Serene Hope

May 26th, 2009

img00439-sThe day had been trying in some respects. The morning had gone well with some cleaning projects accomplished, loads of laundry done and the bike cleaned after I got caught in thunder storms yesterday and everything was soaked and dirty on the bike. I got the grill out, the gas was hooked up and we prepared to grill brat wurst and chicken for our mid afternoon Memorial Day grill feast.

But, shortly after the meal we all had had just about enough of each other and it was time for everyone to take a break and get some quiet time after a long weekend of being on top of each other all the time. So, I got on the bike and headed west into the late afternoon sun. I was looking for peace.

It seems that whenever I’m feeling distressed over one thing or another, I head back to the area I know the best and travel the back roads of home where I’m comforted by their familiarity and I feel the stress and pressure just melt away. Days like today are precious and I so looked forward to getting out to those roads, twisting the throttle and escaping into a world that in my mind, exists just for me.

I never know exactly where I’m going and I suppose that it’s some sort of mini adventure for my mind as I refuse to tell myself where I’m going and take the trip turn by turn. It’s exciting and on this day after traveling some 35 miles, I found myself atop Hawk Mountain pulling into their parking lot and wondering how long it had been since I had been there last.

When I was a boy growing up on the farm, our family somehow became the animal hospital for all-things-wild-and-wounded. I have no idea how many raccoons we reared. I remember one year a mother was struck and killed a short ways up the road from the farm and there along the road, next to her dead body, huddled her two young babies, confused, scared and too frightened to leave her. So, a neighbor picked them up, popped them in a box and brought them to us.

We donned welding gloves, warmed bottles of milk and fed the poor babies and after a few months, they eventually were healthy enough to be released back into the wild. Our reputation grew.

Soon, a barn owl showed up; then a wounded red tailed hawk, then this kind of bird; and then that kind of bird. We got books and read up on what we were to do but actually, we really had no idea how to provide any long term care for them. The real problem, however, was that most of the birds were injured on one way or another. Most had some form of wing injury, leg injury or beak injury. So, we had to come up with an alternative solution and get these birds the care they really needed. Thankfully, there was a ready solution, close at hand.

About 10 miles from our home there is a place called Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. This place is phenomenal. So, we began taking the wounded birds people brought to us, to Hawk Mountain and they gladly took them in and most were nursed back to health and released back into the wild. The last time I had been there was when I was probably less than 10 years old and I had not idea what the place looked like anymore but had that overwhelming sense of “good” associated with my pictureless memories of it. So now, pulling into the parking lot, I couldn’t wait to begin a walk up one of the trails to a look out. Off to the trial I went.

The walk was a short 100 yards up through the woods on a well worn trail some 10-15 feet wide. People were coming out of the woods from their hikes, laden with cameras, binoculars and some even had video equipment. I had nothing but my camera phone and actually wasn’t even thinking of it as I ascended the trail and the clearing began to come into view.

Huge slabs of rock greeted me as I stepped out of the woods and suddenly my lungs locked as they seemed to forget their function. My eyes locked onto the ………totality of it all. A huge, massive valley stretched for miles to the east. A whispered, “wow” escaped my lips and I scanned left and right, and peered down into the valley from the rocks which dropped straight off with no railing or protection of any kind. You could actually stand there and imagine being the first person to ever see it. It was beautiful.

I took my seat out on the edge of the shear drop off, dangling my legs over the edge and just drinking in the vastness of it all. Several vultures circled far off down the valley and it actually was true that I was higher than them at one point but they quickly rose above as they caught the up drafts, riding the rising heat columns. Then, the most beautiful bird came and sat in the top of pine tree not 15 feet from where I sat. He was a beautiful blue/purple and I have no idea what he was. He had a black tiny bill and black eyes and was about half the size of a finch. What was it? I don’t know. But it was beautiful.

I sat there for somewhere between 30-45 minutes. It was so serene and I suddenly felt completely rejuvenated. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to. The sun was fading to the west and it was time to go. I hadn’t remembered any of the scenery and was so glad I had forgotten. It was stunning.

Friends, find a place like that. Look for a place where an adventure takes you and look for that place of discovery that brings a blanket of peace over you, even if it’s just for a few minutes or hours. I could have sat there for hours and would love to camp out on that spot and wake up seeing the sun breaking over the mountains to the east. I could imagine sitting there with a cup of coffee wrapped in a blanket listening to the day come alive. I think that will be on my “ta-do” list. But the point is that you need to find a place like that ……for you.

We all need a place of serenity. Find yours. I hope you have something like that. if not, find it. You need it and there is peace to be had, if you just go find it.

If you are anywhere near Pennsylvania, take the time to get to Hawk Mountain. You won’t regret it. Or you can visit them at

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