My father and I took a day last week to go to Lake Crescent in the Olympic National Park in Washington State. It was the first time either of us had seen this part of the park. The lake itself is a gem, nestled between forested hills. When we arrived, the water was perfectly calm and mirrored the mountains and sky.
While we were there, we hiked from the lodge on the lake to Marymere Falls. Along the way, we heard the waters of Barnes Creek, marveled at old-growth Douglas fir trees, and finally climbed to view the cascade falling 90 feet to a clear mountain pool.
After I returned home, this past Sunday in church, our congregation sang “How Great Thou Art.” As we sang the second verse, I was immediately back in the Olympic National Forest:When through the woods and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees, When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze, Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
This song is based on a poem written in 1885 by Swedish poet Carl Gustav Boberg, and the soaring melody is a Swedish folk song. Yet the verse describes perfectly what my father and I saw that day.
But then, the forests of Sweden and of Washington State probably don’t look that different. Douglas fir trees are native to the Pacific Northwest. But Swedish evergreens and creeks probably brought the same praise to Carl Boberg’s lips and pen that later creations did to Stuart Hine’s. And these men’s experiences of the divine were no more powerful than mine in the Olympic forest last week.
What songs evoke memories for you of places you have been?