Blog Post by
Rev. Shana Vernon
BJC Chaplain Supervisor
Member of Commission on Preparation
I have watched YouTube videos of jumping dwarf goats, cute kittens, and rescued donkeys as one practice of decompression during the pandemic. Eventually, this wasn’t enough. Then I found myself watching explorers who trek across land and water in northeastern Canada and sail the northern seas between Canada and Europe. Remote and wild places, full of danger and beauty.
These modern-day explorers film, narrate and edit footage of their adventures with high production quality. They often travel solo and will say the camera is their companion—“someone to talk to.” The viewer is with them in the canoe on fast water or bushwhacking a portage trail, or yelling at a bear to “git,” or on a sailboat at night with 45 knots of wind, confused sea state, and no moon. It can be both exhilarating and scary.
Mostly, I am in awe. They persist through apocalyptic-level of bugs, torrents of rain, equipment failures, sickness and soreness, dehydrated food, and weeks of solitude. And they choose this!
I wait with anticipation for “the look.”
The tears in their eyes at the primordial beauty of a landscape, or at the magnitude of sea & sky. The expressions of wonder at the Aurora Borealis and the Strawberry Moon. Their curiosity about all kinds of animal creatures with which they cross paths. Their respect for Early Peoples who’ve gone before them.
I feel their reverence while bathed in the deep silence that comes from being hundreds of miles from “civilization.”
I don’t have a tripping canoe (yet). I’m building out my “kit” piece-by-piece, practicing knot-tying, and using a Ferro rod to start a fire. I wish I’d paid more attention when my dad tried to teach me these things.
For now, I make an annual trek to Leelanau County in northwest lower Michigan. Each year when my feet touch the beach of Sleeping Bear Harbor, I look out at the big water of Lake Michigan and exclaim, “Yes, you’re still here!” And then I see the two Manitou Islands and say with arms upraised, “And you, too!”
I’ve needed that reassurance. Yes, the beach has eroded since last year, the siding on the buildings has weathered even more, and it has been unseasonably warm. But that big water is still there, and the islands are still there, and the sun still sets in the west. And on clear nights above that freshwater – the dark sky resplendent with age-old stars!
This water is life to me – in all its power and mysteries and changeable nature. I choose this!
Rev. Shana Vernon is a Chaplain Supervisor at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
She is a Teaching Elder in the PCUSA and attends Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.