Some scenes become crisp in clean air. When they do, they bring new meaning to words like Cathedral. The symphony of the forest can be heard coming through morning mist.

Not long ago I went to Yosemite National Park to discover a tiny church built long ago.

In my pre-journey research, I had found nothing new in the library about Yosemite’s rock walls and waterfalls. All I found were lots of words, park rangers’ efforts to describe the indescribable.

Then it leapt out!

About 100 years ago, naturalists who fought to protect Yosemite Valley, felt the need to recognize God’s handiwork, so they built a structure in which to worship. But even as they assembled the first log building, they thought it to be insignificant within the rock walls of majestic Yosemite Valley, surrounded by granite domes far exceeding in beauty and size even the largest gothic arches of cathedrals around the world.

I passed through a long tunnel, emerging from its darkness into a vast, spine-tingling vista that included El Capitan, a huge rock dome to the left, and the Bridal Veil, a waterfall to the right.

It was a vast cathedral, a new focal point of view inspired by the story of the construction of a little church, which had given purpose to this trip. It did not take long to find the chapel as I drove along the narrow roadway. There it was, its spire minisculed, backgrounded by yet another ancient rock wall.

I entered the church. Two women on their knees in prayer at the front looked back. I felt guilty for disturbing them, but they indicated by putting on their coats that they were done.

It was quiet. Someone in the chapel’s history had donated a piano, so I went up front, pulled back the protective quilt and sat down at the keyboard. It seemed a shame to break the silence, but having just gone through Christmas, the song “Emmanuel” came to mind. I played it once, played it again and sang, then pulled the cover back over the ivories, leaving just enough time for a picture taken by a friend that had decided to come along.

The scene defied description, a new interpretation of Yosemite, a giant cathedral, crystal clear and ethereal in morning mist.

More Stories