The Finding of Vanishing Lake

The Finding of Vanishing Lake - Title Page

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and impressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next the shore are the
silencer eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows.

THOREAU

What is nature? Art thou the living garment of God?

CARLYLE

A tree is a nobler object than a prince in his coronation-robes.

POPE

Hill and Valley, seas and constellations, are but stereotypes of divine ideas appealing to and answered by the living soul of man.

CHAPIN

THE FINDING OF
VANISHING LAKE

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THE FINDING OF VANISHING LAKE

There were two of us returning over the ancient Indian Trail from Lone Stone lake to the Sanctuary of Wegimind. The day was closing, and we were stepping lively. About midway through, while noting the hectic industry of a brown creeper, we discovered an old blaze high on a Norway pine. Its obvious age and the possible attempt to conceal it by placing it high excited our curiosity. The sap from the tree had long since coated the wound, precluding decay, but had not obscured it. How it had escaped our attention these many months we could not understand.

We stepped beyond the Norway: there were more blazes-a trail! Some arboreal spirit from unsounded depths had ventured forth, and returning, had only partially concealed his tracks! It was an irresistible invitation to unexplored depths of the forest, and though the hour was a bit late to follow a blazed trail, we pursued it with boyish abandon.

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The blazes were well made: one on each side of the tree to indicate the direction of travel, and cut beyond the inner bark. They had not been hacked or chipped out, but made with one stroke of a belt-ax-the work of a woodsman, either white or red. Where they led we did not know, but it must be to adventure, for blazed trails are not made promiscuously in the north country.

We stole along as silently as possible, subconsciously trying to imitate the noiseless tread of the fictional Indian, though feeling somewhat that we were trespassers on an estate of the Wilderness Gods.

The blazes led us through a charming variety of woods: groves of white pine, over ridges capped with maples and birch, into long, smooth-carpeted aisles of hemlock, and through labyrinths of tamarack and swamp spruce. We were alive with the thrill of discovery, and yet sensed some impatience to find the trail’s objective-the sun did not pause for our convenience, and twilight in the woods quickly obliterates blazes.

We were in the mood to turn back, with

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the promise of another visit, when we arrived at the foot of a steep hill. As if testing our nerve, the trail turned uncompromisingly up the steepest part-perhaps to shake itself free of weaklings. In whispered tones (it would have been vulgar to talk aloud in this great silence), we discussed the advisability of going farther; though our feet, wiser than we, were climbing upward as we talked. Without voicing a decision, we ceased talking to save our breath for the ascent. At points it was so steep we traveled as much by strength of arm as by limb, using the saplings to draw ourselves upward. Still the blazes led up and on, like a siren leading us to some desired fate.

Then we reached the crest!

Through a framework of young balsams we looked out on a vista that sent a thrill over us, like the dawn of some heavenly revelation. It was dusk! It was still-so still! We were treading paths few had followed! We were adrift in an infinite forest, a sea of gigantic, virile, yet friendly, trees. We were conscious of the Wilderness!

In this atmosphere, self-forgetful in a mood

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of quivering expectancy, we looked down on a little, unnamed Wilderness Lake of such virginal splendor, we gasped in admiration. It seemed another world, as though we were gazing on the materialization of some poetic fantasy. In the gathering twilight the vast forest made a downy nest to cradle the little lake. It was an easy stone’s throw across it, though, obviously, it had not always been so tiny. The contour of the country showed plainly that on some geological yesterday it was much larger. But it had been over-generous with its water; the sun, the wind, and gravity had taken more from it than they returned, so that now it rested quietly intrenched in the center of its former domain, having lost much of its bulk, but none of its beauty. Sphagnum moss was creeping out from its shores,-moss that slowly consumes sedentary waters and renders land. It seemed as if Nature had one day here opened her hand to reveal a priceless jewel in her palm, and now affectionately was closing it again on the treasure.

Slowly, silently, gloriously, the lake was vanishing, vanishing!

