The Wings Of The Morning

In keeping with the theme of my last post (flying and literature), I thought to share my favorite (or should I say favourite?) F.W. Boreham essay.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The Wings of the Morning

From “The Golden Milestone” by F.W. Boreham

first published October 1914

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I AM sitting here at the open window with my foun­tain-pen for company. It is one of those delicious evenings that so often follow upon the heels of a hot and trying day. My window faces the west, and the giant form of Mount Wellington towers up before me. It seems only a few moments ago that I came to this very window on rising, just to look at the mountain and see what kind of a day it was going to be. It was morning then. It is evening now. But where has that morning gone? It was here a few hours ago. It is here no longer. It must be somewhere. Give me its latitude and longitude. Where is it? Ah, to be sure, yonder it flies! Mount Wellington stands out bravely against a glowing sky. The clouds above its head are a moving pageant of purple and gold. There goes my morning! Away over there the sun is rising upon some other scribbler, whilst he leaves me here in the gloaming. If only I could follow, skipping over the ranges and leaping across the seas, I should see him at this very minute lighting up the old familiar scenes that I know so well. He is gilding the windows of the dear old home; he is sending the bees from the hives under the wall to the roses over the door and the lavender down the garden. He is looking down, too, on the school that will presently buzz with the same old drone of lessons, and upon the playground that holds wondrous secrets if only it could speak! Yes, the sun is vanishing over the mountain, but he is taking my morning to the old folks at Home. I am left here in the dark. In a few moments I shall have to light the gas, draw down the blinds, and leave the open window. My morning, that seemed so fair and fresh and invigorating, is gone, gone, gone; but it is pleasant to think that it is over there, and that those I know so well are revelling in its radiance.

Sitting here and losing myself in a lazy reverie like this, it occurs to me that it was this selfsame beautiful phenomenon that gave us one of the loveliest phrases in our literature. For I am not the first man since the world began who has sat watching the sunset and wondering what had become of his morning. The Jews used to do the same thing thirty centuries ago. They watched the glowing sun sink slowly into a crimson sea, and wondered upon what strange lands its beams now shone. The morning had flown. It had taken wing. It was away over there, over there, over there! And, in a fine transport of poetic rapture, one of their poets fancied himself flying after it and gazing upon the wilds where now it rested. ‘ If I take the wings of the morning,’ he cried ecstatically, ‘if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.’ As I sit here tonight thinking of the morning that has so soon left me and flown to other lands, and as I wish that I could borrow its wings—the wings of the morning— and follow in its wake, it adds a fresh charm to the cool of the evening to reflect that exactly the same sentiment surged through the soul of Israel’s sweetest singer one summer’s evening many, many years ago. Like me, he longed for the wings of the morning; and, by some strange magic, our very longing seems to give us wings more powerful than those we yearned for, and we cross, not the seas but the centuries, and enter into very pleasant fellowship

We have all smiled at the old story of the boy who set out to find the pot of gold that was said to be hidden at the foot of the rainbow. The beautiful bow eluded him as he clambered up the hills and scampered down the valleys. And although he never came upon the jar of precious metal, it was wonderful how much he gained in the course of his quest. We have smiled, I say, at the story; but it is the history of the world in miniature. It is Herodotus and Caesar, Grote and Gibbon, Carlyle and Freeman, Hume and Macaulay, all condensed into the compass of an exquisite picture. For, when you come to think of it, what is the difference between looking at the rainbow and then setting out to find the pot of gold, and looking at the sunset and starting off to find the vanished morning? And, ever since our little race began, men have watched their mornings receding over the horizon each evening, and have felt their fancy stirred beyond endurance by the thought of the unknown lands to which that departing dawn had flown. And, like the boy in search of the foot of the rain­bow, they have pushed their little vessels out into the tossing western seas in their effort to follow the dying gleam and track the retreating daybreak. The mind of man loves to be teased and taunted by such things. I knew a little maiden, years ago, whose brother left home on a long holiday. At length the day arrived when Arthur was to come home, and Jessie was to go to meet him. As soon as it was light, the little maid was wide awake, clapping her hands in her excitement.

