It must come from within, from a greater sense of purpose, from knowing something is greater than self.
I think of them. Do they sleep, do they rest, are they comforted? Have they merged with a force greater than themselves? Can they reach down and help others? Do they feel their sacrifice was warranted?
The stream has given me questions, it cannot give me answers, it can only guide my thoughts. Answers must come from the arena, from those who stood when it mattered.
Closing my eyes sharpens the image, brings thought into focus. The wall tapers, a long black granite wall etched with 58,000 names, 58,000 done too soon. I have been to the wall, witnessed the suffering of the living, witnessed the caring of a younger generation. I have seen today’s warriors comforting yesterday’s heroes; volunteers, too young to remember, washing the wall, cleansing names that need no cleansing. I have seen individuals gathering, individuals smiling, crying, embracing a memory, imagining a life never lived.
Allowing my thoughts to drift back, back away from the wall, the individuals blend. There is no color, no race, no prejudice, they appear as one. I see a unique nation, a grateful nation, I see America.