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Fleecy clouds overhead caught the first pink tones of sunset, and the placid waters below mirrored the color back to us. On the farther shore, dim in dusk and distance, we could faintly make out the form of a drinking deer. We felt we were stealing a glimpse into the Sanctuary of the Forest King!

Should we go on? Should we come to the shores of those delightful waters? Touch them

familiarly? No! No, at least not now. Such charm is like the great minds of mankind; most beautiful at a distance. We would not disturb the feeling of its superiority; we would not break the exotic atmosphere through familiarity. What we had taken thus far would never be missed; but we knew if we greedily grasped for more, we would have less. The atmosphere of thrilling mystery, the wild beauty, the half-eerie weight of wilderness: all would flee to some remote spot if we pressed them. The Soul of the Forest may be sensed, but never possessed!

We turned silently and made our way back over the trail. Fortunately we reached our own lake and our waiting canoe before

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darkness rendered the forest an impenetrable wall. We sat late before the glowing fireplace, dreaming much, saying little, but filled with gratitude for the bountiful gifts of the day. “Vanishing Lake” was added to the vast store of sacred treasures of the Sanctuary of Wegimind.

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WILDERNESS
SYMPHONY

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WILDERNESS SYMPHONY

Who will write the Symphony of the Wilderness? What master, with faultless ear, will catch and pen that elusive melody to whose rhythm all Nature moves? What soul so pure that it may rise to that realm “where the air is music,” and gather into notes and measures the Song of the Forest-the song of the tides of verdure, the dance of hills and mountains, the metric march of seasons, the rhythm of erosion, the crescendo of the glacier, the cycle of bud and blade.

At times, when the heart is peaceful, faint strains of the sublime melody reach consciousness, though more felt than heard. One senses an understanding, an intimate knowledge of cause and purpose, which never can be explained. For the nonce he hears the Harmony Divine into which fits all Nature, from tiny lichens to vast nebulae. He discerns the crown of beauty on all Creation; All is important, All is good, All is purposeful. All

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is eternal, All is divine-All compose the Symphony of the Wilderness.

In moments rare and precious the writer has heard this song of songs, and stood, as did the disciples at the Mount of Transfiguration, half-fearful at the perfection of the vision. Once on a remote hill-crest at sunset, when brilliant pink streamers lined the western sky, and the wild, sweet notes of a white-throated sparrow floated out from mysterious depths; once at night, in the Hemlock Colonnades on the Spring Lake Trail, when soft, silvered moonlight filtered through the delicate lacery overhead and speckled the forest floor; once on a distant, northern lake beyond all manmade trails when the Aurora danced in the blackened sky, and sparkling Capella bathed in its ghostly waves; once by the white waters of the Ontonagon whose murmuring depths

sang through the night like a celestial choir.

In these sacred environs he has seemed to hear the tom-tom of Eternity, of which time is the audible beat. He has felt all Nature, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, raising voice in one vast, glorious anthem.

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The Wilderness Symphony opens with a prelude that is not a beginning, and leads on through a finale that never ends. The Song is from everlasting,-only the auditor comes and goes. Dim in antiquity is faintly heard the divine theme of Creation, first reaching the thoughts of man in whirling gasses, molten rocks, seething vapours, and lifeless matter. But deep in this physical fortissimo are already heard the sweet promises of the life to come. The first seas sang of the forests, of its peoples, and of man. All the vicissitudes of Nature, all the illimitable unfoldment yet to come, was foretold in this primitive theme, whose origin is life’s most beautiful mystery. Elaborating, but never changing, the Wilderness Symphony expands, swells, and leads on through brilliant variations and exquisite climaxes. To the ancient roll of the sea is added the forest voices: the over-tones of the winds, the voluminous hum of insects, the sound of hoof and wing, the hunting cry, the love call, the varying voice of man.

With equal beauty the Eternal Symphony softens to the dew shower, or rises to the thrash of the tempest. “Life! Life! all is Life!”

