Peace, Independence Day, and the Winsor Trail

This Independence Day, I have found myself reflecting on context of the Declaration of Independence, and how Americans still strive and fight for the same ideals today.  In 1776, the Declaration identified the values on which this new nation would be founded and the philosophy of this new government.  America was born as a country in which all people are created equal and have the same basic rights, and the purpose of government would be to secure these "God-given" human rights including "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  The colonists had seemingly unwavering hope and faith in the creation of this new nation, mutually pledging "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" to these free and independent states.

Yet, despite this foundation composed of freedom and equality for all human beings, here we are, almost 250 years later, still fighting for equality and justice in our country.  We still live in a country where people are discriminated against on the basis of gender, skin color, religion, and other factors, where millions of people lack basic health care coverage and access to medical services, and where the government not only doesn't protect our basic human rights, but actually tries to take away reproductive rights from its own citizens.  And yet, there is also hope that rings true in the words of the Declaration, for it was written in a time when peace was still a very distant concept.  The war would last several more years after the Declaration was signed, yet the revolutionaries retained hope that they would survive.  Similarly, in our current political climate that seems hopeless at times, the Declaration reminds us to hold onto hope that the ideals of America will ring true someday, even though the battle is not nearly over.

I went to church this past Sunday, and I always feel not only inspired but also connected to the past and to people all over the world when the Pastor relates Biblical readings to the truths of today.  In the scripture, when the Prophet Hananiah predicted that Israel's exile would soon be over, Jeremiah approached Hananiah and refuted this prophesy, stating that it would still take a long time and years of sacrifice before the people would see peace and justice.  I couldn't help but notice the connection between these conversations and events thousands of years ago and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

All these thoughts of what it means to be an American, of hope for the future and fighting for justice and peace, were running through my head as I hiked the Winsor trail with Kua and Ady during the Independence Day weekend.  What better way to experience peace, to be alone with my thoughts, and to connect with people of previous decades and centuries than in nature.  Sometimes in the mountains, I think about those who have walked these trails before me.  When I see a carving in a tree, how long has it been there?  40 years?  80 years?  150 years?  And what was life like when they wrote those words?  And did they think about the people of the future?  Were these trails explored in more peaceful times?  And will there be more peaceful times again?  The forest is rich with green leaves and wildflowers right now, and I am always in awe of the resiliency and determination of wildflowers to survive in dry and harsh climates, returning year after year to add beauty to the world.

Wildflowers in bloom

The beautiful glow of Aspens in the sun

Water flowing in the creek

Vibrant flowers

I love these little purple ones

Mom and her girls

Happy Independence Day!  America really is great, not because of our current leadership, or because of our economy, but because we can think and say what we'd like, we can choose our own path, we can rise from "rags to riches," we can embrace individualism, and we can believe wholeheartedly in peace.

Happy 4th of July!


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