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A Silent Mystery

Take a good, long moment to read Wendell Berry’s “The Vacation.”

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.

He went flying down the river in his boat

with his video camera to his eye, making

a moving picture of the moving river

upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly

toward the end of his vacation. He showed

his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,

preserving it forever: the river, the trees,

the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat

behind which he stood with his camera

preserving his vacation even as he was having it

so that after he had had it he would still

have it. It would be there. With a flick

of a switch, there it would be. But he

would not be in it. He would never be in it.[1]

The irony is that this man so wants to enjoy his vacation that he desires to capture it forever; but in the process, he completely misses out on the experience itself. He fails to recognize that the deep and abiding significance of “the vacation” is actually this very moment. He should have echoed the prayer of Soren Kierkegaard: Lord, give us weak eyes for things of little worth and eyes clear-sighted in all of your truth. Or, MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” which contains a lesser known yet most appropriate line: “the fierce urgency of now.”

Recently, I have been reading to my son, not only before he goes to bed, but right when he wakes up. Of course, the arrival of a new day means there is much to do: getting clean, dressed, fed, and out the door takes time. But I’ve been taking time to read to him and, along the way, have memorized portions of On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier. That way, as the day gets hectic, I can stop and recall those lines, which like an incantation bring me back to what is most important. Here is my favorite line, which I invite you to carry with you, so that you might notice today and, unlike Berry’s vacationer, you might be in it.
A forest of tall trees collected the Sun’s light in their leaves, where, in silent mystery, they made oxygen for you to breathe

[1] Berry, New Collected Poems, 2012

About Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I am a pastor and a preacher, a writer, a husband and a father. My professional and personal lives are deeply involved with story-telling: stories that are silly and poignant or profound and commonplace. Stories that are tear-jerkers and belly-shakers. Stories about my son, Sam, and the congregation I serve, New Dublin Presbyterian Church. Each in its own way, these personal narratives shed light on the great story that God is writing with humankind and all of creation.


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