When you love stories and nature like I do a subtitle like TRUE STORIES OF FAITH AND ADVENTURE IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS is almost irresistible. I have read several of Murray Pura’s books, mostly fiction, and have been carried away by his storytelling mastery. So when I got my hands on this book, a non-fiction, I was eager to read it because this was the author’s real life, not his imaginings. Like most avid readers I am always a bit curious about an author’s real life.
Each chapter stands alone and has an un-preachy devotional feel. I could see the sunsets, hear the elk’s call, feel the cold shock of river water and smell the campfires in Pura’s backcountry adventures. I fell in love with his loyal dogs and I don’t even like dogs! I read this book slowly, over several weeks; savouring it like fine chocolate that I will squirrel away and nibble on over several months.
While the chapter that blew the cover on Pura’s wife Linda’s nocturnal imaginings was amusing, without a doubt, my favorite chapter was the second to last where he describes encountering a bear in Waterton National Park. My husband Gerry and I have holidayed in that very place for more than a dozen years. I have been on the hike he described and several others and his description of the breathtaking beauty there is entirely accurate.
But it was Pura’s final anecdote in the final chapter that touched my soul. Because I was once in spiritual wilderness for a long time, his description of walking into the real wilderness to heal his hurting soul was particularly poignant:
Once, I went into the wild a dead man. Death had broken my heart and I grieved. I had nothing left for wife or family or the church where I pastored. I sat among the trees and read the Bible and gave God my pain and anger and hopelessness. One by one the stars came out. At dawn, the sun rose clear of the mountains and hills. The birds moved swiftly from branch to branch. Whitetail drank at the green river. I walked with the dogs to a marshland and jumped when a bull moose with a full rack roared and splashed through the water away from us. The sun set in red and purple, the moon came back with the stars, fire warmed my face and hands, stew bubbled in a cast-iron pot. I slept in a dark as thick as a wool blanket. In the morning a breeze stirred the ashes of my fire pit and a flame shot up.
God’s words in God’s pages made more sense to me in God’s wild. After a few days I was a new man. God was as close to me as the sweet air I took into my lungs. In fact, he had never left my heart. Or left me without strength. It was just that I knew that better now. And lived again. (pp 234, 235)
If you feel like the walking dead, like God is no nearer than the Milky Way, I encourage you to step outside and take a look at the night sky — get out on your balcony or walk to a nearby park on a starry night. Just drink in the majesty of God’s handiwork. He has never left you. Let the breeze on your face be the feel of His gentle touch, let the sound of wind in the trees be His whisper as He says, “I’m right here. Call out to Me in your time of trouble and I will heal your soul.” When you step back inside, pick up His Word and read Psalm 139 as if you had written it yourself. Let the truth of His Word comfort you and give you hope.