In a patient process that alternates agitation with a gentle slipping of the layer that has risen to the top, bit by bit we reduce the contents of our pans, careful not to wash so vigorously that the gold we court with such care slips out with the sand.
Bit by bit we reduce the contents until there, hugging the pan in the midst of the final clean grains of sand, a piece of gold smiles up at us. Apart from the thrill of history and the magic of walking where gold seekers of 1849 also walked, I am struck with the process of panning itself and the strong parallels between the search for physical gold and the finding of treasure in realms other than the world we see with our eyes.
and certainly we see none as we survey this particular Northern California creek. But that's to be expected. Below the ripples where the water slows, we scoop up a mixture of dirt, sand, and gravel, and to the accompaniment of birdsong, we wash the mud from the sand and gravel, agitating, stratifying, rinsing until the water runs clear.
When looking at all the gravel and mud, it may be hard to believe any treasure exists. It's tempting to give up half-way or almost at the end, when nothing has yet come to light. And not every pan shows "color". We may wash through three or four shovels of stream bed for every litle piece of gold. Still, the truth remains: real gold lies hidden there.
In much the same way, whether treasure obscures itself in the hearts and souls of the people around us; lies quiet in the every-day-ness of our own lives; or waits in the realm of the Spirit for us to find that which the God of creation has hidden for us, the analogy holds true. Value and worth is there, but rarely does it lie on the surface--easily seen, easily found. No, we must search for it, eyes ever watchful for the gleam, and sometimes, there is much mud, sand, and gravel to sift through before something of value shines out.
It was a good afternoon, full of friends and laughter and fresh air, more precious than the small bits of gold we found. Indeed, mere gold cannot compare to the wonders awaiting discovery within ourselves, our fellow man, our kind Creator.
Even one glimpse into these eternal realms surpasses mere earthly wealth, for to know each other, to know ourselves, and to know God in His infinite beauty--these are quests grand enough to last a lifetime, worthy of countless days spent thus pursuing.
And to each goldseeker belongs the knowledge that of all things they could do in this life, what they have chosen and the treasure they find will remain long after the riches of this earth have perished.