By Fr. Nick Kotsis - In 1990, our family went on a trip, by car, to California. Both of my parents have relatives in southern California, and they decided for us to see the country on this particular trip out to Los Angeles. I think for all of us, that was the greatest trip we ever took.
The first night we reached Des Moines. The second night, we reached Denver. The third night, my parents had booked rooms in Las Vegas. On the way out of Denver, though, the sights and national parks seemed to get more and more extraordinary as we went. We meandered through the Rockies and could not get enough of the rugged mountains that towered beyond anything we could have imagined being from Michigan! Some of the peaks were still snow-capped and the colors of some peaks seemed to change from gray to purple to blue depending on how the sun hit them. (In a massive traffic jam in the middle of the Rockies, we waited so long people got out of their cars to pass the time and take pictures. I remember my brothers and I seeing a couple of guys with Detroit Tiger baseball caps on and we went over to them and found out they were from Detroit. We spent a few minutes lamenting the previous, terrible season of 1989, but Cecil Fielder was on fire that summer…)
Eventually, we hit the Utah border. It resembled more of a moonscape than something terrestrial. As we pushed further into Utah, however, the sites were simply breath-taking. We passed by Moab and Arches National Park. Eventually, we found ourselves in the beautiful Fishlake National Forest. In Utah, it seemed every so many miles the scenery changed completely. From Moab to Fishlake we went from rugged desert of incredible bright oranges and yellows to the lush and green landscapes of the beautiful forest.
We kept taking our time and taking in the splendor of God’s creation.
Eventually, we were in the southwest corner of Utah and near Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. In one of the rare moments of democracy practiced by parents with us at those ages, they asked us if we should spend the night in Utah and see the parks in the morning or push on to Las Vegas. We unanimously agreed to stay in Utah. Las Vegas did not really interest us, so my parents gave up the hotel rooms.
We pulled up to a little town called Panguitch. Panguitch is about 100 miles from nowhere to the north and east and about 100 miles from the boonies to the south and west. We found a hotel later in the evening. We stopped hoping they had a room for us. I went in with my dad. The man at the desk was the proprietor of the hotel. He informed my dad that he had only one room left, but it was expensive. My dad said, “how much?” as if there was even a choice in the matter – it would have been a long ride to the next possible hotel. Then man said, “$40 bucks.” My dad replied, “We’ll take it!” (As it turned out, after talking for a bit, we learned the owner grew up in Detroit not far from where my parents grew up on the eastside!)
The room was huge. The hotel was a series of small bungalows set some distance from one another. Ours was one room, had six full-size beds in it, a full kitchen, and two bathrooms. We were clearly in Mormon country.
The next morning, we started out early and went to Bryce Canyon. Again, the color of the rock, the formations of the stone cut by eons of winds and sand brought forth images so majestic, so exhilarating that the human mind could never come close to replicating.
Zion National Park was just as awe-inspiring. Arriving a just after noon, Helios was not playing hide-and-seek amongst the formations in shadows and rays as it was upon waking in Bryce Canyon, but the playground of God’s miracle was no less beautiful.
From there we went through Las Vegas. It was interesting, but we had no desire to stop anywhere. We just wanted to get through to see Hoover Dam and the Mojave Desert. Even the Mojave was beautiful in its manifest quiet, as the sun set directly in front of us, casting immense shadows from the stoic Joshua trees that dotted the land.
My brothers and I have always been thankful that we took the time to enjoy the trip – to see as much as we could see, and to focus on nature instead of that which was man-made (except for Hoover Dam, that was a sight!). For my brothers and me, it had become the greatest example of the beautiful, the good, and the Divine that we had experienced to that point.
My friends, Bright Week is the time for us to come into direct contact with the beautiful, the good, and the Divine. Each day’s services begin with the same resurrectional proclamation that was made early last Sunday morning at the Paschal service. It is wise and important that the Church has set this week apart, and indeed, the entire forty-day period following Pascha, to continue to celebrate the greatest miracle and gift that the Lord has ever given to us: Life, through our Savior Jesus Christ.
May we proceed slowly and enjoy all the beauty, good, and life Jesus has intended for us during this period. Amen.