The sun was setting, the day’s final light
slipping through the thick foliage surrounding me.
By my side was a sleeping Golden Retriever, Silas,
worn out from a busy day of hiking and exploring. At
my feet embers radiated heat, burning orange as
fresh wood caught fire. The day’s choir of birds and
squirrels completed their act, and after a brief
intermission of utter silence, the crickets and
frogs sang us the rest of the way.
As the smoke from the fire ascended to the evening
sky, descending through the leaves were white fluffs
from a cotton wood tree. Gracefully gliding, the
weightless seeds turned ablaze as they reflected the
evening light, becoming little balls of fire. Soon,
their glows transformed into the flickering
spectacle of a forest filled with lightning bugs.
The dense elm trees and maple trees began to
illumine like a pine tree in December, a light
shining in the darkness.
Just as it rose, the sun set, and then escaped
behind the western horizon. Without light, nighttime
consumed the campground. What was once seen became
hidden. A familiar path became foreign. Isn’t it
funny how different things look and feel and seem in
the dark? Silas’ head remained up, ears back, his
breathing a sort of quiet, but heavy, as he listened
to the trees come alive. The chill the storm ushered
in settled between the leaves, resting on the
already expended branches.
The flames danced, swayed, and flickered with the
breeze. In the stirring of the night, the woods and
pastures appear joyous in their abundance now in a
season of warmth and much rain. The lake is beyond
its banks, overflowing into dry creek beds and
walking paths, spreading its mirrors out upon the
fields of the valley floor. It has become like God’s
love or sorrow, including at last all that had been
left out. All the while, my face, heart, my being
was warmed by the fire’s light. The solitude soon
ushered me to sleep. Finally I found rest.
I read somewhere once that the interior life should
consist of moments of relaxation, freedom, and ‘browsing.’ Some do
this via literature or music. We must remember though our time is
limited. We need to be by ourselves. When we are by ourselves, we
soon get tired of our folly. In that tent, under those stars, having
finally submitted to the rhythms of creation, I learned that my
folly did not fit in with the eminent sanity of trees, birds, water,
or the sky.
The silence of the woods forced me to make a decision, which the
tensions and artificialities of society may help me evade forever.
I, you, we, must get out every once in a while. I, you, we, need a
good garden, access to the woods, or to the sea. I, you, we, need to
run to the mountains and to the hills. It is at these places,
between the twinkling of the stars and the chorus of crickets, where
we will find the silence that asks us the most important question:
do you want to be yourself or don’t you?
[Pastor Adam Quine, First Presbyterian Church of Lincoln]