‘Whatever is wrong with you, Jessie?’ her mother asked. ‘Why don’t you lie down and go to sleep?

‘Oh, I can’t go to sleep, mother,’ Jessie replied; ‘Arthur’s coming home!’

‘But that’s nothing,’ the mother reasoned; ‘Arthur teases you, you silly girl!’

‘Oh, yes, mother,’ Jessie admitted, ‘but I love to be teased’

I am inclined to think that poor artless little Jessie was speaking, not for herself alone, but for the whole wide world; only she had more candour and less reserve than characterizes most of us. If, like her, we blurted out the whole truth, we should confess that we dearly love to be teased. We love the mountains that dare us to scale them; we love the seas that challenge us to cross them; we love the Poles that proudly defy our approach. These are the things that have teased the fancy of Man and lured him to his finest exploits. We owe more than we can tell to the wings of the morning. ‘Westward the course of empire takes its way!’ exclaimed Bishop Berkeley two centuries age. But why? Why has civilization always moved towards the sunset? Why did it pass from Asia to Europe, from China to Persia, from Persia to Assyria, from Assyria to Greece, from Greece to Rome, from Rome to Britain, and spread from Britain across to America?

It was simply because men were lured round the world in pursuit of the vanishing mornings. ‘After the morning!’ they cried, and pursued the setting sun. They could not bear to think in the summer evenings that the morning now played on lands which they had never seen. And so they took the wings of the morning and set out for the West. And thus it came about that the morning, moving westward, across sea and land, drew men on and on and on until the entire globe had been girdled and the whole world won. The moon may draw the tides in her train; but the morning leads the nations on. Civilization has marched through the ages to the watchword of ‘Westward Ho!’. Man has always been hunting the morning.

It is getting darker now, and I can scarcely see to write. But as I watch the last faint tints die away from the leaden clouds about the mountain, I find it good to reflect that my sunset means some other’s sunrise. The morning is over there, and somebody is revelling in its sweetness and saying that it is good to be alive. And here am I in the dusk. And so, all unsuspecting, I stumble upon something substitutionary, something vicarious, something like a sacrament, in these fading, flickering hues about the mountain’s brow. I am plunging into darkness that some one else may enjoy the day. I am feeling it chilly and cold that some one else may laugh in the glorious sunshine. I am about to lie down and abandon myself to sleep, Death’s own twin sister, that some one else over there in the land of the morning may wake up and feel the rush and riot of new life surging tumultuously through every vein. If only I can manage to remember this, it will often cheer me in the darkness. Have I lost my beautiful morning? It is bathing some other face in sunshine. Is my day waning? Some other is waxing. The old leaves fall off only because the new buds are pushing their way through. ‘I must decrease,’ cried John the Baptist bravely, ‘but He must increase!’ And that fine philosophy, if only I can make it my own, will help me, even when my last sun sets, to greet the unseen with a cheer.

Yes, to greet the unseen with a cheer. For God is the God of the unseen, the unknown, the unex­plored. That is what David saw in the sunset thirty centuries ago, although I am so gross that I fear I should never have noticed it. Follow the morn­ing; and to whatever barren rock or coral reef or sylvan isle or spreading continent it may lead you, you will discover Jesus standing as of old upon the shore; ‘If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me.’ What a comfort that has been to all our pioneers and pathfinders. There lies before me an ancient map of the world, which an old pilot showed to King Henry VII in the year 1500. All over the unexplored territory I find written ‘Here be dragons,’ ‘Here be demons,’ ‘Here be sirens,’ ‘Here be savages that worship devils,’ and so on. But David wrote across the whole of the unexplored, ‘Here is God!’ And David’s version has proved, after all, to be very much nearer to the truth. I have had the great honour of holding two pastorates—one in New Zealand and one in Tasmania. In New Zealand no name is more honoured than that of Bishop Selwyn; in Tasmania none is more cherished than that of Sir John Franklin. Now here is a striking and impres­sive coincidence! When young Selwyn landed in New Zealand, that country was the land of the Maori, and the Maori had the reputation of being the most ferocious of cannibals. The youthful Bishop looked around upon a land of volcanic wonders and of the most unusual vegetation. When Sunday came, he conducted his very first service in the new land. Turning for a moment from the natives to his white companions, he exclaimed, ‘A great change has taken place in the circumstances of our natural life; but no change which need affect our spiritual being. We have come to a land where not so much as a tree resembles those of our native country. All visible things are new and strange; but the things that are unseen remain the same.’

