"Meditation is the essence of it," William H. Gass writes of the art of essay writing. "It measures meanings, makes maps, exfoliates. The essay is unharried; it browses among books; it enjoys an idea like fine wine; it thumbs through things." That's a fine description of the craft of Scott Russell Sanders, a gifted writer who never fails to enchant with his deft insights and poetic observations on the abundant mysteries and pleasures of life. In this winning collection, he thumbs through marriage, silence, faith, the Bible, tracing the grain in wood, and learning from the prairie.

I especially enjoyed his essay "The Power of Stories" where he celebrates ten ways in which they deepen and enrich our lives. One of these is their ability to educate our yearning: "What stories at their best can do is lead our desires in new directions — away from greed, toward generosity; away from suspicion, toward sympathy; away from an obsession with material goods, so dear to a consumer culture, and toward a concern for spiritual goods."

Whether he is reflecting upon a visitation of his deceased father in an encounter with a red-tailed hawk, pondering the lessons from the Biblical books of Amos and James, or letting his experiences at a Quaker meeting simmer in his consciousness, Sanders is concerned with the presence of Spirit, which is the term he uses to speak of "the current that lifts us into this life and bears us along and eventually lets us go." Savor these essays for they measure important meanings and provide images of the amazing adventure of everyday spirituality.