As we enter into the holiday season, it is interesting to think about the role of ritual in our lives. The rites of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the other religious / cultural holidays are so ingrained and commercialized that it is easy to lose sight of the role they were intended to fill in our lives. Yes, we really need thanksgiving, we really need to gather together to mark the deep-darkest days of winter knowing that rebirth, light and spring are always coming - always present.
One of my annual rituals is a pilgrimage to my favorite place in the Texas Hill Country: the area around Lost Maples State Natural Area in Bandera and Real counties. This is a region of high ridges, scenic roads and beautiful canyons carved by cypress-lined streams with evocative names: the Nueces, Frio, Sabinal and Medina rivers.
I think of my annual trip to Lost Maples as a ritual because I have been traveling to this area for nearly thirty years - and not just traveling - but gathering with dear friends for a few days of deep engagement with one another and a special place.
In the Lost Maples park itself, a series of trails follow usually dry creek beds through beautiful limestone canyons, past colorful maples, gently flowing springs, and a unique assortment of native plants and fauna.
Here are a few images from this year's pilgrimage. I give thanks for good friends and star-lit nights along the banks of the Sabinal.