I’ve had the privilege of visiting some wonderful national parks in the last few months – from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon to the Smoky mountains. They were all spectacular in their own ways, completely awesome – whether you use the word as slang or as originally intended!

But perhaps what was even more awe-inspiring were all the people we encountered at each of these spots (at a social distance of course). Wherever we went it was like seeing a microcosm of the country, correction; the world. From the variety of languages to the variation in dress, from bikers to those covered in tattoos, from very young to very old, these spots of incredible beauty attract literally everyone.

Why is that? I think it’s because not only do we all connect with beauty but on a much deeper level, we all want to be uplifted, to be elevated, to be awed. We all want to transcend the mundane, to lift above the ordinary, to touch the Divine. We all want to reach God.

I don’t think everyone names it like that but I think it’s the true basic instinct. Not only do these sights (which seems like such a pedestrian word to describe such grandeur) take us out of ourselves, out of our daily concerns and concerns, not only do such experiences give us perspective, the really do lift us out of this world.

We all get too caught up in life’s hassles and trivialities. We all forget to take moments to reach out. We all know, on some very primal level, that there is more to life than mortgages and car leases. We all want to see natural beauty.

Nachmanides said (and I am paraphrasing) that “nature is just miracles we are used to.” We don’t notice the roses outside our doors or the trees in our backyards. But we wish we did. We really want to. That’s why we get in our cars (the ones whose leases we were worrying about) and drive hours and hours just to get a glimpse. (Corona silver lining: the parks were significantly less crowded allowing for even more amazing views). We know that beauty will elevate us. We know we will connect with the Eternal – and we want it so badly, so desperately.

Seeing the whole gamut of humanity at the national parks gave me hope. We were all unified and connected in our awe and wonder and appreciation of the world God has created for us.

I wasn’t just checking off items on my bucket list (I actually don’t even believe in bucket lists but that’s another story), but I don’t think I anticipated all the ramifications of these trips to the parks.

I was elevated by the vistas and I was elevated watching the awe on the faces of my fellow visitors.

The Almighty gives us so many different opportunities to be grateful; I’m working on appreciating the nuances of all of them. And I’m glad I pushed past my fear of heights to go to the Grand Canyon even though I kept yelling at my husband, “You promised me you wouldn’t go near the edge!”