I wonder as I wander out under the sky…

So read the words of the old Appalachian Advent hymn, and really, is there any better time or place to ponder the big questions of life (or even the small ones that you otherwise never think of) than when you are far away from the daily distractions of computers and the myriad other “conveniences” of modern life?  Apart from traveling for the sake of seeing and experiencing new places (which I love to do), what takes me away from my urban life?  Well, when the weather turns cold and the old year fades away and the calendar is on its last page it is time to dig out the boots and outdoor clothing, to clean and oil the shotgun and to reconnect with old friends for the start of the annual pilgrimage to the woods on Saturday mornings for the next couple of months.  It is rabbit hunting season once more.  Now if you know anything about rabbit hunting you will know that it typically involves a pack of noisy beagles and a group of men wandering (apparently aimlessly) around in the woods and fields following the dogs as they seek to stir up rabbits and get them running.  Surprisingly though, there are times of perfect quiet and stillness when the hounds are not baying and cannot be heard snuffling around in the undergrowth, when the rabbits are secure in their hiding place and the hunters are spread out and waiting patiently for something to happen.  It is in those moments when the eye catches the splendor of the natural world in its minutia, the ear is attuned to the smallest sounds and the heart and mind are open to contemplation.
To witness the spectacle of horizontal shafts of early morning sunlight piercing through the trees on a frosty morning is to capture the moment when the pine needles are festooned with gems and the hard ground is broadcast with emeralds and rubies.
To stand in a clearing in the woods and hear nothing but the slightest rustle of small birds moving through the undergrowth is to realize how crowded and noisy our days have become and to appreciate the beauty of silence.
To smell the fresh air of the countryside, the earthiness of the soil and the decaying ground cover disturbed by moving feet is to reconnect oneself with the land in ways we have forgotten in our urban lifestyle.
These are the times when the heart and mind are open to the wonder of life and the beauty of those words “Be still and know that I am God” resonate deeply within the soul.  As I grow older the hunt is becoming less important (although the sound of a pack of beagles hot on the trail of a rabbit is still a thrill) and the time in fellowship with friends, in solitary meditation and the refreshing of the spirit is far more gratifying.  That is the essence of a good day in the woods and the reason why I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

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