Tag Archives: Nature Writing

Stray Thoughts: Nature Beckons~ A Life Well-Lived

A Life Well-Lived

Shook’s Pond; Series “Closing Up the Cottage for the Winter 2014”;
Photo by Dave Shook
Robert Shook at Shook’s Pond; Series “Closing Up the Cottage for the Winter 2014”;
Photo by Dave Shook

How do we live a life well-lived? 

Reflecting on our own lives seems to naturally follow attendance at a memorial service, yet it can be overlooked in the daily living of life. Whether sitting in a rooftop garden in Manhattan, walking in the local park bursting with color in all seasons, or escaping to a summer cottage at the lake, the need to commune with nature is ingrained within us. 

After attending a service in the Hudson Valley this weekend, I recognized the beauty of the day- misty and overcast while listening to the minister’s words and the treasured memories of family and neighbors. Set in a grassy rise overlooking the pond on his ancestor’s farm and imagining his daily swim, we could appreciate a life well-lived while hearing the sounds of Nature. By living a life driven by his passion for music and the natural world, Robert Shook discovered his life well-lived. 

On the drive home, I questioned myself:

How do I live a life well-lived?

While reflecting on the importance of nature in my life, I re-read an inspiring passage entitled “The Approach of Day” originally scribbled on a faded scrap of brown wrapping paper by my great-grandfather Burton Coon in 1888.

The Approach of Day

All is dark. Night has long settled o’er hill and vale; the birds have ceased their timeful melody; the whir of the partridge, the chirp of the cricket, the chatter of the squirrel are no more heard; the insect world is lost in slumber. The beasts of the field and the fowls of the air are alike resting their weary frames in sweet repose; all Man, the lord of creation, is fast locked in the embrace of sleep, and all the sounds of nature have passed into temporary oblivion. Silence reigns supreme.

With Robert Shook ; Series “Closing Up the Cottage for the Winter 2014”;
Photo by Dave Shook

The night advances. Still all is dark, but the silence is at last broken by the sweet heralds of the dawn- the birds. They are the first to disturb the hitherto unbroken solitude of the night by singing praises to their creator. The melodious strains catch the ear of the almighty, and he is glad. The fowls of the farmyard too have spoken; “Nature hath found a voice”, and silence reigns no more.

Series “Closing Up the Cottage for the Winter 2014”;
Photo by Dave Shook

While this wonderful change is progressing, another and equally great one is taking place in the atmosphere. At first, all was silent and dark; now the silence has been broken, and the gray mists of the morning like silent spectres begin to rise from the rivers and lakes, imparting a damp smell and chilly feeling to the air. The mists are as yet invisible, for all is dark. But wait a moment, now look toward the eastern skies; a faint gray streak is plainly visible; this lengthens and broadens until it finally extends along the whole eastern horizon. The morn advances as the stars in the east begin to pale and shed a softer light; those in the west still shine with their brightness. Wait another moment, the oriental skies are tinged with purple and scarlet and gold, at first darkly, then brighter and brighter until the whole eastern heavens are aglow with beauty and loveliness. The grandeur of the night is fast fading into the glories of the morning. The stars in the west have paled and faded and are seen no more while the western hills glow with the beauty reflected from the eastern skies. 

Time for a Swim at Shook’s Pond; Series “Closing Up the Cottage for the Winter 2014”;
Photo by Dave Shook

Glorious scene! What majestic changes have taken place. Silence has been broken; the close thick atmosphere of the night has been dampened by the mists of the morning; darkness has fled away; and last of all the lord of day arises from behind the hills, and with a brightness too severe for the gaze of man, begins his daily course, as “Bright aurora’s rosy fingers open wide the gates of day”.

The night has gone; the morning has dawned; Nature’s glorious resurrection is at last completed: it is day.

Coon, Burton Barker. “The Approach of Day”. Shookville, New York. June 24, 1888.

How will you make this day a part of your life well-lived?

“Meditation Swing”; Series “Closing Up the Cottage for the Winter 2014”;
Photo by Dave Shook