Even on a Saturday morning, there were few people in Brandywine State Park. It may have been the sign at the entrance – “Archery Hunting is in Progress in the Park” – that was deterring potential visitors. I immediately thought of St Sebastian, the patron saint of soldiers, who was martyred by archers – paintings of the saint typically show his body pierced with arrows.
It was a beautiful Fall morning as I made my way past the entrance and steadily up the hill, with the light shining through the green and yellow leaves. The main drawback in being an early bird is the unpleasant encounter with cobwebs. You can feel them suddenly on your face as you walk along, although sometimes a cyclist has cleared them all away and there’s no problem. Along the path the fallen leaves have woven themselves into a carpet of brown and yellow. If you didn’t know the way, you couldn’t see the path, which maybe also explains the lack of fellow walkers.
Stopping for a moment I notice the large tree trunks reaching to the sky, unfolding their canopy of leaves at the top to catch the sun’s rays. There is something about their silence which is mysterious. Years ago I used to think, “uh huh, there’s a tree, so what?” but that was before I saw the BBC television program “The Secret Life of Plants” which was a revelation in showing that plants and trees are smarter than we realise. Intelligence is not just human shaped.
In my walk I often enjoy a simple sense of communion with the created world around me. I marvel at the beauty of the plants and trees and wildlife and enjoy the occasional experiences of the hidden life within, such as a toad leaping to get out of my way, or a deer suddenly appearing a few feet away, or the sound of a woodpecker working on a rotted stump.
Although I am observing and walking at the same time, it is when I stop that I fully appreciate my surroundings. It is in these moments of stillness that my soul feels uplifted, as I stand among the silent congregation of trees and think of nothing, simply allowing myself to exist as a part of God’s creation. This is one of God’s great gifts, freely available, and so I thank God for it, and for the blessing it imparts.
With peace and gratitude