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It sings of and through Life’s infinite forms. Its tender strains sound from under the blanket of snow, sing as joyously of the falling seed as of the blooming flower, telling as much of life in the autumnal leaf shower as in the spring-time bud. It sings with equal freshness of the arbutus this spring to bloom, as of the ancient, ancient jungles, the rise and fall of continents, the creeping glaciers which came and went leaving the lovely lakes as monuments, the hoary forests that arose upon their shores to intrigue us with their beauty.

What marvelous rhythm pervades this Symphony! The lapping of the waves, the ebb and flow of tides, the rise and fall of sap, the phases of the moon, the tempo of day and year, the precession of the equinoxes, all move in perfect synchronism to the magic baton of the unseen Maestro.

The Symphony sings with equal facility of dim past and distant future. It tells of the seed now planted in time which is already predestined to bloom into unprecedented beauty. It tells of forests that will rise and fall, flowers that will bloom and seed, fish, birds, and furred

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animals which will people the waters and woods.

Changing but never ending, life rising out of life, ever evolving new beauty but never losing the old, singing eternally of the deep secret of existence, yet never divulging it; telling ever of the Divine Principle which animates all life from humble moss to towering Sequoia, yet never explaining it,-so the Symphony of the Wilderness plays on unmindful of our attention, beautiful whether we open ear to it or not, perfect and purposeful despite our faulty understanding.

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FROM AN OLD DIARY

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FROM AN OLD DIARY

“I am glad that I am not afraid to dream. I am glad that I see in every living, moving thing an expression of intelligence to be understood; every nook and corner of the world as fertile fields for romance; and see in every manifestation of life, even my own thoughts and actions, the testimony of one all-pervading Mind expressing itself through infinite channels.

“Trees are living, intelligent beings to me, and I am glad. I see them thoughtfully working out their problem, which is identical with our own: seeking light. They express in unmistakable language, the qualities we most desire in man: courage, joy, virility, reverence, industry, and accomplishment. I am glad that I still hear their gentle murmurs as soft, whispered conversations, and I am glad when, at times, I seem to understand what they are saying.

“The forest aisles are strewn with romance for me, and I am glad. A hemlock grove is a series of beautiful colonnades in a boundless

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peopled with gnomes, and veiled in delightful mystery; a hill or mountain is a gorgeous, holy cathedral, and its crowning rocks and trees are inspired ecclesiastics. The club moss is the couch of Nature’s gods, the ferns the playgrounds of fairies, the flowers are the joyous song of Mother Earth, even the most humble weed a part of the refrain.

“The stars are alive, close, friendly-and I am glad. They talk, sing, have purposes and human propensities, and I am glad. The sky is a vast dome roofing the universe; every point in it is approachable, reachable, understandable. The filmy gossamer of the Aurora is not an unexplained phenomenon to me, but the distant signalling of spiritual beings.

“Animals, to me, are incarnate Divine Ideas, and I am glad. I see them not as slaves, serving man only with flesh and hide, but as co-partners in the glorious revelation of the infinitude of life. I see their fears and loves akin to our own; and in such moments as my thought is calm and clear, I see deep in their eyes a soul imprisoned in a sense of materiality-just as our own! I see them loving the

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right, yet restrained by fear, even as man, and I see in their occasional ferocity the desperation of a soul which cannot understand. An animal is important to me. I feel urged to help it with its problems, and I am glad.

“I can see God reflected in man, and I am glad. I see the Hand of the Almighty evidenced in man’s eternal tendency to rise higher and higher in the spiritual scale. This I see in that man should even want to love, to sacrifice for general good, to be honest, to be reverent, to grow in grace. I see in the lowest of men the same degree of Divinity as in the highest, only buried more deeply in an error not his own. In all, great and small, praise God, I see a potential fountain of infinite worth and beauty, which must some day free itself of old impediments, and flow with unmeasured goodness.

“Oh, I am glad I am not captured and enslaved by what some would call ‘stern reality,’ into which is gathered only the sordid, tragic, and evil. I am glad I am not harnessed to the ground, fearful to look upon anything not of atomic structure. I am glad that my thoughts can rise above the clouds, look upon truths

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More solid than matter, sense the cause back Of all effects, and joy eternal sunshine, Through my feet still rest in shadows.

