The family made our annual pilgrimage to the Great Smoky Mountains over the Christmas and New Year's holidays and as always it was a wonderful time to unwind, rewind, and renew. I love to walk in the mountains and I had ample opportunity to do just that.
One morning I rose early and made my way to a favorite trail, alone. A steady pace soon carried me to where the quiet majesty of the mountains enveloped me and the noise of the world receded to a faint whisper.
I am always on the alert for wildlife on this trail. I have had a near face-to-face encounter with a grand old whitetail buck - I'm not sure who was more surprised when our eyes locked at less than 10 yards. I have trailed a flock of gobblers who had little concern for my presence and contentedly scratched a pecked for their breakfast. I have seen the hind end of the fabled black bear as it skittered across the ridge top away from me. Not to mention the numerous small animals that are ever present.
The signs of life were abundant this cool, clear morning. Fresh dung from coyotes, bears, turkeys, and deer was in evidence. The scratchings and rootings of wild hogs were in abundant display. Even an old snag of a tree showed the persistent and potent work of a woodpecker. I fully anticipated seeing an animal of some sort at every turn of the trail. But my stealthy gait and sharp eye brought no satisfaction.
I finally found a tree with a welcoming set of roots to sit against and tried to let the woods forget I was there. Perhaps a deer would wander across this glade or a turkey would strut his stuff for me. The minutes passed. The stillness deepened. I was certain there were wild eyes watching me. The only disturbance was a single squirrel who paid me no attention.
I knew they were there. I had seen the signs and I desperately wanted to lay eyes on their marvelous wildness. But on this morning it was not to be.
As I sat there against that gnarled old tree in silence God quietly spoke and I strained ever so hard to hear as He explained that just because I don't see Him does not mean that He is not there. The evidence of His presence is abundant. There will be times when He surprises me by stepping out of the shadows of my busyness. There will be unexpected encounters with His greatness along the way. But in those in between times there will be abundant evidence of His passing if only I will take time to see.