J said something to me once that I still think about occasionally. During a camping trip in October of 2005 we had climbed up a ridge (near Priest lake, not far from Sandpoint) and we were looking across the hills toward Washington, Canada, and Montana – all while standing in Idaho. A Four-Corners of the Pacific Northwest. It was a pretty concept, looking out at the horizon and thinking about all those borders being so nearby – as if in seeing them we could somehow see the whole of those regions that lay beyond our vision.
The sun was sinking lower in the west and I suddenly noticed the shadow of our ridge stretching out to touch a slope to the east. The rim of the shadow was highlighted by a warm evening-glow, and because the sky was mostly overcast there was one segment of land stood apart from and above all the rest. It was a small, shining piece of sunset in the autumnal gloom.
“Check that out,” I called to J.
He looked. “God’s highlighter,” he said. “It tells us what we need to be looking at.”
I’m not religious, but truth speaks with many different vocabularies. J had a point. “Like studying for a test,” I said. “Maybe on our deathbeds we’ll be asked, ‘So, what did you pay attention to during your life?’” I paused. “ . . . That’s actually a really good question.”
It’s the question, really. What do you pay attention to?