Finding a place in the mountains we all connect with: #churchoftheoutdoors |

Finding a place in the mountains we all connect with: #churchoftheoutdoors

The soliditude of the mornings on the mountain often can be spiritual. #churchoftheoutdoors
David Krause / The Aspen Times

There was a room in my grandparents’ house that the boys in the family always stayed in when we spent the night.

Their house in Detroit was built in the early 1900s and my mother lived there until my parents were married in the early 1960s. It was an old, kind of creaky place off Woodward Avenue, just blocks from the old state fairgrounds for those Michiganders in the audience. The house is gone now, but the memories remain vivid.

When my grandfather died a few years after my grandmother passed, one of the few things I wanted was a painting they had of Jesus. It isn’t one of those forlorn, somber depictions of him walking through the streets of Jerusalem or hanging on the cross.

Instead, it was from what I’ve found to be a series of “Smiling Jesus” images. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of paintings and drawings of a smiling Jesus; just do a Google search and you can go down a rabbit hole. But I’ve never seen another one like this one.

It’s not overdone with a goofy, teethy grin or arms out welcoming children or holding a lamb. Instead, it is a calming image of him looking up and to the left with just a soft smile and thoughtful eyes. At night, I would look at that and come up with ideas of what he was thinking about; it would help make that old house feel less intimidating.

When we left Detroit in 1976 and moved to Oklahoma, I was introduced to the world of other religions. We kept our Catholic roots, and I even went to a very small Catholic junior college in Oklahoma and learned more about faith.

I’ve since left behind the idea of organized religion, but still feel religious. These days, I spend my Sunday mornings at the church I’m most connected to: the outdoors. Be it snowboarding in the winter or hiking, fishing, camping or biking in the summers, like many of us in the mountains, I have found my place.

The solitude and beauty of an early morning alone on a trail or standing near a river is unparalleled. It brings an incredible amount of perspective of our place on this Earth but also a peacefulness I never really found inside a building.

For a few years now, more of my early morning social media posts from the mountains include the tag #churchoftheoutdoors. This weekend, a friend of mine posted her morning photos on the mountain with #mychurch and it made me smile.

Today, this week or anytime really, when you’re feeling the greatness of the outdoors and find yourself taking a pause, I invite you to share it. When you get back with your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter tribe, think about #churchoftheoutdoors and what it means to you.

Share an image and the moment with your friends. You might be surprised how many people you connect with on a different level and give them a reason to smile and feel a bit more calm.

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