And he took as the text of that first sermon in New Zealand these very words: ‘If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me!’ He had found the land on which the sun shone after it had set in England; he had reached the land of his long-lost mornings; and he discovered to his delight that, whenever the morning broke on those strange scenes, Jesus invariably stood on the shore.

And now for Sir John Franklin! Sir Francis Leopold McClintock, away in Arctic seas, found a boat-load of bones, representing all that remained of Sir John Franklin and his gallant companions. And with the bones there were Bibles. And in one of those Bibles these same words were marked and underlined: ‘If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me.’ The wings of the morning took Selwyn to the far South, and the wings of the morning took Franklin to the far North, but when­ever a morning broke on those new and strange horizons Jesus was in His old place. ‘When the morning was come Jesus stood on the shore.’  You may steer your craft to what land you will, but you will always find Him there.

I was reading the other day the Life of Andrew Fuller, by his son. One of the most affecting pages relates to the great man’s prodigal son, Robert. To the unspeakable grief of his father, Robert ran away to sea, and died off Lisbon in 1809. In a sermon preached on the Sunday after the receipt of the mournful news, the good man seemed to take great comfort from the words, ‘If from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him.’ ‘Some,’ he said, ‘are far from home, and have no friend in their dying moments to speak a word of comfort, but He is near. When Jonah was compassed about by the floods, when the billows and the waves passed over him, he prayed to the Lord, and the Lord heard him.’ Here Mr. Fuller gave vent to his feelings, and many who knew his dark secret wept with him. Later and fuller intelligence proved that the father had been speaking almost prophetically, for, during his last days, Robert was known to all his shipmates as a sincere and devout Christian man. Robert had taken the wings of the morning and flown to the uttermost parts of the sea; but he saw the Saviour walking on the waves, and, whenever he drew near to land, Jesus stood on the shore.

One of these days I shall set out on my own great voyage of exploration. I shall see my last sun sinking, and shall set out for the land that is mantled with the flush of morning. I shall leave behind me all the old familiar things, and shall sail out into the unknown, the unseen, the unexplored.  I shall be surrounded on every hand by the wonders that here were beyond me, by the mysteries that here baffled my comprehension. I shall see strange sights and hear unwonted sounds. But it will be all right. For when I take the wings of the morn­ing, and fly out into the uttermost of the utter­most, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me! In a little Cambridgeshire churchyard there stands a tombstone whose epitaph is more than a century old. It records the names of two aged sisters, and the text that follows their names is simply this: ‘When the morning was come, Jesus stood on the shore!’ And, really, it would be very difficult to find a passage more cheer­ing or appropriate. But there is no tinge of gold in the scudding clouds now; it is too dark for writing; they are lighting the gas behind me; I must draw the blinds and go~

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Flights of Fancy

I would like to say that the current topic was inspired by our zip-lining experience this past weekend (to celebrate my wife’s birthday we all went as a family to http://www.historicbanningmills.com/ which is just 20 minutes down the road from us).  What fun it was – flying through the air hooked on to a steel cable!  Well anyway, I already had this topic in mind but the zip-lining gave me the momentum I needed to get writing. 🙂

Flying has always fascinated me for as long as I can remember.  I can’t recall my earliest interest in aviation but I do know that as a boy my hero was none other than that intrepid airman, Biggles – Bigglesworth of the Royal Flying Corp to be precise.  He was a character created by Captain W.E. Johns and I followed the adventures of he and his compatriots through the two World Wars and the Cold War that followed.  Captain Johns knew how to capture a boy’s imagination.  So much so that when I was old enough, in my early teen years, I joined the Air Training Corp (a youth organization which is part of the Royal Air Force).  There, I was finally able to realize my dream of flying – first in an open cockpit glider then in a small single engine trainer plane.  I can still recall donning the parachute and flying helmet prior to ascending to fly over Southwest England where we performed some aerobatics that had me looking “up” at the earth.  I was hooked!

