KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Memoir: 622 words

This Too Shall Pass

by Ray Rasmussen
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

—James 1:2-4 (The Bible, English Standard Version)

Lichens Growing on Stone, photographed by Ray Rasmussen
“Lichens Growing on Stone,” photographed by Ray Rasmussen
Jasper National Park, Canadian Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Canada
Copyright © by Ray Rasmussen. All rights reserved.

Another friend with health problems. I dislike words like “always,” “never,” “no one,” and “everyone,” because little in life is so black and white. Yet it seems that everyone I know is (or has a friend or spouse or parent or child) afflicted with an infirmity that presages death. If James is right, by being steadfast in our faith, we all have the potential to reach a state akin to perfection. I think he’s referring to a state that comes in an afterlife.

This period of life brings mind to an experience in Utah where I’ve spent many spring-times hiking desert canyons. I often travel off-trail because I enjoy the adventure. One route I particularly like has a number of steep climbs, a tree and chimney to descend, and a deep crevasse to jump. On my first jump across, I paused on the other side, approached on hands and knees, peered into the darkness, and was surprised to see a deer wedged sideways in the crack, antlers up. From that first visit onward, I called the route, Dead Deer Pass.

Because the antlers had only two spikes, I guessed the buck was relatively young. What happened that an animal able to jump much farther than I can, didn’t make it? Although sandstone is wind-polished, it normally provides a strong grip for boots and, of course, hooves. Early settlers gave it the name “slickrock” because their horses’ metal shoes tended to slip on it when wet. When the lichens that grow on the stone balloon up with moisture, slickrock becomes even more slippery and often treacherous.

It must have been a difficult death. Crevasses tend to be wider at the top than at the bottom. Fall in and the body becomes wedged between the walls. Struggling increases the entrapment because gravity works to pull the body deeper.

Because I like that particular route, I’ve returned year after year. Each visit revealed less flesh, then less skin, then only an intact skeleton still suspended six feet down. And as the ligaments weathered, the bones finally had fallen into the bottom of the crevasse, 30 feet below. Last week, 20 years after the deer’s leap of faith, I could see but a few bones at the bottom.

Once “we” (my friends) were like the deer, immortal. We climbed, skied and kayaked, and crossed busy urban streets without concern. But not so long ago, the healthy deer that was “us” fell into mortality’s crevasse. Like the deer, “we” didn’t immediately land on the bottom, but parts of “us” are now missing: friends, family, animal companions, even an ancient juniper that I used to love to see on the trail.

So how are we to make sense of James’ admonition to count it all joy? Along with my sense of loss, from him I get an added burden, a sense of failure, an inability to find solace in a faith that seems not to comprehend that there is no afterlife, that all things shall pass.

This year, I plan a small ceremony in which I’ll add my confirmation bible to the deer’s resting place.


Author’s Note:
The adage, “This too shall pass” (“All things shall pass”), is attributed to Persian Sufi Poets and also found in Jewish Folklore. From Wikipedia, January 12, 2016:

Webmaster’s Note:
Image of lichens growing on stone is reproduced here by photographer’s permission. An enlarged view is available at his gallery: Jasper National Park.

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