“I am glad I am not afraid to dream!”

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TREES

“The groves were God’s first temples, Ah, why

Should we, in the world’s riper years, neglect

God’s ancient sanctuaries, and adore

Only among the crowd, and under roofs

That our frail hands have raised!”

Thus wrote the poet Bryant of that supreme, inexplicable miracle we call “The Forest.” “God’s ancient sanctuaries” indeed! and today if they are held at lower level in our esteem, the error lies in concept, and not in any possible depreciation.

In the halls of these verdant temples the soul of the thinking man is filled with wonderment! He is over-awed with evidence of the magnitude and unfathomable depths of creation. He is inundated with miracles. Life, itself, is a miracle, as deep and mystifying expressed in the shy violet, as in the hoary white pine;

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as startling in the instincts of the ant as in the forest wisdom of the ponderous moose. And from microscopic organisms to the orbits of galaxies, all Life moves to laws not of its own making, testifying to the infinite power and intelligence of the Creator of all.

What more fitting place of worship than the Forest, where there is such multiform evidence of Him whose name is Love! What greater heresy than to violate these Sanctuaries, which the hands of man cannot again fashion!

Trees have been a haven for man throughout his evolutionary growth. In his humble, earthly beginning, he fled to them for protection from enemies mightier in body than he. He sought through their branches for food, he lay in their shadows out of the blazing sun, and crept into their hollows for shelter. As intelligence grew, he shaped their branches into weapons, hollowed their trunks into canoes, and found solace, warmth, and protection in fires kindled of their fibre. He built dwellings of them far superior to his gloomy caves, fashioned vehicles to lighten his burdens, made paper on which to record his

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thoughts, and found food and medicine in the very life blood of his arboreal guardians!

He found buried treasure deep in the earth that trees of other ages had left for him; he learned that the roots of the forests hold the very earth in shape; that they foster lifegiving rains, yet prevent floods, while birds and animals thrive in their affluence.

And now, as man stands abashed at the vacuum of materiality, these tireless mentors furnish him with spiritual guidance. Their beautiful fingers point his thoughts aloft, away from earthly concepts. Where man once saw in them but objects of utility, he now finds beauty and inspiration. Surely, surely this feathery green covering which spreads over the world and its life is the protecting wing of the Almighty!

A tree is, indeed, a faint slit in the veil, through which shines into consciousness some of the glories of Heaven!

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RAIN

We need a new public attitude toward rain; we need to love it more!

By many, rain is considered a kind of outlaw, forever scheming against their happiness. It has become the symbol of adversity. As children we have stood with faces pressed against the window pane, looking resentfully at our flooded playgrounds. This impression trails us through life. Every plan of pleasurable outing is generally compromised in anticipation by the discouraging proviso, “if it doesn’t rain.”

It is only natural where there are so many private objections to rain, that the public attitude has given it little consideration. Many of our moves toward Nature would indicate a determined effort to annihilate the heavenly showers. We have drained vast areas of swamps, whose wide surfaces formerly were open wells from which the sun and winds could draw great quantities of water, and redistribute it over the earth’s surface; we

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have hewn down our great trees, whose broad expanse of leaf surface gives inestimable quantities of moisture into the atmosphere each day; we have trapped our beavers and blasted their dams, draining the life-giving flowages. The seasons have become more and more dry, as the atmospheric circulation of the earth’s plentiful supply of water is thus interrupted.

There is deep benefit in rain, and we may be joyous in it whether it alters our plans or not. A shower may disturb the planned picnic, but how differently it looks to the ranger who anxiously scans the country for each telltale curl of smoke, and with quick and courageous decision dispatches crews of men to fight the advance of flames through the parched forest. It may halt the contemplated motor trip and forbid the outdoor games, but how welcome to the thousands of tiny trees which have been set in furrows, in an effort to bring back our forests!