In the years since then I have taken to the sky in commercial jet liners, in a closed cockpit sailplane over Stone Mountain, GA, in a hot air balloon over Napa Valley, CA and para-sailing over the Gulf of Mexico in Destin, FL.  Give me the opportunity and I’ll take to the sky in a heartbeat.  One item, high on my bucket list, is to fly in an open cockpit biplane – but when I get up there I may not want to come back down!

So, while I’m grounded I love to immerse myself in tales of flying – a holdover from those old Biggles days (and yes, I have a couple of Biggles on my bookshelves including the one shown above).  Among the authors who have fueled my imagination are Beryl Markham of “West With The Night” fame who was the first to fly solo from Europe to North America, Charles and Anne Lindberg who both wrote of their flying in “The Spirit of St. Louis” and “North To The Orient”, Rinker Buck who wrote of his transcontinental flight as a teenager with his brother in the small plane, Richard Bach (best known for “Jonathan Livingstone Seagull”) who was a USAF pilot and wrote extensively of his various flying experiences including a summer as part of a barn-storming troupe with his Stearman biplane, Richard Halliburton the remarkable adventurer who (among his many books) wrote “The Flying Carpet” recounting his fantastic exploits and my favorite of them all, Antoine de Saint-Exupery (best known for “The Little Prince”).  A lot of his flying experiences were expressed in his novels but the classic of all his aviation writing has to be “Wind, Sand and Stars” – a collection of essays wherein he recounts his experiences as a pioneering pilot for Aeropostale carrying the mail deep into the heart of the North African Desert and across the vastness of Patagonia in South America.

As both an accomplished pilot and author his prose is unsurpassed for its beauty as it relates to flying.  Let me share just a brief portion:

“A minor accident had forced me down in the Rio de Oro region, in Spanish Africa.  Landing on one of those  table-lands of the Sahara which fall away steeply at the sides, I found myself on the flat top of the frustrum of a cone, an isolated vestige of a plateau that had crumbled round the edges…Without question, I was the first human being ever to wander over this . . . this iceberg; its sides were remarkably steep, no Arab could have climbed them, and no European had as yet ventured into this wild region.
I was thrilled by the virginity of a soil which no step of man or beast had sullied.  I lingered there, startled by this silence that never had been broken.  The first star began to shine, and I said to myself that this pure surface had lain here thousands of years in sight only of the stars.
But suddenly my musings on this white sheet and these shining stars were endowed with a singular significance.  I had kicked against a hard, black stone, the size of a man’s fist, a sort of moulded rock of lava incredibly present on a bed of shells a thousand feet deep.  A sheet spread beneath an apple-tree can receive only apples; a sheet spread beneath the stars can receive only star-dust.  Never had a stone fallen from the skies made known its origin so unmistakably.
And very naturally, raising my eyes, I said to myself that from the height of this celestial apple-tree there must have dropped other fruits, and that I should find them exactly where they fell, since never from the beginning of time had anything been present to displace them.
Excited by my adventure, I picked up one and then a second and then a third of these stones, finding them at about the rate of one stone to the acre.  And here is where my adventure became magical, for in a striking foreshortening of time that embraced thousands of years, I had become the witness of this miserly rain from the stars.  The marvel of marvels was that there on the rounded back of the planet, between this magnetic sheet and those stars, a human conciousness was present in which as in a mirror that rain could be reflected.”

