(For Sam & Lauren, with Love)
My son and daughter-in-law love to go hiking, particularly in areas that have lots of trees. Redwoods are of great interest and grab Lauren’s heart in particular. While I think Sam’s draw to hiking is also about the trees, I sense it includes elevation, providing sweeping vistas to the Pacific Ocean and beyond.
When I was much younger—and fit—I used to love to hike and run in the woods. Living much of my adult life in Iowa before moving to California more than two decades ago, there were fewer trees and certainly no Redwoods. Growing up in Michigan, however, the land was peppered and clotted with firs and pines. To this day, the fragrance of evergreens restores me to something primal, pure, even spiritual.
As a child, some of my deepest experiences and memories restore instantly some fibrous ingredient to my soul, like wood pulp to tree trunk strength, a venous stalwart delivery system feeding my very core. There is a quality about nature, at once essential, restorative, binding to all life.
A memory from age five renders such an evocative energy and life force. Our family was renting a cottage on Indian Lake, a vacation spot in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was a short distance from Manistique where we would move in a few months once our home was purchased and readied for move-in.
It was winter, cold and thick with snow but I was safe and warm inside, though still longing for the out-of-doors. As I gazed through a foggy window to the thick woods across the road, I thought I saw a bear making its way through the branches. I felt startled yet envious, close to fearfulness yet safely tucked inside, buttressed by a longing to be out among the trees as well.
Even now just relating this experience brings the longing back, wishing for an instant transport to the vapors that are at the core of the physical expression of pine, mammal, and the drive to some sort of movement to a nameless and unseen destination operating as a homing device.
Transfixed, I felt helpless to extricate my interior emotion from that visual field for a time. At some point the bear was no longer in view. I have no idea how long this observation happened in minutes, maybe even seconds. But there are experiences in nature that are timeless, that enrich our lives, refueling an unstoppable forward momentum when time seems to have slowed or halted altogether.
Hiking for me (and likely my son and daughter-in-law) is such a mechanism for all of it, whether internally described for themselves or not, where this nurturance on One Strange Rock aptly named Mother Earth resides. And while I still walk a lot these days, it’s rare I’m free to do much of it in the ruggedness of nature; rarer still to do it in my physical condition. So when Lauren and/or Sam “go a hiking” I am reverent at their very act while also envious I’m unable to participate with the mechanical breakdown of an aging body.
Still, Lauren and Sam’s pictures take me back, even if just a little, to that all important whispered fragrance that fuels and propels us all magnetic-like to the divine, to our very source. And I feel resurrected if even for an instant. It is a kind of Grace, one I do not take for granted.
photo by Lauren Mendelsohn