I wanted to drop you a line to tell you how much we have been enjoying the show this year. It is everywhere and brilliant. I have had a few health issues lately.
Things are looking up and honestly, what you have been doing around here has been positively healing. I feel better having you so close. My heart beats harder and faster when I am where you are.
I think the show this year is better than ever. I’m sure I say that every year. It is not only the colors. It is the smell and brisk air. The world seems to vibrate in your heart. Some things don’t get said often enough and I wanted to take time to tell you how much I love you.
I don’t know if you remember my grandfather. He found a place in your neighborhood and he introduced me. I was very young. I don’t remember exactly when we first met. I only know that he sprinkled a little of me in you and a wonderfully generous portion of you in me. Seeds planted. Roots. He nurtured the relationship, a little at a time over a lot of years. It goes to show how little is required to love you. You make what you are look so easy. You are the best gift my grandfather ever gave me and I don’t tell you that often enough. Lord knows I did not let him know what it meant to me to share you with him. And now I can’t, but he is still with me, even more so when I am with you. He is in my mind every time I see you.
I remember when he was still able to drive. He always brought me when he visited you. I don’t have many pictures of us, but most of the ones I do have seem to include you just over our shoulder. Life consumed those days we were not in your mountains. Here, I got to focus on my time with him. And you.
I also want to say that I am not part of the few who disrespect you. Treat you like their personal waste basket. They make me mad. They break my heart. I know they do you damage. I hope it never gets to a point where the damage cannot be undone. Children usually grow up. Ignorant people often come to know better; To regret their ignorance and do better. The damage done to you hurts me too. And sometimes there seems to be so many of them. Some people’s kids!
I and my wife went out for a ride the other day. It was in the seventies and we cracked our windows and the smell of the season filled the car. For an instant, I was in first grade again toiling over hand-traced turkeys of orange and red and black construction paper. And paste. I didn’t see my grandparents but I felt them there. It was just a moment. Your autumn aroma brought an autumn past flooding back.
I see things in you that speak to me of our creator. I see his care in the shelter and sustenance you offer. I see his love in the welcoming embrace of your shade, refused no one for any reason. Open admission regardless of age, gender, race, religion, politics, or finances. Love multiplied. No division. No judgment. No prejudice. I feel his power in the health and healing of your vistas. I hear the joy of old and young adventuring in your care; The sounds of happiness echoing through your wooded spaces; Trails and waterways. I am in awe swaddled in the majesty of your clothing in each season. In this season. I am never dry-eyed in your presence. In any season.
I don’t have much time here. It will never be enough but I want you to know you will be a part of me for as long as I am and I intend to be a part of you for as long as you are. I will someday be sprinkled to a parcel of the good lord’s earth in your shade.
When I was little, I only saw you in the summer. Wet, smoky breath in brisk morning chill loading a boat with tackle and live bait, rods, reels, and dry pants-seat in anticipation of long wait, drowned worms, and line battles. Bracing, rock-bottom-sneaker-requiring watery playground trails for day-heat relief and rock-skimming joy in whimsical moments. Magic of new. Every trip. More new. Still new. I’m no longer new. I’ve become an old man but the boy is still in there. Still awed at the majesty and beauty of your neighborhood. Misty when I go. Wherever I go. And I now get to enjoy your company through all seasons. My grandfather’s gift of you.
Forest. I’ve grown old while you seem to grow new every year. You’ve been here longer than I can remember. I have pictures dated years I can’t recall. With people I can’t recall. You are foreground and background in all of them. You’ve grown larger while I’ve grown smaller. You continue to reach out while I shrink back. Traces of life coming and going. In abundance in rays and shadows filtered through your raised arms and fluttering fingers. Light and dark. Heard. Smelled. Seen. Felt. Magic. You are still magic and new. Every day. More new. More magic. I’ve got you now. I will never let go. Thank you for keeping such a tight hold on me all these years.
I don’t say it often enough. I love you. I love what you do with the place. I’m small lost in your majesty. And warm. I’m trying to share you with the next generations. I wanted you to know I’m still here. What a show you are putting on this year! Thank you!
Your forever friend: