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Backpacking with the SaintsWilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice$
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Belden C. Lane

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199927814

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199927814.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 June 2021

Desire: Rockpile Mountain Wilderness and Thomas Traherne

Desire: Rockpile Mountain Wilderness and Thomas Traherne

5 (p.58) Desire: Rockpile Mountain Wilderness and Thomas Traherne
Backpacking with the Saints

Belden C. Lane

Oxford University Press

A wilderness place triggers desire in unexpected ways. It plants an itch that can’t easily be satisfied. Take Rockpile Mountain in the Arcadia Valley region of the St. Francois Mountains in southeast Missouri. I’ve hiked its wilderness area numerous times, taking Little Grass Mountain Trail south to hook up with the loop trail that circles from the rocky shut-ins near the mountain’s foot to the strange “rock pile” at its crest. The place awakens desire in me every time I come. It’s nothing remarkable—a 1,305-foot knoll covered by an oak-hickory forest. Its name derives from a circle of blue granite stones atop its ridge. White settlers noticed the oddity in the early nineteenth century. Prior to their arrival, Osage and Illini peoples lived in the area, descendants of earlier Oneonta and Mississippian cultures in central Missouri and eastern Illinois. Whatever purpose it originally served, the place carries a sense of mystery to this day. The stone circle is fifteen feet in diameter. An anvil-shaped rock stands near its center, with two small cedar trees nearby. Archaeologists have excavated similar stone circles in the upper Midwest. They appear to have been ceremonial sites, possibly used by flint knappers in making stone tools or weapons. It is a good place for cutting to the heart of things—for recognizing desire as one of the soul’s hardest disciplines. Giving yourself to desire isn’t an exercise for the faint-hearted. The desert novice who passes through disillusionment is gripped by a hunger for what she has sensed but never seen in the surrounding wilderness. Stripped of grandiosity (her initial confidence in mastering challenges), she’s had a taste of something grander yet. But she lacks proof that the “elusive lion” of her deepest desire was anything more than her imagination. Keeping desire aflame in the absence of what one seeks requires stoutness of heart. It demands the relinquishment of lesser longings as well. A holy desire isn’t a warm feeling that sweeps you off your feet. It is a discipline, something you choose. The greatest desires are beyond fulfillment. They thrive on the wanting itself.

Keywords:   allurement, community, discipline, felicity, grandiosity, lions, nature, warrior archetype

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