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Where Do You Find God?

October 15, 2019 by

As a junior studying Literature at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, I do a lot of writing. Last week one of my professors assigned a descriptive essay reflecting on a “significant aesthetic experience” that allowed us to “connect to a greater idea, be it God, nature, life, or happiness.” I’d hardly read the assignment when all of my mountains came piling into my mind. Not the snow-capped, calendar-material kind of mountain; mine are scruffier, more worn down, but they’re majestic nonetheless. On their rugged slopes, “connecting to a greater idea” never took any spiritual sweat. The following is an excerpt from that essay, accompanied by photographs taken at some of my favorite cerros.

Parque Chicaque, ColombiaParque Chicaque, Colombia

To cling to a rocky cliff face, imprisoned by the imperative not to fall – that is a kind of freedom. To feel no fear, just a healthy calm and the firm wedging of rubber soles in stone cracks; the cautious, confident grip of fingertips; the swing of your center-of-balance out into the balanceless and then onto the solid – that sets something free in your soul. I know one day I will feel fear; it’s in my blood. So today, alone with the whistle of vulture wings, let me savor the close sun and sweat, the ache and the wind, because today it’s just me, surrounded by that peaceful presence, and tomorrow my time goes to the city.

Cactus in Paraguaytaken in Paraguay

The city: so alien to these perky patches of orange lichen rooted on rock knobs. Everywhere, the horizon sprawls generously in clean contours, an elegant backdrop to the dried seed-pods, lizards, and cactus stars. Nature, with nothing to compete against, outdoes itself in beauty and grandeur, blanketing daily life with a compelling peace.

photo of a dried flower taken on Cerro Pan de Azúcar, Uruguay

The powerful silence commands the soul to rest, to confront itself, to become clean. It’s a silence that has body and composure, a fragrant, beating restfulness undisturbed by my flimsy presence on the rock. The afternoon absorbs me into itself, catching on the rough patches of my heart and spitting out the bitter parts as it turns me inside out, into a self I am not anywhere else.

Would it save somebody, to feel what I’m feeling, to forget for a few hours that the world’s going to hell? Would it heal something nothing else could heal? On this mountainside, boundaries are stretched and human rules broken. Here the heart is more eternal than earthly, an eternalness to be brought back into the persistent rush of routine, and remembered.

God’s spark, often elusive but still set in every person’s heart, comes to the fore in the presence of beautiful creation like this. But that spark is in the city too, in the thousands of people I pass on the streets, in the bus, in school. It’s in the man who robbed my friend, in the haunted woman who no longer remembers her dignity, in the mayor too arrogant to do anything for them. If Jesus were to walk the streets of Bogotá, that spark is the first thing he would see. As his follower, how can I not be looking for it? He tells us that the eye is the lamp of the body; if we chose to look at others through the eyes of Jesus, imagine the light we could be filled with, and the light that would spill out on others too – from the trashiest ghetto street, to the cleanest mountainside.

Cerro Mbatoví, ParaguayCerro Mbatoví, Paraguay

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About the author

Nancy Clement in New York City

Nancy Clement

Nancy Clement is twenty-two and lives in Bogotá, Colombia, where she is majoring in literature at the Universidad de los...

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  • Beautiful reflections!

    Vincenne