On days like we’ve been seeing recently when the sky is clear and the mildest of breezes ruffles the fresh green leaves of Spring, the sound of a small plane flying overhead automatically draws my eyes upwards and my breath catches a little as I place myself in the cockpit beside the pilot and gaze out at the broad landscape spread out below and the blue horizon that awaits exploration.

We are earth-bound creatures but how we long to fly like the birds.

Rabbit Trails and Literary Connections

Literary rabbit trails.

Anyone who has ever chased rabbits (presumably with dogs) knows that rabbit trails lead hither and yon with no apparent rhyme or reason to them.  The rabbit does his best to shake off his pursuer by any number of devious tactics from backtracking to creek swimming; from climbing up hollow trees to disappearing underground.  If you saw the trail plotted on a map it would be a confusion of crossed lines that takes the pursuer all over the place – which brings me to books and authors…
As I sit and gaze at my personal library shelves I am somewhat amazed and surprised by the books I have collected over the last few years.  Given that I have a limited amount of space to hold books in my bookcases, I have to choose what to keep and what to pass along.  How a book gets onto my bookshelf in the first place is what brings me back to the rabbit trails.
Often, it is the mention in one book of another or a particular quotation that fires the imagination or sparks an interest and sets me on a quest to find that particular book.  One particular trail started with the mention of a writer in an article by a well-known Christian Apologist, Ravi Zacharias.  Mr.Zacharias rediscovered the writings of a turn of the century preacher, Dr. F. W. Boreham, who was immensely popular and prolific in his time but had somewhat faded into obscurity.  By shedding light on Boreham’s writings, he introduced a whole new generation to the beauty and imagination that was lying in those dusty volumes waiting to be uncovered once more.
A word about Dr. Boreham is in order.  As a young man in the early 1900s, he studied in London under Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher, then took a calling to the ministry in Mossgeil, New Zealand where he soujourned for a while before traveling on to Tasmania and ultimately Australia, where his remains lie.  In the course of his ministry years he wrote over 50 books (30 or more of which sit on my shelves) and introduced us to many of the colorful characters who populated his parishes.  A voracious reader in a time of great global change, he set his mind to study all subjects from etymology to exploration, from literature to nature, from engineering to economics.  Every week the mail brought him a stack of new books and his writings reflected his thirst for knowledge, his marvel at the world and his assimilation of that knowledge into the big picture of life.  A master at the art of word-smithing, he delighted his readers with his insights and observations.
Among the many authors who now grace my bookshelves, the rabbit trails of Dr. Boreham have brought me Carlyle and McCauley, Chesterton and Tennyson, Richard Jeffries and Izaak Walton, Charles Kingsley and Gilbert White.  Each of these, in turn, have led me to a number of other authors.  All of that from one source – and that has not been the only rabbit trail I’ve followed.  Wherever my travels take me, I like to pick up a book about the area so Wilfred Thesiger introduced me to the Middle East, Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner to the American West, while Ronald Blythe and Edwin Teale took me back to England.  Ronald Blythe came by courtesy of friend and author Donna Fletcher Crow whose ‘Glastonbury’ carried me back to the old legends and stories of ancient Britain.
So how a book ends up on one’s bookshelf is a part of life’s journey which often ends up looking more like a rabbit trail than a flight path as seen on the on-board monitors of modern transatlantic flights.  Dr. Boreham would have been thrilled by the technology – a wise man, all in all – and an avid rabbit hunter too.

Preparation for the journey.

