by Elizabeth deGraw Renna

In November 2011 I traveled to Yosemite National Park in California in order to attend the wedding of a very special cousin-in-law. She had chosen the date for her wedding, 11-11-11, on purpose. Happy First Anniversary to this very special couple!

On the day after the wedding last year, I mused about the following:

November 12, 2011, About 2:00 p.m.

There are so many layers to the scenery here at Yosemite and I’ve been thinking about the layers of life, how life is not one-dimensional or really even very linear, even though we think of it that way.

We say things like:

“Back then… now… what’s to come”

“Past, present, future”

“Yesterday, today, tomorrow”

We create that timeline, a sort of artificial one-dimensionality ruled by the clock and the calendar.

There are layers in every moment of time, in every experience, in every situation that we find ourselves in. But how often do we pause and slow down enough to take a closer look at the layers? Finding the layers in a moment or an experience takes time and intentionality. It requires looking closely, examining the moment in our minds and hearts, perhaps, and maybe in writing, like I feel the need to do. It requires an examination of the layers with our hearts and minds as well as with our eyes, ears, noses…. sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures all contribute to the layers, but those layers are so much more. There’s a depth to the layers of our lives that goes beyond the five senses and somehow needs to be felt by our hearts and maybe at a deeper level by our very souls.

I’ve decided today, sitting here beside the rushing water below Yosemite Falls, that Mother Nature is the best landscape architect, creating focal points, vistas, contrasts in color and texture. Or maybe She is the best decorator, an “exterior” designer of the highest caliber.

Those layers… Here by the rushing water scattered with large rocks, I wish I could walk toward the layers that I can see in the distance, downstream from where I sit. More rocks, water coursing in between them, pine trees standing tall and green, and a few deciduous trees letting their golden yellow leaves float off and away. Getting closer to those layers would change the way they look now. Getting a new perspective on a scene, any scene from life, can change things.

I was enjoying the layers of scenery here and thinking about the layers of life. One of the lessons seems to be: Keep moving forward. There are new vistas, new focal points, new perspectives, new awe-inspiring scenes just waiting…the next opportunity really is just around the bend, tomorrow or even later today, if you’re looking for it and ready to appreciate it. It may not be the mind-boggling view or scene you were hoping for… yet… but sooner or later they show up in life. Appreciating the layers of life along the way is a good idea! Every moment can’t be a “postcard from a famous place” moment.

About 4:00 p.m. Sitting by a fire in the guest lounge near my room in Curry Village

Today I found my eyes tracking and appreciating the layers in the landscape, both at Yosemite Falls and as I hiked back out through the forest to the shuttle stop.

Layers, layers, still thinking about layers.

* Layers of clothing to keep warm with and to be able to take off, one by one, if needed.

* Layers in the landscape for the eye to trace and track in a forward movement. That’s really what captured my imagination and resonated. It’s the idea of moving forward, flowing forward with the water, exploring, progressing, experiencing change. It’s that feeling of “we don’t know what’s around the bend, but let’s keep moving forward and find out what comes next”.

* The layers of a person, all the many nuances of a person’s personality and life experiences. I think about the interplay of what life gives us and how we respond and how that results in a new layer of nuance to us and for us… and in us, as well.

Sharing your layers with someone else and learning about their layers takes time. And intentionality. And awareness. Marrying someone changes your relationship and gives you opportunities to discover more layers about each other and together as a couple.

I sometimes imagine myself in a kayak, paddling on a beautiful lake edged with trees, with “bends” to approach and go around in order to see what’s next. Or sometimes in my imagination I am paddling that kayak along a narrow river, also with bends and twists beyond which I can’t see, yet. The “bends” in the landscape are different in Yosemite. The layers… the layers are complex, maybe because they are composed of trees of different types and heights, rocks of all sizes, with steep granite walls surrounding the valley with the sky beyond as the final layer.

The river here at the base of Yosemite Falls follows a course – or it takes a course – through the tumbled fall of rocks. The water branches off in several directions, from what I can see, and I discovered other bits of water (small pond-like stands of very still water covered with leaves) as I walked out of the Yosemite Falls area. The layers in the forest are enriched right now by yellow and orange leaves on the ground as well as the orange-tinted pine needles that pad the ground in layers. They are such soft-to-the-foot layers of pine needles.

So again, as I gazed at the landscape by the rushing stream and my eye moved from one layer to the next, I thought about my life’s movement and about recent events. I felt an optimism, deeply felt, that everything is OK and that everything will be OK. The landscape of my life has interesting layers and the next vista opens up as I move forward and seek it with an open mind and heart.

I am just writing and writing about layers, trying to understand the fascination I feel, the inspiration these layers have instilled in me. I am trying to find the just-right words to describe the experience of layers, today, in this moment. I want to hold onto this awareness, this feeling of connection to the layers of the forest and to the layers of my life and begin to see and appreciate and be inspired by the layers in other moments, more usual or typical day-to-day moments.

Sunday, November 13, 2011 Yosemite National Park  5:00 a.m.

I’m still thinking about layers to the landscape.

There’s depth, there’s dimension. There’s more detail, more interest when you become aware of the layers. It feels like it’s so valuable to look for the layers, to notice them, to search for them if they are not immediately obvious.

“Go below the surface”

“Go beyond the surface level”

“Dive deeper”

So this is my reminder to self: Seek out the layers that add depth and interest to a person or to a situation or to an experience. Seek out the layers in the seemingly mundane routines of life. Every moment has those layers.