I’ve wanted to live in Colorado for a while and in a mountain town with a ski hill even longer, but if you had told me last year I’d be living in Steamboat in 2015, I would have laughed.
When going through the application and placement process with the nation-wide Episcopal Service Corps, I planned on going to grad school to start a higher degree in American Religion in 2016. I wanted to spend this year somewhere in the US where the religious landscape was very different than California (where I went to high school and college), and also try to get some culture shock, since I was feeling a little complacent in my west coast comfort zone. I had applied to Colorado because the state and its mountains appealed to me, but I planned to go to Fayetteville, Arkansas.
To quote Catie, our Centennial House director, I made a plan and God laughed. Honestly, I was scared living in CO for a year would be “too fun”, but when the program in Fayetteville did not run this year, I took that as a sign and started packing my ski gear.
This isn’t the first time I made a plan and God laughed. During college I had a somewhat distressing discernment process in which I decided to depart from my teenage dream of working for the UN. After high school, I intended to study some kind of physical science and some kind of social science that would be at least a little compatible with my goal of working in international relations. In 2011, the summer after I graduated, I was fortunate to be able to travel to Jerusalem with my Israeli friend. One day, while standing on a roof in the old city, I looked out over the intermixed religious symbols or crosses, stars, and moons, and made an inspired decision to study religion. I planned to incorporate this into my international relations dream, thinking to work against religious violence.
In college, God’s laughing took the form of some fantastic classes and inspirational professors. While studying religion at UCSB, I was sidetracked by a few classes, including “Religion in America Today” and “New Religious Movements”, fell in love with the study of contemporary American religion, and made the hard decision to pursue an academic career in Religious Studies. That brought here, me to my year with ESC.
I think God may be laughing again. After living in Steamboat for almost two months, I am dreading the day when I have to leave. I knew I would enjoy living in the mountains, but I didn’t realize how much my living location could add to my life. This afternoon, the other Centennial House members and I hiked to the summit of Hahn’s Peak, a 10,800 ft mountain less than an hour north of our house. I’ve always loved the wilderness, but I think I am slowly discovering how important getting out there is to my spirit.
We have an ongoing project within the Colorado ESC to take photos of “how God sees the world”, and I’ve that all the photos I take are on hikes. In California, I used to stare at or swim in the ocean to feel close to God. The power of the waves and the tide made me feel at once connected to creation and in awe of its creator. Here, it seems looking out over the vast mountains of Colorado functions in a similar way.
I had a plan for which grad schools I was applying to and what I wanted to study, but I’m pretty sure God is looking at that plan and cracking up. Through laughter, I think he’s telling me to pay more attention to myself in each moment rather than try to make and stick to such specific long-term plans. I guess he knows far better than I do where I’ll be years down the road.
Hopefully, by the end of the year God and I will have figured out a plan that works for both of us, so I’ll keep you updated on that.
P.S. – Everyone should try to make the peach shortbread Georgi posted the recipe for, they were delicious!