There is something desperately beautiful about the wilderness. There is so little of it left on earth and almost none in my daily life. Winding my way through the tiniest part of the Okefenokee Swamp this afternoon via boat and tour guide made me long to get out in a kayak with supplies for a week or two and just lose myself in the swamp.
But people have lost themselves in the swamp, which is the benefit of hiring a guided boat. You get to come out alive and hear the stories of those who barely made it out and others who were not so lucky. We covered just a tiny part of the 438,000 acres in the reserve, and I was already lost in the endless trails of lily pads, with the cypress and pines trailing spanish moss and the purple bladderwort floating everywhere. Every bend looks the same, and every break hints at a trail that really isn't there. With weather already unusually low in temperature (anything under 90 is unusually low in South Georgia in the summer) and a storm rolling in, we were almost cold as we maneuvered through our tiny slice of swamp prairies. Imagine getting hypothermia in South Georgia in July. Never thought that was possible until today.
Despite the stories of people lost in the swamp, despite the threat of being alone in the dark among alligators and giant snapping turtles, and despite the bugs, I think I'm in love with the Okefenokee. I mean the Grand Canyon was beautiful and all, but she's nothing compared to the swamp.
I keep thinking of a quote from Hinds Feet on High Places. Since I don't have it with me, here's the best I can do:
Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible, terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or imperfect to remain in the beloved.I think that's why I'm in love with the wilderness. It reminds me of the terrible love of God. God's extravagant beauty is needlessly excessive, intricate in the tiniest of details, like how the flower of the water lily closes up each night, submerging itself at dusk and reemerging each morning. But his love is also harsh and demanding, stripping away sin and building holiness through any means available. And yet, like the call of the swamp, I want to pack my boat full of provisions and paddle off into his presence, even if it kills me. Because despite the devastating shame of sin, despite the grief of loss, and despite the pain of failure, I think I'm in love.