Oft the forced quietude of a rainy day is rich in its philosophic benefits. We remember well a day at the Sanctuary when a sudden shower flooded the trails that had been planned, and a cool north wind drove us all close

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to the glowing gratefire. The shower developed into a steady rain, and we sat passively attending a procession of unconnected thoughts. One of the party was bewailing his inherent misfortune in self-righteous fashion.

“I would draw rain in a desert,” he complained (neglecting to note that then the desert wold become a garden!); “never a trip that includes me goes forward as planned. The weather bureau often calls me to know if I plan going anywhere, and if I do, they prophesy rain!”

There was no effort at good humor in his voice. He believed himself a martyr in Nature, and resented the fact. Also, he was proselyting. A martyr loses his martydom if his position does not draw the sympathy of the multitude. A happy remark or a cheerful smile was enmity against our friend that day.

But there was another member of the party who remained unconsciously aloof from the remarks of the Martyr. He, too, had been confined by the same rain, but did not take it personally! He had immediately departed on another journey. In his hand he held a small,

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pocket-sized, leather book, and seemed absorbed by one particular page therein. He read it again and again, and presently, in a moment when the Martyr was silent, began reading aloud:

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”

A deeper silence crept over the group. The rain fell more intensely, beating its rhythmic symphony on the roof. Without, the deep, black forest seemed lulled to sleep by the drone of the steady downpour. Introspection fitted the moment.

“Emerson’s ‘Self-Reliance,’ is it not,” said one of the party, whose eyes glowed with awakened thoughts.

The reader nodded.

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“A perfect presentation of the originality and individuality of man,” added a third member.

Quickly there was a rondo of lively comment, the conclusion of which was that man is born fully equipped to live a thoroughly successful and happy life, if he follows the highest dictum of his honest inclinations. There were stammered efforts to elucidate the depths into which the group was so suddenly thrown, but the reader, perceiving confusion, turned again to the pen of the Wisest American:

“The power which resides in him (man) is new in Nature,” he read, “and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without pre-established harmony. The eye was placed where the ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.”

“Rather fatalistic,” commented the Martyr, still wishing someone would talk about the rain.

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“Not at all,” said a wide-awake younger member of the group. “It is a goad to make one develop his highest latent abilities!”

After another lively discussion, it was finally agreed that man’s claim to progress lies in unceasing action; that he swings through life, as a planet through space, by a power not his own. That, unlike the planet, he knows of his own existence, and of his native abilities; that he is gifted doubly by the Creator; firstly, with potential ability sufficient to his station in life, and, secondly, with potential energy sufficient to develop and apply this ability to circumstances in need of it. The enemies of this expression of latent worth were thought to be the ramifications of the sense of self: self-consciousness, self-ishness, self-pride, self-pity, self-love, and sensitiveness.

But the reader was expounding more wisdom from the golden page:

“We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of the divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.”

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“Beautiful!” commented a Lovely Soul, heretofore silent, “how we do hold back the fineness we feel, and thrust forward an outwardly unworthy and unnatural behavior. Surely, if we give expression to the good we feel rather than the evil we fear, the millenium is at hand.”

The group was silent while, perhaps, each recalled some thoughtless word or act which had been released into an already over-burdened world. There was likely a silent vow in each heart to express good more accurately, and to curb the shame which hovers about, injuriously obscuring the “divine idea which each of us represents.”

“A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best,” continued the reader, as if commenting on the present thoughts of his friends, “but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.”

The reading and the rain continued through the afternoon, with many a fine conclusion

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reached in the philosophic discussions. The Martyr forgot his injuries, and swung happily along the mental trail to self-improvement. At sundown, the clouds parted in the west, and the sun magically lighted the cleansed landscape. The party, whose steps had been happily guided to a new spiritual realm, walked down Sunset Trail under the dripping trees, and looked on the new-born world with glowing faces.

“I am grateful for the rebukes of this glorious day,” said the Lovely Soul, “We have been cleansed within, even as this world has been, without.”

“And we owe it all to the-rain!” added the Martyr, with final emphasis, determined to express himself more fully, now unashamed of the divine idea he represents.

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