Do you have an unquiet spirit? Are you discontent with where you are in life, wishing merely to live life to the fullest? Then you share the feelings of one of my favorite authors, Ray Stannard Baker.
Baker was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1870. While not known as a Christian author, he wrote wonderful philosophical essays on various aspects of nature from the point of view of a farmer. For these, he used the pen name David Grayson.
Here is an excerpt from one of his books, Adventures in Contentment:
I did not want to feel or to think: I merely wanted to live. In the sun or the rain I wanted to go out and come in, and never again know the pain of the unquiet spirit. I looked forward to an awakening not without dread for we are as helpless before birth as in the presence of death.
But like all birth, it came, at last, suddenly. All that summer I had worked in a sort of animal content. Autumn had now come, late autumn, with coolness in the evening air. I was plowing in my upper field—not then mine in fact—and it was a soft afternoon with the earth turning up moist and fragrant. I had been walking the furrows all day long. I had taken note, as though my life depended upon it, of the occasional stones or roots in my field, I made sure of the adjustment of the harness, I drove with peculiar care to save the horses. With such simple details of the work in hand I had found it my joy to occupy my mind. Up to that moment the most important things in the world had seemed a straight furrow and well-turned corners—to me, then, a profound accomplishment.
I cannot well describe it, save by the analogy of an opening door somewhere within the house of my consciousness. I had been in the dark: I seemed to emerge. I had been bound down: I seemed to leap up—and with a marvelous sudden sense of freedom and joy.
I stopped there in my field and looked up. And it was as if I had never looked up before. I discovered another world. It had been there before, for long and long, but I had never seen nor felt it. All discoveries are made in that way: a man finds the new thing, not in nature but in himself.
It was as though, concerned with plow and harness and furrow, I had never known that the world had height or color or sweet sounds, or that there was feeling in a hillside. I forgot myself, or where I was. I stood a long time motionless. My dominant feeling, if I can at all express it, was of a strange new friendliness, a warmth, as though these hills, this field about me, the woods, had suddenly spoken to me and caressed me. It was as though I had been accepted in membership, as though I was now recognized, after long trial, as belonging here.
Across the town road which separates my farm from my nearest neighbor’s, I saw a field, familiar, yet strangely new and unfamiliar, lying up to the setting sun, all red with autumn, above it the incalculable heights of the sky, blue, but not quite clear, owing to the Indian summer haze. I cannot convey the sweetness and softness of that landscape, the airiness of it, the mystery of it, as it came to me at that moment. It was as though, looking at an acquaintance long known, I should discover that I loved him. As I stood there I was conscious of the cool tang of burning leaves and brush heaps, the lazy smoke of which floated down the long valley and found me in my field, and finally I heard, as though the sounds were then made for the first time, all the vague murmurs of the country side—a cow-bell somewhere in the distance, the creak of a wagon, the blurred evening hum of birds, insects, frogs. So much it means for a man to stop and look up from his task. So I stood, and I looked up and down with a glow and a thrill which I cannot now look back upon without some envy and a little amusement at the very grandness and seriousness of it all. And I said aloud to myself: “I will be as broad as the earth. I will not be limited.”
Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” — John 10:10. When was the last time that you looked up from your work and noticed God? Autumn is the perfect time to look around you and soak up all the wonderful things that the Lord has made for your enjoyment.
I invite you to make David Grayson’s book Adventures in Contentment your autumn read. It is available here online to read for free.
Take some time to find a quiet place in the autumn sun. Put your feet up, and read Grayson’s words. Perhaps you will find your own field, “familiar, yet strangely new and unfamiliar, lying up to the setting sun, all red with autumn.” Perhaps it will be as though you are looking at an acquaintance long known and discover that you love Him.
Father God. During this beautiful season of autumn, remind me to take time to appreciate your wondrous works.
If you liked Adventures in Contentment, you’ll also enjoy these other country-life books by David Grayson:
Adventures in Friendship
The Friendly Road
Adventures in Understanding
Adventures in Solitude
The Countryman’s Year