Bifocal Vision

One of the most challenging and rewarding photographic trips I’ve ever undertaken involved going to a section of the Paria (pronounced pah-REE-ah) Canyon – Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in northern Arizona. On topographic maps, you might see this small area labeled as North Coyote Buttes. But in photography circles, it’s known simply as “The Wave”.

To state that getting there is difficult would be a bit of an understatement. Access is by permit only. A maximum of twenty people per day are allowed into this ecologically sensitive area. Applications outnumber permits by at least four to one. And getting a permit is the easy part.

Seeing this area involves hiking 3 miles across soft sand and steeply sloping rock. For virtually the entire trip, there is no trail. People who journey to the area must do so via navigation from landmarks. This high risk area averages one search-and-rescue a week.

But for those who successfully complete the trek, the reward is a sight like nothing else on our planet. Bands upon bands of orange-red sandstone undulate across the landscape weaving patterns of visual wonder.

This trip has a requirement that those people who wear bifocals will easily identify with. Successfully navigating this terrain involves keeping the landmark or goal ahead in sight while also being conscious of each step along the way. Not watching where you walk can result in a sprained ankle (or worse). But losing sight of where you should be headed can also have adverse consequences, the least of which is temporarily becoming lost.

Similarly, I’ve found that the path of faith also involves using both distant and near “vision” to stay on course. Over-emphasis on the goal ahead can result in me being “so heavenly-minded that I’m no earthly good”. At the same time, I need to be careful not to become lost in the daily labyrinth of a world that has few useful landmarks. Max Lucado expressed it well when he wrote, “Hope of the future is not a license for irresponsibility in the present.”

Bifocal vision. That’s the key.