I’m not a very spontaneous person (that may be an understatement) – if you ask my wife she’d probably tell you that I tend to be more on the obsessive-compulsive end of the spectrum.  So, when it comes to traveling, I like to be well prepared for the journey and not leave things to the last minute or to chance.  Some destinations require a visa for entry into the country and that requires some advance preparation in order to get your passport back in time.  Other places require innoculations which are best not left to the last minute.  Of course, there are also the more routine matters of selecting the right clothes, the right luggage and the right accessories for the journey (and for me in particular, which books to pack).  I like to know where I am going, how I am getting there and where my travels will take me along the way, so an itinerary is an important consideration.
A number of years ago, my wife and I decided to make a motor touring vacation of the western isles of Scotland and it quickly became apparent that you can’t just go with a car and expect to catch a ferry.  There are limited sailings and limited space on most of the ferries.  It was necessary to plan out our journey, booking accommodations and spaces on the ferries and calculate distances and driving times in order to see all that we wished to see and to complete our journey successfully.  It worked (with the exception of one missed ferry) and we had a wonderful trip with many great memories.
Just the other day I was asked if I would do the reading at the funeral of a friend’s mother.  There were two passages of scripture and a poem by Robert Frost that she requested I read.  The common thread that held these thoughts together was that life is not a journey to be embarked on carelessly or without thought to the purpose and destination.
I wonder how many people find themselves on the journey of life without realizing how they got there and having given little thought to where they were heading?  I’m rather reminded of foolish hounds (and yes, we’ve had some) who get on the scent of a deer and chase it for miles before coming to a realization that they are lost in the woods.  The Italian poet Durante degli Alighieri (commonly known as Dante) wrote of his sudden awareness at the age of thirty-five that he was lost:
“In the midway of this our mortal life, I found me in a gloomy wood, astray, gone from the path direct…How first I entered it I scarce can say.”  Now, I don’t know what it was that brought him to this awareness, but whatever providence or misfortune awoke him to his dilemma; to it he owed a debt of gratitude for it was then that he was able to change his course, fight his way out through the undergrowth and glimpse the sunlit hill which was the goal he desired to reach.
It has been said that if you have no particular destination in mind any path will take you there and that, sadly, seems to be the case with so many travelers on the road of life.  Even for an obsessive-compulsive person like myself, life has plenty of surprises, detours and hazards along the way that we have to learn to take in stride and adjust for, but an unexamined life is one that leads deep into the heart of the woods.  From there, it is hard to see the sunlit hill that we desire to climb, to rest on its summit and to look back with satisfaction on the journey that took us there.

Puerto Rico

View from a sunlit hill – Puerto Rico

And speaking of wandering…

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Calidonia Street Market

Calidonia, Panama City

My wife and I recently had the pleasure of joining our daughter and son in law on a trip to Panama to celebrate our daughter’s 30th birthday.  I’m not sure why they chose Panama as the destination – perhaps because they could use their points for a nice hotel there.  Well it was a nice hotel and we got to stay for free too, which (we Scots have a reputation to uphold, you realize) was wonderful.
Well, in anticipation of the trip I bought a map of Panama to study the city and to find the places of interest that we might like to visit (us fair-skinned Northern Europeans don’t do beaches very well).  As I perused the map, I was reminded of something my grandfather had often said: No matter where you go in the world, you will always find a Scotsman there.  And it is true – whether by choice or by something like the Highland Clearances we Scots have become a tribe of wanderers.  My maternal grandfather, who worked in a tartan mill in Scotland, was offered the chance to run a textile mill in South America in the 30s or 40s and turned it down – a choice he later regretted.
So what was it about the map that brought that comment back to mind?  It was the discovery of a section of the city called (of all things) Calidonia (latinized spelling, presumably).  That brought to mind the first time I had heard of the Scots in Panama by way of a Celtic folksong about the ill-fated Darien Expedition.  Then just last year I read Tim Severin’s book “In Search Of Robinson Crusoe” where he gave a pretty good account of the misery and suffering inflicted on that group of Scots who had such high hopes of making a good life in the New World.
For anyone interested, you can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darien_scheme
So, how was Calidonia, you ask?  Well, at first glance I thought “This doesn’t feel very much like my Caledonia to me”, but on reflection, is it really that much different to a street market in Glasgow?  People milling around, going about their everyday lives, window shopping, buying groceries for dinner, treating themselves to something from a street vendor, music blaring from the stores.  So, no – it’s not that much different.  Oh, except for the fact that it was warm and sunny in Calidonia which is the norm there… and a rare splendor in my Caledonia. 🙂

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.