Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Summer's Grand Finale

I must say...this summer ended with a bang. And quite the bang it was, as you shall soon see.
I will first rewind to catch you up where I last left off in my blog. Following my brother's visitation, I worked through another typical work week which was longer than normal and I was soon very burned out.  My thoughts slowly turned from "wow, this is an awesome job" to "ok, this is a pretty nice job" to "sheesh, I'm ready to go home."  The latter is how I felt that work week.  And then my parents visited, bless their hearts.  I had been waiting for this for some time, for as any child of loving parents knows, having your parents around means getting food stuffed down your throat and other random comforts and pleasures.  It is strange how very much like the juvenile owls I become when my parents come around....expecting to get fed and taken care of all the time.  It was as I had imagined and hoped.  I enjoyed several fine restaurant meals (Zion Lodge breakfast buffet is excellent, Oscar's Cafe is great as well), slept in a very fine hotel room, and was treated to the finest parental care one could ask for (which included a loaf of chocolate banana bread).  Oh, and of course, I must mention the amazing brownies baked for me by the Youderians!  Thanks!
Steph took advantage of this as well, and joined us on most of our excursions.  We were not lazy though, for if you know my mother, you know that if there is a place to hike, she is hiking.  We hiked the Watchman Trail, Refrigerator Canyon, Hidden Canyon, Twin Canyon, and half of the main Zion canyon along the road at night.  In payment for such tremendous parental care, I hooted some spotted owls for them.  My pa got to see one fairly up close, which was a real treat for him.  I also showed them the California Condors which have been taking up residence up the Kolob Terrace Road for the past several years.  My parents were delighted to be in Zion, and, as I found out after they left, I felt completely refreshed and ready to tackle another work week.
And so I did.  The next day following my parents visit, Steph and I headed out for a three day backpacking venture to knock out two survey sites.  I parked my car under the only available shade at Lee Pass Trailhead on the Kolob side of the park, and headed out, worried that we would get in trouble with the permit people or park rangers again.  I worried so because, even though I called in my intentions to the permit office, I did not stop at the Kolob visitor center and tell them my car would be there, and thought that maybe they wouldn't be happy about that.  But, I hiked on anyways, and Steph told me to forget about it, so I did.  We hiked up La Verkin Creek to the Beartrap Canyon survey site.  The massive thunderstorms that had unloaded unabashedly several days before had created a very large flash flood through the area.  All along the creek the banks were plastered with thick, muddy silty clay.  In some areas it was apparent that the muck flood had been up to six feet deep.  Most of the material had washed downstream, but much remained on the banks, making travel very difficult in some places.  If you stepped into the mud, you would sink 6 inches and have a shoe twice the size and four times the weight after you pulled it out.  We picked our way around the muck, sometimes forced to walk through it or throw down sticks and rocks to walk on.  Steph had a good long laugh after I had attempted to step into the middle of the stream, where it looked stable to walk on the rocks, but soon found myself sixteen inches deep in the muck.  We were quite beat that night, but the owl show had to go on, and so we hooted into the canyon that night.  To our great joy, an owl responded half an hour after we started calling, and we immediately went to bed.  I wish I could say that I felt some odd feeling looming over me that night, some dark foreboding, but it was not so.  In fact, I slept very soundly.  As did Steph.
The next morning we shot on over to the next site, Currant Creek.  This was to be the fourth time I had visited this site, and was the first time I had actually gone to the right place (atleast where the NPS Biotechs claim is the right place), but we still did not find the owls that night.  We had been hiking seemingly nonstop while we were in the backcountry, and it was wearing on us...the only thing that kept us going was the thought of getting back to the car, heading to Cedar City and spoiling ourselves with a night at a hotel and eating out.  Instead of camping near Currant creek, we decided to hike as far out  as we could (back to the blessed car), and made camp at about one in the morning.  Awake at seven, we packed up and cleared out, all the while dreaming of getting to stay in a hotel and eating greasy food.  The landscape very slowly unraveled as we tramped along; past the first prow of sandstone cliff, along the large amphitheater, finally up the long, steep ridge through pinyon and juniper.
Somewhere along the trail, I had suddenly thought that I should pray to God.  The feeling came from nowhere, but, as my legs trudged along, I prayed to God.  I wanted to ask for His forgiveness for not being obedient to Him.  If He truly was God and King, and He had layed down His life for a peasant like me, why do I not give my life to Him...why do I not give Him everything of mine...why am I not serving Him like someone should be who is truly grateful of being saved from eternal condemnation?  I asked for Him to reveal my sins to me...to show me what was distracting my attention from Him.  I asked Him to humble me.  And then my mind shifted, as it always seems to do after my prayers, and I went back into mental hiking mode, where thoughts of the mind just stumbled and jumbled around until I finally became conscious that our destination was near.
Up the final few steps to the parking lot...I glance over to the parking lot to see my car.  "That's funny," I think to myself, "my car doesn't look like its there...it must be behind another car."  Walking closer, I say it out loud to Steph; "My car is not here..."  She doesn't believe me, but looking up and scanning around, she sees that it is true.  Walking still closer, I enter a state of bewilderment as my eyes locate the tree I had parked under.  No car.  My heart sinks.  My first thought is that the Park Rangers got sick and tired of those derned owl researchers and towed it off.  But then I see the blackened asphalt and the tree that is now scorched and no longer green.  In place of my car, a black burn spot.  A sign on the tree:  "Jessie Devo, Call Dispatch or the Kolob Visitor Center."  I am in disbelief.  I know not what to think.  I rationalize it like everyone does when disasters happen, like "my car was towed away, and somehow there is a burnt spot in its place, but my car is fine."  But of course, reality sets in, and I know that my car has been scorched.  Shock and disbelief is all I felt.  My entire life was contained in that vehicle.  Not only was my Subaru an awesome car, perfect for my lifestyle, but I also was living out of it for the summer.  This means I had in my car: my wallet, cell phone, computer, two cameras and all their accessories, external harddrive, Ipod, a library of books, chacos and two pairs of approach shoes, backpack, binoculars, a whole suit of other gadgets and gear, and, most importantly, my left over chocolate banana bread.  With fear in my voice, I said to a Boy Scout troop leader at the trailhead, "so it looks like my car burnt down...can I borrow a phone?"  He offered to drive Steph and me to the visitor center instead.
At the visitor center, the ranger, who did a wonderful job of being truly concerned and understanding, asked me questions like "do you know anyone who would do this to your car?" and "did you have anything explosive in the vehicle?"  She showed me pictures of my vehicle before they removed it.  Only the skeleton of the frame remained...everything else was incinerated and completely reduced to ash.  Nothing was salvageable.  The license plate was the only object that wasn't completely burned, which was used to determine the owner (being my parents who found out first).  She told me the investigation could find no cause to how it started.  Apparently, it flared up around midnight two nights before (while we were peacefully sleeping in Beartrap) and had burned until seven in the morning when someone finally reported it.  The car had undergone several explosions, blowing the hatch open.  Even the glass windows had been incinerated.
  To make me feel better about the situation, my good German amigo, Flo, says, "sometimes you're the windshield, and sometimes you're the bug....and sometimes, there is no windshield."

