Lately, in moments of prayerful reflection, I have come to understand that my whole life -- the adventures and experiences of my TV years, our moving to an empty island off Maine, my wife and I, and living there with no public utilities for 13 years -- the abundant highs and inescapable lows -- all these have been leading to this.
This essay. And in general, my time of witness. Going from reporting other people's biographies for A&E, to confessing my own in a new book. From broadcasting the news to broadcasting the The Good News.
It's about time.
I grew up in a smalltown Ohio home that was nominally Christian. There was a Bible on the shelf but on the shelf! If the family went to church it was more a social occasion than devotion. I picked up just enough faith too stamp "Lutheran" on my dog tags but nothing on my heart. In college -- the easiest place to lose any nascent belief-- religion fascinated me as a course, but not a commitment. I got a major in religion but didn't get religion.
Mind you, I never doubted the existence of God. I just didn't care. I was doing fine living a life unexamined. Flukes and lucky breaks seemed to guide my life just where I wanted to go. I had success, recognition and enough acclaim to coddle the ego. I was busy. There was no room in my life for God. For a journalist, after all, the coin of the realm is fact, hard fact. Not speculation. And certainly not unprovable belief.
And yet, and yet...
Though there was no room in my life for God, there was room in God for my life.
The epiphany came not by flukes or breaks but by more powerful guidance than those. At the height of my career I made the drastic and life-changing decision to retreat with my wife to that island-for-two off the coast of Maine. What that move did to us, for us, would prove to be the greatest story this newsman could ever report.
Our cabin was surrounded by all kinds of trees, but one, especially, intrigued me, and we named our place after it: Moosewood. It is a small, understory tree and content to be. It does not need to be on top. Nor, anymore, did I. The moosewood develops enlarged leaves to capture sufficient sun there in the understory. After years of talking I needed to develop enlarged eyes and ears, the better to see and hear what for me was now the news of the day:
- The doe proudly introducing her delicately spotted fawn at the edge of the woods then the two of them, white flags flying, bounding away.
- The sound of a thousand wings as a raft of eider on the waters off the island anticipated our approach with what sounded to us like velvet applause.
- Bruckner letting us know that a fog had blown in, Bruckner being our name for the lighthouse out on Egg Rock at the harbor entrance, its dolorous call, Wooo-wah-wawoo, Wooo-wah-wawoo, echoing the horns opening Anton Bruckner's Fourth symphony.
- The bouquet of aromas rising to our cabin -- the pungent iodine of seaweed exposed at low tide, diesel fumes from lobster boats cranking up to get their horny-handed lobstermen and stern men out to their traps by sunrise, the legal opening of the day's harvest.
- The perfume of the boughs of balsam fir we snipped and bundled back to the cabin where over coming days, fingers growing raw and sticky with resin, we crafted several dozen Christmas wreaths to send off to less fortunate friends removed from natural Christmas aromas.
For 13 years at Moosewood, we found bliss --- and challenge.
Our first winter at Moosewood we were snowbound for 2-1/2 months. We could ski or snowshoe the half mile to the end of the island, cross the gravel and shell bar to town at low tide, backpack home bare supplies. But we wished we'd stocked up on 50 pound bags of dog food and kitty litter.
There were times our solar electric system crashed -- kerosene lamps were lit and with no pump, snow melted on the wood-stove for water. Trials and tribulations. But St. Paul taught us about those. So when the sewer pipe out to the septic field clogged and backed up, we learned good lessons like, if you go down to the basement and unscrew the cap from the big main drain, and it all comes gushing out at you, don't try to put the cap back on... And most important as you gaze up at it, keep your mouth closed.
Lessons taught; lessons learned; life lived.
Life lived! And not alone. The two of us by ourselves on the island understood each day that we were not alone.
Some people, thrilled by nature around them, worship it. At first, maybe we did too. But not for long. We learned that lesson too.
On special occasions, we enjoyed going over to town at low tide for a special celebratory dinner at George's restaurant in Bar Harbor. We would have a great meal and on our way out, pop into the kitchen to thank George once again. Never occurred to us to turn around and thank the stove.
But isn't that what some people do? For the bounties of Creation, they ignore the Creator and thank Nature They ignore the chef and thank the stove.
For Mary Jo and me, every day of our blessed lives at Moosewood surrounded us with irrefutable evidence of the creator. He laid before us a daily banquet. We were left with no doubt: there is a chef in the kitchen.
And He is God. And I cannot prove that and that's alright because I no longer believe what I know. I know what I believe. I believe in Jesus, our savior, and the Holy Spirit who guided us to "Finding Moosewood, Finding God."
Jack Perkins is a former NBC News correspondent and host of A&E's Biography. During the height of his career he and his wife moved to a remote island off the coast of Maine. There he discovered a gracious God who knew him long before Jack acknowledged him. His story is told in the new book 'Finding Moosewood, Finding God.'