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A Private History of Awe

Excerpted and adapted from Scott Russell Sanders' book, A Private History of Awe (New York, North Point Press, 2006).

In his book A Private History of Awe, Scott Russell Sanders remembers a spring day when he was a young boy, old enough to run around and small enough to be carried in his father's arms. The wind was booming; lightning flashed everywhere as a heavy rain fell. His father carried him out on to the porch, held him against his chest, and hummed as the thunder rumbled. They looked out at the trees and the huge oak which was the tallest thing the child knew. The oak swayed in the storm. Suddenly a flash and boom split the air. Everything became a white glare. "Sweet Jesus," his father cried out, grabbing him and pulling him close. Lighting had struck the oak and it snapped like a stick. Its top shattered onto the ground and a charred streak ran down the trunk.

One moment the great tree was there as solid as the father, bigger than anything Scott knew, and the next moment it was gone.

Fifty years later that day still haunts Scott. That was the day when power, energy, wildness that surges through everything was revealed in a flash. Scott writes, "The sky cracked open to reveal a world where even grownups were tiny and houses were toys and wood and skin and everything was made of light."

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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