The happiest hours of my youth were spent wandering around the Indiana countryside. Mother, lonely and desperate with the loss of Robert, filled many empty hours fishing. Because I felt so sorry for the fish I hooked, I didn't like to fish, but I went along with her and spent the time tramping around through the fields and along the stream.
Most of the countryside was squared with fertile fields, but a section along the lazy, muddy river remained rough overgrowth. Early one spring I was more ambitious than usual and cut across the fields to a far curve of the river which was new to me. When I penetrated the wooded section, I found it quite unpleasant. It was far denser than sections I knew and was filled with brambles, budding poison ivy, and, worst of all, sunny places likely to attract snakes. I almost turned back but, being stubborn, determined to reach the river first.
This proved a vexatious battle. I could find no paths and was uncertain even of the direction of the river. The early spring growth was just dense enough to make each step fearsome. Which was poison ivy, and where were the snakes? I fought last year's brambles all the way, but I kept going. The spring sun beating down was hot already, and my perspiration made the scratches itch. Suddenly, when I least expected it, I broke through some head high bushes to the edge of the stream.
Across the sullen-flowing, silt-laden stream I saw a hillside in full sun covered with flowering trillium. These are rare wild flowers whose white, white blossoms, far too elaborate to be wild, measure a good four inches when full blown. A light breeze flowed through them, and the mass of blossoms, dancing in the sunlight, looked like a live carpet, pulsing in every atom. I stood, caught in rapture for a long time. When I again became conscious of myself and the flies and the river, I had a strong impulse to cross and pick at least one blossom.
To do so was impossible. The stream, though sullen, had a strong current underneath at this time of year, and dangerous whirlpools could suck a person under. The river was too wide for logs and too deep for stepping stones. Understanding this, I looked my fill, then turned to face the brambles and the hike back home.
This incident was important to that child becoming a woman who was seeking her own answers to the ultimate. The beauty which I felt gave me a sense of meaning and purpose in life which I have never lost. Beauty is a path to God. It isn't God, but on those rare occasions in our lives when we can sense it, as I did that day, we are in tune with the universe with a direct line to The Source.
When I returned to fishing headquarters, Mother was ready to go. "Did you have a good hike?" she asked.