"Making a tangible home for the soul is the essence of making a sacred place."
-- Anthony Lawlor
Gail Straub is the Executive Director of the Empowerment Institute, which she co-founded in1981. She is a social activist and author of
five books. This one is a collection of 36 lyrical and pensive essays. Paying tribute to the Catskill Mountains through four seasons, she expresses her gratitude and reverence for the forests, birds, and other beings who live there.
"Your sacred place is where you can find yourself again and again."
-- Joseph Campbell
Straub's observations emerge from her daily practice of walking an hour-long loop along the Ashokan Reservoir surrounded by the grandeur of the Catskill Mountain Watershed. She writes that walking through this place of natural abundance has shaped her way of life. She has grown very close to these living mountains through her meditative walks. One of them, High Point, is depicted on the logo for her work with her husband David Gershon. She notes that this "mountain itself continues to inspire to give our best to life. It continues to offer solace and to fortify us in different times."
"It is essential to experience all the times and moods of one good place."
-- Thomas Merton
Straub agrees with the poet Rilke who said, "There is no place at all that is not looking at you." Mystics and shamans have experienced this mutual exchange between humans and the landscape. After a particularly beautiful walk, Straub decides, "There is no way to know this for sure. But in my heart I feel that my walk this morning was a miracle witnessed by both myself and by the landscape. And that such unheralded moments of marvel are not just for humans alone." Straub demonstrates her wide range of emotions and literary skills in essays on watching birds, the destructiveness of hurricanes, dharma as true nature, and nature, art and spirituality as strange bedfellows, and other fascinating topics.