On Saturday I hiked, from north to south, on the trail that picks along the rim of Gulf Hagas, where the West Branch of the Pleasant River patiently unfolds its geologic saga, tumbling its way through the gorge. I hiked for miles serenaded by the sound and sight of unrelenting racket and grandeur. On the south end of the gorge the river begins to broaden and shift its tone from crashhh to rushhh to shhh. The trail leaves the bank and leads into a segment of forest populated with dozens of eastern white pine, some standing a hundred and fifty feet tall and as many years old.
This collection of trees, called The Hermitage, are young by the standards of an earth that flows to the tune of trickles that cut into rocks and carve out canyons. But for a young man, shy by a few rings of forty years, sauntering into the presence of these old hermits was an experience of simple hush and wonder.
As I stood regarding them, and they stood being who they are in proximity to me, the exchange between us tempered and stilled my thoughts. The story they told — of steadiness, of patience, of equanimity in the face of impermanence — squeezed a sigh from my lungs. And after sufficient pause, I tiptoed through the air of quiet that hung with the wisdom cast by their shadows.