by Lowell Bliss
This blog post is the last bit of work that I will do before going down to the basement and collecting my backpack and camping gear. I’m headed to the mountains. From our new home here in Ontario, I’m equal distance from the Adirondacks and the Alleghenies. I don’t know yet if I’ll turn east or west once I cross the border. My trip is something of a send-off by my wife, who has been worried about my emotional endurance. “Where can I find happiness?” the Boy Who Spoke to the Earth asks in the illustrated children’s book by the same name.
"'The journey to happiness is difficult, but I can show you the way,' said the Earth. 'Are you willing to make the journey?'
'Oh, I am,' said the Boy, and he meant it."
Robynn had just returned from a Frontier Ventures event in Pasadena, and we were sitting on the couch while she, in turn, listened to my week. “You should get away,” she said. “We’ve been talking about you going hiking. Either do it or don’t do it, but you need to make a decision.” She then walked into her office and came back with a children’s book.
“I found this at the Santa Monica Mountains Visitors Center.” Robynn is a spiritual director and is always on the look-out for children’s books to use in her practice. The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth is written by award-winning photographer Chris Burkard and illustrated by David McClellan. Dreamling Books, the publisher, released this YouTube preview in 2015.
The Earth sends the Boy on a journey: to the ocean, to the waterfalls, to the forests, to the desert, to the mountains, and to the top of the world. The Boy variously “wades and wanders,” “steps and strides,” or “hikes and hauls” as he leaves each landscape behind. “I see the water and the shells,” said the Boy as he leaves the ocean, “but I don’t see happiness.”
The Boy speaks again to the Earth and the Earth simply asks, “My Boy, did you look without seeing?” The Earth sends the Boy back along the trail: “but this time,” the Earth tells him, “stand still for just a moment.”
It’s no spoiler to tell you that the next six double-page spreads contain no words at all. The Boy is simply set as a small and silent figure in some of the most glorious drawings I’ve ever seen in a children’s book. The reader can’t help but “stand still for just a moment” before each page.
I don’t know what I will be looking at in the Adirondacks or the Alleghenies--I don't even know what range I will choose--but my wife, writer Chris Burkard, illustrator David McClellan, and the Earth itself have just reminded me to stand still for a moment and “see” for a change. Do you have vacation or travel plans this summer? May you find what the Boy finds in the same way that he finds it. (And may your spouse or friend buy you this book at the earliest convenience.)