The trees seem to be standing like pillars that bridge the gap between heaven and earth. Certain trees seem to draw you to them. We sit beneath the boughs and just soak in the peaceful feeling. As the outside world melts away from my mind all the clutter and chaos of the day goes with it. A person can talk to God anytime they want to but to listen to God we need to silence the mind and open the heart. Our lives seem to be full of clutter today. T.V., social media, job stress, financial concerns and political stuff are always piled up around our ears. While it is important to keep a tab on the issues modern life it’s just as important to take a regular break from the world an center yourself. I have found that if I can take just a few minutes per day to enjoy solitude with God it strengthens me to deal with everything else.
Most of us are familiar with The Little Engine That Could. However, it occurs to me that some of my international friends may not have been told the story as a child so here is a summery.
The little train engine was loaded heavy and faced a long stretch of tracks up a steep mountain. The climb was hard but he kept repeating “I think I can. I think I can.” Over and over until he was over the top. It’s a preschool classic tale about the power of positive thinking. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that the Heart’s thoughts forms us into what we are as a person. In other words, how we identify ourselves determines how we behave. Do we see ourselves as the happy one? The fun one? The smart one? Maybe we see ourselves as the one who has a good heart but is always being taken advantage of. Whatever it is it’s that self identity that influences what we will do in any given situation. Even if the choice is being made subconsciously we are still making a choice. What forms that self identity can be pretty complicated but as I understand it we get a lot of this from the opinions of others. I once witnessed one of the cruelest pranks known to mankind when working in a prefab housing factory. The short version is that multiple people who was in on the prank simply asked this person if he was feeling okay. No suggestion of what might have caused the question was to be made. After several inquiries the otherwise healthy young man left early claiming he felt ill. The opinions of the group had so much influence on his opinion of himself that he manifested symptoms of illness. The next day he was told by several people that he looked well and that his recovery was amazing and he had one the most productive days ever! It was all done by manipulating his opinion of himself. And that brings me back to The Little Engine That Could. By repeating to himself that positive thought over and over he brought out the best that was inside himself and overcame the obstacle before him.
I try to keep these two stories in mind when I’m feeling down. One of them I learned as a child and the other I witnessed first hand. The lesson I learned was that positive thoughts can improve my quality of life. Also, with the rise of social media we’re more likely to encounter people like the coworkers who made a person sick simply with the power of suggestion. Keep that in mind when listening to the negative opinions yourself and others that might be floating around out there and never hesitant to give a kind word to someone who might need it to get through the day.
Standing on the banks of the beautiful Kanawha River at Glen Ferris, West Virginia. The cool mountain breeze washes over me as the sun brings a golden dawn. The fog rises up from the water as if sleeping clouds are waking up to go to work. A faint buzzing noise catches my attention as the morning air brings the fresh scent of water mint to my nose. I look along the water’s edge to see the honey bees collecting their morning meal. There’s a soft splash off in the distance and I look out across the river to see the ripples where the fish had jumped out to catch a mayfly. As the last cloud makes it’s way skyward to greet the sunrise I climb back into my big blue truck and continue on to my destination.
One of my favorite things about summertime is the blackberries. I have fond memories of finding a patch of ripe berries during long hike on a hot summer day. The wild blackberry is collected and brought home by the bucket load. June and July is cobbler season. Often a wonderful Sunday dinner is followed by the extra special treat warm cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. The berry grows on a cane lined with thorns. I’ve created all sorts of contraptions in attempts to pick the berries but I seem to come home looking like I’ve been wrestling a wildcat. Sometimes the sweetness is worth the pain. A few years ago I found a patch that been mashed down in the center. I cautiously entered the patch. Something to remember when collecting blackberries is to keep your ears open for the velvet tailed glow worm. (An old-fashioned term for the Timber Rattlesnake). Satisfied that no venomous serpent was close by I began picking. I started at the top of the canes and worked my downward. I had about a half of a bucket when I suddenly realized why the berry patch had been mashed down. Do you know that old saying about what a bear does in the woods? You know, the cliche that sells toilet paper? Yeah, that one. Well, they seem to do it in the berry patch as well. In fact, as I looked around I saw that they do that a lot in the berry patch. At full alert now I finished filling my bucket before the bear came back for a second helping. Today I manage a small patch on the edge of my property. Bear free of course.
Do you ever wonder where all the great thinkers are today? The inventors, philosophers and problem solvers? Who are the real world leaders? I think I have an answer. They are you. You are the greatest resource on planet Earth. You, the individual. The human mind is the only known creation on planet Earth with the ability to reason beyond the moment. You have the capacity to dream and to forge that dream into a reality. Sure some are more skilled at different forms of creativity than others but that’s a measure of quality not capacity. As a human, you are singularly able to change your world to suit your vision. That’s why quite time is so important. You generate your visions in those times when you can get away from the noise of all the other voices in the world and have free thought. It’s how you sweep away the clutter of the mind and bring dreams into focus to obtain that clear vision.
The featured image is one such place where I like to go. It’s a spot on the Gauley River just below Summersville Dam. As the water pours out of overflow tunnels it forms class six rapids and the roaring river blocks out the noisy world. This is birthplace of many dreams and a refuge for a busy mind.
I’ve been a hunter for most of my life. These days I’ve replaced my rifle with a camera but the basic skills are the same. If you sit still long enough they will come to you. But there’s a trick. You have to be able to become a part of the environment. Sitting in the woods with a camera isn’t enough. They can hear your heartbeat long before you can here their approaching footsteps. On a calm day they can smell you from hundreds of yards/meters away. If you don’t belong there they will know and stay away. Learning to belong to the wild places takes some time and practice but being at peace with creation is a very positive experience. Keeping your mouth closed and your ears open helps prevent them from smelling your breath. The birds will tell you where he is. As he walks towards you, the forest falls silent. Control your excitement. A racing heartbeat is a sure sign that you don’t belong. When he comes into sight he’ll snort and try to get a fresh scent of you. Be steady and move very slowly. His ears will twitch as he tries to pinpoint your heartbeat. Easy does it. Focus. Now, take the shot. He heard the shutter snap and he bounds off to be hunted again. Each time will be different but you’ll never lose the thrill of the hunt.
In the 1970s my brother and I would watch science fiction reruns on VHF T.V. and the adventures of Saturday Afternoons included reliving those we observed in monochrome. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and a slough of guys in rubber suits. Space travel was still new and every time an astronaut was shot into space the world held it’s breath. For two brothers growing up in rural Appalachia virtual reality required a large empty box, some crayons and bits of whatever they could find. Was the moon really made of green cheese? There’s only one way to find out.
The two boys worked diligently. Because they were brothers they didn’t need to speak much. Each knew instinctively what the other needed. A piece of tape here and crayon there. Flashlights rested in cardboard holsters on their hips. If the enemies attack before they were done they would need their laser swords close at a hand. The last meteor shower had done a lot of damage to the ship. Repairs took a lot of time but doing it right was worth the effort. Being the better mathematician, the younger brother picked up a stick and double checked his calculations in the dirt. “I think we’re ready.” He said as the boys stepped back and admired their handiwork. The refrigerator box had everything a good spaceship needs. Empty two liter bottles for rocket boosters. Empty toilet paper tubes for death rays. And flexible hoses they found in the shed for miscellaneous systems. They were really ready for a moon landing. Fortunately, they were able to record some space sounds by placing a cassette tape recorder next to T.V. This would allow for more realistic experience. The young astronauts entered into the cardboard ship and took their places at the control panel. The older brother pushed play on the recorder. Three…Two…One.. We have liftoff!
The adventure never ends as long as you believe.