If you look in a history book, it will tell you that the Age of Discovery occurred from the early 15th century and ended about 200 years later, in the early 17th. It seems to me a dangerous thing to proclaim an end to an age with such a name, as if there is nothing new under the sun, for it is the thrill of discovery that gives life real meaning. It is the good fortune of all who love nature that historians have it wrong: The Age of Discovery is alive and well – right in your own back yard.
Today, I was hiking in the woods, reveling in the crisp autumn air and the fragrance of curing leaves, when I came to a steep ravine, carved in the hillside by eons of rainwater, and studded with moss-covered boulders. I’ve seen many such washes in the Ozark woods, but this one held a work of art.
Upon the boulders at the head of the ravine was a stack of flat rocks, piled on atop the other, like dishes in a China cupboard. They were too large to be placed by human hands and their edges were etched with carvings by the most ancient craftsman: Water. All of the moss covered rocks bore wavy cuts and carvings, as if the stream that once flowed down this hillside carved a self-portrait that would last for all eternity.
As I placed my hand on the soft, damp moss, that graced the stones, I felt life pulsing within – the heartbeat of a river long since dry, and I felt the rush of Discovery – of seeing something few other humans had ever seen. It brought to mind a quote from my favorite childrens’ book: The Wind in the Willows.
“The days pass, and never return, and the South still waits for you. Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes. ‘Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new.”
So, dear friends, I tell you: The Age of Discovery is here, it is now and we are the explorers. That is the gift and the challenge of life. I hope you find it as glorious as do I.