In the Realm of the Sea Eagle — A Cathedral in the Wild

Troll Fjord Reflections

Troll Fjord Reflections

Before Solomon built his temple, there were Cathedrals in the Wild. Before Giovannio de Dolci created the Sistine Chapel, and Michelangelo painted his masterpiece on its ceiling, there were Cathedrals in the Wild. Before Norwegians built their Stave Churches, there were Cathedrals in the Wild.

John Muir’s Cathedral was Yosemite; Thoreau’s Walden Pond.

A Cathedral in the Wild is that place among the wonders of Nature where we find ourselves by losing ourselves in the rapture of the experience.

The Cathedral in the Wild’s walls are not of lumber or brick, or shrouded in stained glass or paintings, but are original works, shaped by volcanic upheavals and tectonic folds and sculptured by ancient seas and glaciers; its pulpit and chapel are dappled in light splashing among trees that reach toward the heavens. In the Cathedral’s amphitheater, the hymns are sung by the songbirds, and played on the flutes of the winds and the waves.

Sermons in the Cathedral in the Wild are not in spoken or written words, they’re experiential; for the revelations of the sermons are about our beginnings, our kinship with other life on Planet Earth, and our place in creation – sermons these Cathedrals began providing our ancestors eons before there were spoken or written languages. The Cathedral’s sermons are for our hearts, teachings for the artist within, the architect of our character and values. Taking part in such a sermon is deeply emotional, a whole body experience.

Today, we can sample excerpts of sermons from Cathedrals in the Wild through the photographic artistry of the likes of Clyde Butcher or videographers like James Balog, or the poetic writings of an Aldo Leopold or a Thomas Berry, or the symphonies of a composer like Edvard Grieg. But such an experience is virtual, an imitation of the real thing.

In contrast, participating in a sermon within a Cathedral in the Wild is first-hand, very personal. There is no intermediary. Revelation is not skimped by the limitations of the written word or of the shape of a work of art. The revelation doesn’t come one page or one scene or one musical note at a time. It’s all around us at the same time. As Stephen Harrod Buhner wrote in the Secret Teachings of the Plants, the dimensions of Nature revealed to us through actual experience are “invisible to the linear mode of consciousness.” We are, Buhner continues, “reading the text of the world.”

“In engaging the text of the world, we are literally inserted within the story. The details, the communications, are multidimensional, not two-dimensional words on a page. They touch us at all points of contact, millions upon millions of points of contact. These places of contacts range from our deep unconscious to our conscious mind, from our bodies to our souls. And the meanings within the text literally interweave with us; we are interwoven with the text of the world. …

“As encountered meanings flow into us they change us, remake us. … Soul-making is something that happens … .”

Sea Eagle in Troll Fjord

Sea Eagle in Troll Fjord

And soul-making is something that happened to my son John and I when, on June 21, 2013, we sailed into Troll Fjord, a Cathedral in the Wild - a narrow inlet off Raftsund between the Norwegian archipelagos of Lofoten and Vesterålen, above the Arctic Circle, its mountains towering some 1,100 meters above us, its gold and orange craggy walls splotched with shades of grey and green vying for our attention with their reflections on the placid waters.

This Cathedral in the Wild was more than a stunning amphitheater of rugged beauty choreographed with Nature’s melodic songs.

This Cathedral was the Realm of the Sea Eagle.

It was as if we were the Sea Eagle’s invited guests - pupils, honored participants for today’s sermon.

Suddenly our host appeared on the Cathedral’s high pulpit, soaring above the Fjord’s cliffs, feathering the tips of its eight-foot wing span up and down like ailerons, confidently riding the shifting thermals as the most skilled of glider pilots.

Quickly the Eagle turned, and, as if guided by radar, dived, then flashed its wings out again as it skimmed the waters, its talons plucking its meal from the waves flawlessly, with the touch any third baseman fielding grounders would love to have.

The Catch

The Catch

There were two brief encounters for us that day from the Sea Eagle’s pulpit, maybe three minutes in total. In those fleeting moments we knew we shared more with the Sea Eagle than our love of fish, more than a few strands of DNA.

The sermons did nothing to validate man’s primitive and arrogant idea of his speciality or his exclusivity as one created in the image of his God. Instead, we were humbled. After those fleeting moments of flight we knew we were each a member of the sacred community of our Universe.

Some 75 years ago, 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner and philosopher Albert Schweitzer wrote:

“The deeper we look into nature, the more we recognize that it is full of life, and more profoundly we know that all of life is a secret and that we are united with all life that is in nature. Man can no longer live his life for himself alone. We realize that all life is valuable and that we are united with all this life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship to the universe.”

As we sailed out of Troll Fjord and the echoes of bird songs faded into the recesses of the Fjord’s canyon walls, John turned to me and said, “This is a day I will never forget.”

And neither would I. For we had attended a sermon in a Cathedral in the Wild.


Photos from Norway are a special gallery at DickJacobsPhotography.Com.

Albert Schweitzer’s Nobel Lecture.

Albert Schweitzer on the Meaning of Philosophy:

The purpose of all philosophy is to make us aware as thinking beings of the intelligent and intimate relationship with the universe in which we have to stand, and of the way in which we must behave in the presence of the stimuli that comes from it. One kind of philosophy is able to bring man and the universe together only by doing violence to nature and the world and by forcing the world into harmony with man’s thought. The other, the insignificant nature philosophy, leaves the world and nature as they are, and compels man to find himself and assert himself in them as a spiritually and creatively triumphant being. The first philosophy is ingenious, the second elementary. The first proceeds from one mighty manifestation of thought to another, … and we are carried away with admiration for them. This philosophy has its day and it disappears. The second, the plain and simple truth of nature remains. … {I]t is our appointed task to bring it to an affirmative position in relation to the world and life, in so simple a fashion that all thoughtful people throughout the world would have to share this thinking, and therein find peace with the infinite and incentive for creative activity.

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15 Comments on "In the Realm of the Sea Eagle — A Cathedral in the Wild"

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I think this is absolutely beautiful. Soul-touching — both words and photos. Thank you.
This is one of my favorite lines: In those fleeting moments we knew we shared more with the Sea Eagle than our love of fish, more than a few strands of DNA.

The poetry in your prose is wonderful. You have such a gift for touching us with your words and the gorgeous photography is more than a bonus. Thank you.

Beautifully written as always. Thanks.

Amazing photography, wonderful thoughts.


Dick, you have a way of drawing people into the adventure, That was beautiful and what a time to share with your son.

Stunning photography as always ! Your writing makes me smile . How awesome that you and John shared such a wonderful experience . What an amazing soul you are 🙂