Stuart Little and the third definition of religion

23 December, 2018            Stuart Little and the third definition of religion

Thanks for the picture Elizabeth! Flying and dogs – how much more fun can a person have?


I just liked starting this blog post off with that picture. We didn’t actually fly that day. Mackey and Turner and I went to Hanover County Municipal Airport (KOFP) Thursday to drop off a Christmas present (Highland County Virginia Maple syrup, of course) for my long time flight instructor Ernest. He wasn’t around so we dropped it off at the front desk. My friend Elizabeth works at the front desk and Mackey and Turner convinced her to take that picture. The maple syrup was from my favorite Highland County maple syrup operation, Back Creek Farms. Click on that link and order some from them – or better yet, visit. Or go to the 61st annual Highland Maple Festival the second and third weekends in March – you will not be disappointed. I’ve been going for ages and it gets better every year.

My nephew Wesson and my brother Shane (Wesson’s father) reintroduced me to E. B. White’s classic children’s books such as Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan and Charlotte’s Web. Reading them inspired me for this blog post. We exchange passages we’re particularly fond of. While Evelyn and I were riding the rails south from New Jersey last week, Wesson and Shane noted a passage in The Trumpet of the Swan that caused them to prick up their ears (in a manner of speaking):

“Sam always felt happy when he was in a wild place among wild creatures. Sitting on his log, watching the swans, he had the same good feeling some people get when they are sitting in church.” – White, E. B.. The Trumpet of the Swan (p. 249). HarperCollins.

I thought how happy I am when I’m in a wild place – if Pony Pasture counts – among wild creatures. Pony Pasture has deer and eagles and snakes and toads and snails and salamanders and frogs and skinks and squirrels and chickadees and tent caterpillars and barred owls and grasshoppers, butterflies, ospreys, raccoons, opossums, foxes, mosquitoes, bats, lightning bugs, bees, flies, eels, goldfinches, bluebirds, ospreys, wrens, robins, and chipmunks, plus at least one or two I’m leaving out. I’m always definitely among wild creatures when I’m at Pony Pasture. Pony Pasture definitely counts. Like Sam in The Trumpet of the Swan, I always feel happy when I’m in a wild place among wild creatures.

Monday morning I was still tired from our New Jersey Adventure but I had to get up at 5:00 and work. My morning job was more challenging than normal, and when I drove home I was relieved to see a Red-tail on a cell phone tower. I stopped and settled in and slipped into a photography trance and started taking pictures and a brief video while it was being mobbed by crows. All my travel-tiredness and work-stress vanished – like they’d never existed – when I focused on those birds. That was when I felt happy “in a wild place among wild creatures.” I am certain I experienced “the same good feeling some people get when they are sitting in church.”

I didn’t take this picture that morning, but I took it later this week – and I still had “the same good feeling.”:

Red-tail sparkling in the early winter sunlight


I thought about “the same good feeling” and I looked up “religion” in my American Heritage  Dictionary. Here’s what it said:


re‧li‧gion rĭ‐lĭj′ən n.
1. a. The belief in and reverence for […]

  1. The life or condition of […]   
  2. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion: “a person for whom art became a religion.”

[emphasis added]

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition Copyright © 2011-2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


Photographing raptors is an activity I pursue with zeal that might sometimes be called obsession. “A person for whom raptor photography became a religion.”

I pursue flying with joy and obsession as well, but I’m going to take a short break. One sign at an airport where we landed said “Flying is the 2nd greatest thrill known to man. Landing is the first.” I’m looking forward to getting back to it in 2019 at some point. Ernest and I had a great flight Tuesday. We flew for over five hours (total) and landed at eight different Virginia airports, including Hanover when we got home that evening. Here’s a selfie of Ernest and me shortly before takeoff Tuesday morning:

My flight instructor Ernest and me just before takeoff Tuesday:


One of our many landings was at Luray Caverns Aiport (KLUA); we stopped for lunch in Luray. I wish I hadn’t cut the bottom of this picture off but oops. Dulles is a Virginia airport, and so is Luray. They’re less than an hour’s flight apart, but it’s an entirely different world: 

Luray Caverns Airport. You just cannot beat this kind of flying.


A guy named Danny was the airport manager and he recommended a few great places to eat and drove us into town in the airport’s big old white Ford Crown Victoria. We first ate at Uncle Buck’s Family Restaurant, where I had scrapple and eggs on a bagel for lunch. We used to make scrapple when we slaughtered hogs at our cabin up there (in Page County) when we were younger. As my brother Kevin reminded me, scrapple is a.k.a. “Pond Horse” though at this time I do not know why. But you can google it. I was grateful to be there. Really, really, really far from the madding crowd for sure. Here’s the sign on the side:

Uncle Buck’s Family Restaurant, 42 E Main St, Luray, VA 22835


We went to a fantastic coffee place right next door called Gathering Grounds and had coffee and a little more to eat. Because why not. Here are two pictures I enjoyed from inside Gathering Grounds:

Zen Turner. This is the kind of thing you find when you go flying. This and scrapple. 





Can you figure it out?



Our friend Ariel had us over for dinner last night and she was serving lamb. Evelyn is a vegetarian but I love lamb; not least because it’s served with mint jelly, and when else do you have mint jelly? I couldn’t find any at Kroger or at The Fresh Market and Evelyn didn’t find any at Ellwood Thompson but on her way home she stopped at Yellow Umbrella and found this treasure:

You can’t really eat lamb unless you have mint jelly


This is how our plane looked when we got back to the airport. In weather like this you just want to fly and fly and fly some more. Even if you don’t like flying, look at this. See the moon rising back there? You just cannot imagine how much fun this is:

Look at that. See the moon back there? Rising over the mountains? Scrapple for lunch? How much fun can one person have? It is beyond compare. 


I am having an indescribable amount of fun flying, but it’ll be good to take a break. It’ll be even greater when I get back in the air.

I need to go to bed! Until next week – which will be my final blog post of 2018 – have a great week,


About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Bryan Park, coffee, Dogs, Fun, highland maple festival, James River, klua, kofp, moon, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Tecnam and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Stuart Little and the third definition of religion

  1. Jean Yerian says:

    My Dad LOVED scrapple! He was born in Southeast Ohio, in an area that was clearly part of Appalachia. He was born along a tiny waterway everyone around there called Raccoon Crick. Because of money and a war, he had to leave college after a year, but he read five books a week and he inspired a lifetime of curiosity in me.

    When I met John in Dubai, he described a childhood much like my dad’s, although John grew up in a barter economy in the Ozarks. He was a curious renaissance man who was highly educated – four degrees + four years in seminary + four courses in law school. But John, too, said Crick, and my father would have loved him, as I did.

  2. John said potato, I say potahto, tomato, tomahto, etc – as long as we understand one another! I also believe SE OH is a lot like WV and western VA. Do you read Julie Zickefoose? She’s a lovely and talented writer, went to HS here in Henrico then on to Yale and now lives and writes in SE OH. I’m grateful that John was such a talented communicator, and that you are, and that my father was, and I’m sure your father was too. More communication is better! I suspect no war has ever been fought because people were communicating too effectively. I’m grateful both of our fathers “inspired a lifetime of curiosity” in us! Merry Christmas, have a wonderful week, much love,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s