The ranger (as well as my boss) hypothesized mice building a nest and chewing wires.  My mother thinks my binoculars were at just the right angle to magnify the suns rays on flammable material.  Others claim foul play..."those derned owler researchers..."  Steph humorously believes it was her fault; several days before, she had gone to Walmart to buy a $7 item.  After putting a $10 bill in the self-check-out machine, it gave her $42 in change.  Against her conscious and better judgement, she kept the money instead of returning it.  And it sat in my car while we were backpacking.  It was probably the money itself that flared up...
But no...I think I know better...
   All told, I lost about $5,400 in gear and $6,000 in vehicle.  My reaction to this has surprised some.  I was not sad, not depressed, not freaking out.  I was accepting of the circumstance, seemingly unaffected, almost happy about it... and for one reason... I knew God had answered my prayer...I had prayed to be humbled, to be shown my sin.  I look at the list of items I lost in the car and the price tag associated with them, and I am disgusted.  The materialistic world had been swallowing me ever so slowly, and I had not noticed it.  I had been utterly consumed, and thus blinded to my sin.  I had begun worshiping my things...my camera, my computer, my pictures, my gear.  All my attention was focused on stuff...and very little focused on God.  I said before that my entire life was contained in my Subaru, but I found this to be wrong...everything contained in my car was my sin, and God had swallowed it up, leaving nothing.
An act of God then...?

But what is most fortunate about this unfortunate occurrence is that no one was hurt or killed.  No nearby cars were affected (there was only one car in the parking lot that was several spaces away).  No wildfires were started.  Nobody's life was ruined.  It is odd that such a thing has happened to me, but in all reality, it is such a small thing.  I have a story and adventure to tell, but no real damage has been done.  There are others who are going through much more trying and hard times.  I am thinking of Peter Brightbill and his family, and what they are going through.
My insurance covers all my personal belongings inside that were lost, but not the vehicle.  And this is where the challenge really begins--avoiding becoming so materialistic as I was before and making better choices regarding the things I buy.  I do not want to live with so much accumulated, insignificant, and unimportant things.  I am also avoiding buying a car right now.  It would be great to go without one for as long as possible.  Same with a computer.  A camera would be nice (since I was really getting in to photography while in Zion and took some photos that amazed me [all lost in the fire!]), but I'm going to wait until the "right" camera for me hits the market.

But maybe its too late...I can feel the slimy fingers of materialism creeping through the "need" and "want" isles of my brain.  I've already purchased brand new Chacos!
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*My uncle lovingly questioned my perspective regarding the sin of materialism, and after rereading this post, it is not as clear as it should be.  Here is what I replied to him to clear this issue:


"I do not think that having lots of "stuff" is necessarily sinful.  It boils down to what you are worshiping.  If you are worshiping your gear and stuff, then = sinful.  If you have a lot of stuff with a God-worshiping attitude, then not so.  When the event in Zion occurred, I realized how much of my attention had been on my gear all my life, and not on God.  I was looking at gear to make me happy and fulfill my needs.  This was the basis of what I meant to get across in my blog, and now that I read it again, it is not clear.  It does sound like I am just attacking materialism, but I meant to be attacking my own wrongful focus on gear and not God.  I love my gear, but I also know that it all comes from God and for that I am thankful.


So with that basis, my blog probably should have read something more like, or had a theme of, avoiding becoming a gear worshiper, not just avoiding becoming materialistic.  I guess that is how I subconsciously defined materialism:  the amassment of stuff without regard to the Provider."



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