Wayne County Wanderings: In the Woods & On the Shoreline

As many of you know, I've lived in NEPA all my life. And, as my mentor, Dr. Walter Barbe often says: “Why would we want to live anywhere else?”

One of my favorite pastimes is walking and Wayne County is an ideal place to amble.

Over the years, I've spent countless hours wandering the woods at our family farm in Lake Ariel. I've hiked the trails at Prompton State Park, strolled the perimeter of Lake Wallenpaupack and explored the haunting ruins of Tanners Falls … just to name a very few.

These days, my daily rambles are centered near my home in White Mills. It's hilly terrain, but also perfect for walking because it's quiet, there's very little traffic and the scenery is just beautiful.

I can spend hours tracing a meandering stream through the woods, skipping rocks on the river or just sitting quietly on the shore of a lake or pond.

It's the perfect remedy for my brain after a hectic day of newspaper deadlines, ringing phones and uncooperative computers.

I like to vary my routes to keep things fresh, but there are several spots to which I return frequently. There ... away from prying eyes and the pressures of workaday life ... I sit down, relax and just think.

Such was the case this week on a beautiful and unseasonably warm day...

Romantic Hero

Growing up as the sons of two English teachers, it was inevitable that my brothers and I would be exposed to poetry and prose from an early age.

We were surrounded by books. A bust of Shakespeare stood in the front hall. The most expensive piece of furniture in the house was a stereo that bathed our home in everything from Beethoven and Mozart to Simon & Garfunkel.

While I never embraced classical music the way my Dad does, I fell in love with reading … everything from comic books to the classics.

My love of poetry came later. I discovered Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg in fifth grade. And, ever since then, I've spent countless hours marveling at the magical command poets have over language.

I encountered Lord Byron for the first time in high school, then delved more deeply into his writings during my college years.

While there's no denying the power of his words, I have to admit the first thing that attracted me to Byron was his over-the-top personality and his taste for adventure. The man was a legend!

Byron was born in 1788 and lived only 36 years. However, his candle burned bright during his short stay on this planet. He was rich, handsome, brilliant and never gave a damn what anyone else thought of him.

If you're looking for a bit of context as to where Byron's mercurial personality came from, here's all you need to know: His father was called “Mad Jack” and his grandfather was “Foulweather” Jack.

My favorite quote that perfectly sums up Lord Byron's personality came via Lady Caroline Lamb who called him “Mad, bad and dangerous to know.”

Byron is universally hailed as one of Britain's greatest poets. His first collection was published when he was just 17 and he kept right on writing until his untimely death.

Byron was close friends with another literary giant, Percy Bysshe Shelley and a hopeless romantic. He traveled widely and took countless lovers of both sexes.

Unfortunately, it was his tireless quest for adventure that led to Byron's demise while fighting in the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire. He died on the eve of battle at a place called Missolonghi.

British historian David Brewer encapsulated Lord Byron's reputation thus...

“His presence in Greece, and in particular his death there, drew to the Greek cause not just the attention of sympathetic nations, but their increasing active participation.

“Byron is primarily remembered with admiration as a poet of genius, for his courage and his ironic slant on life, for his generosity to the grandest of causes and to the humblest of individuals, for the constant interplay of judgment and sympathy.

“In Greece he is still revered like a Homeric hero, accorded an honorific standard epithet, megalos kai kalos, a great and good man.”

On the Shore

This week, my wanderings led me to a tranquil little pond not far from my house.

I sat down on the shore and spent an idyllic half-hour just soaking in the sun. It was as peaceful a time as I've experienced in years.

While looking out over the smooth, glassy surface, a quote from Lord Byron popped into my head and it perfectly describes the feeling I was experiencing at that moment:

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is rapture on the lonely shore.”

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my life, my family, my friends, my job and the folks with whom I interact everyday. I have a small life, but it's a happy one and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

There are times, though, when I just need to disconnect. I have to walk in the woods, sit on the shore and clear my head.

Wayne County is the perfect setting for this kind of activity. There are so many places to wander … so many beautiful spots to sit down and think.

As April heads toward May and Spring begins bursting forth in all its splendor, don't forget to set aside an occasional moment for quiet reflection.

Meditate, or pray if you're so inclined. Thank God for all the good people and good things in your life.

Remember that there's poetry in this world if only we'll stop, take a deep breath and let it seep into our souls.