love run

Dear great grandchild of mine,

There is a trail in Little Pine State Park, (just north of Waterville, Pa) that your great grandfather and I walked together in the autumn that I was 49 years old.  I would like you to go there to hike it one day. This is the place where I first dreamt of you.

If you go, go in October when the mountains are rich with color. Oh, I do so hope the mountains are still covered with trees.

That’s part of the reason I want you to go. You see, as your great grandfather and I walked the portion of the trail that follows the ridge, which rises between Pine Creek and Love Run (isn’t that a lovely name for a creek along which your great grandfather and I should hike?), we noticed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of young hemlock growing there, crowding the path so that at times we had to turn sideways to pass. As we passed through, I imagined what this place might be like when these young trees have grown, creating a dark hemlock forest through which hikers might pass in quiet wonder, hemlock needles softening their step and hushing their breath.

Perhaps I will return to this place when I’m 90 to see what 40 years growth brings, but this still will be a young forest, even then, so I’ll need you to keep watch for me. I like to think of you walking here, connected to me somehow. Perhaps you will be wondering what my life was like, as I wonder how yours will be now, as I wonder how this woodland trail will also be.

The earth is so wonderful.

I have for some time now found deep peace when I am among the trees. Even a lone tree, along a highway, can remind me that I am accompanied here in this place, that life is ancient and patient and tenacious. I do have a special fondness for hemlocks—for the magical darkness and quiet they offer in the midst of a noisy world. Hemlocks in this country have struggled so to survive. At the beginning of the last century, they were logged, stripped of the bark that was used for the tanning of hides, then often left to rot, their wood less-than what was desired for lumber. At the beginning of this century, they are plagued by the wooly agelid, an exotic invasive species of insect that is decimating them in masses.

I do so deeply hope that someday we return to right relationships with trees.. with the earth, with each other, with ourselves.

To find the hemlocks, start on the Love Run trailhead along the eastern side of Little Pine Creek Road just north of the Little Pine Lake (if it is still there), across from the Eagle Watch area,. (The eagle was perched in a bare tree across the marshland when we visited last week.)  I do hope Love Run Road/trail remains unpaved and undeveloped. The autumn afternoon we walked it, the trail was covered in moss and fallen leaves, creating a carpet of softness for Don’s ankles. It follows a picturesque ‘run’ (it was more like a rushing mountain stream the day we visited) as it tumbles and rushes over large flat rocks, creating a multitude of small waterfalls along its winding path.

You will come to an old camp, ‘Love Run Camp’, built in 1924 according to the chimney stone, which has a great flagstone porch crafted no doubt from some of those large flat rocks that inhabit this place. I sat on that porch for some time, imagining what the camp was like 85 years ago, who lived in and loved this place, who gazed like me at the tumbling waters just beyond, letting them wash over her.

Continue following the road/trail (do not turn left to cross the footbridge at the camp, but stay to the right straightaway). In about ½ mile or so, look for a narrower trail coming down from your right to intersect with the trail you are on at a sharp angle. Turn right onto this trail and head up the ridge. The next ¼ mile is quite steep, but short and well worth the climb. Keep climbing to the top where you can scramble out onto intriguing rock formations, which look like stacked towers, to panoramic vistas. Give yourself time to linger up here. Perhaps this would be a good place to stop for lunch, to rest with your back next to a tree or a rock, to dangle your legs over the edge of a  ledge, to sit quietly in prayer or meditation, to take a few photographs, to watch patiently for whatever is present that you might be missing.

Be still for a while. It is good for your soul. Notice beauty – it fills your like food never will. Breathe deeply – it soothes and settles your spirit.

When your great-grandfather and I explored this place, we were so filled with delight! We wondered if we were literally a mile high! Though we weren’t, we felt we were. We played with the idea of officially joining ‘the mile high club’ up there – but settled for a kiss.

Sincerely though, there is a kind of communion, a profound experience of intimacy, deeper than sex that I feel in the mountains and streams, with the trees and rocks, and with the people with whom I share these places. That’s why I go, after all, for that feeling of closeness, of belonging. I can’t even step into the woods without your grandparents—josh, nick, zach, kelly, and jeb – coming into my heart. I am continually reminded – by the sights and the sounds and the smells, by the crispness of the air – of the times I spent here with them when they were small children, times of closeness and laughter, of adventure and discovery.

Peace.

I hope, by the time you read this, that I have long since found a way to share this—such a vital, life-giving, such a deep, soul-nurturing part of myself—with your mothers (and fathers to come), Lilly, Layla, and Sophie. They are such little ones now, though I have taken each one of them already to visit the Grandmother tree along the rail trail in Mt Gretna.

Perhaps one of you will inherit this love of the earth from me, will find your own sense of longing and belonging amongst the trees as I do. There must be some trace of Forrest blood in your veins, blood that runs just a little bit faster and fuller, like that creek swollen by sustaining rains, when in the nourishing environment of the woodlands. Our very hearts beat more strongly here….

If the Panther Run trail is anything at all like it was when your great-grandfather and I visited, you will have to be vigilant to find your way down from those high rock outcroppings. Some of the trail blazes are difficult to find, painted on the sides of rocks, at times hidden by those young hemlock branches. Of course, it may be that the hemlocks themselves are painted with blazes by the time you come. Either way, I am certain there will have been many seasons of freshly painted blazes by the time you make your way here.

As you seek out the way, may you also seek out my presence in that place.  Look for traces of the love that I felt for this place, the wonder and delight, the surprising joy. Look for my hope in those hemlocks, hope for the future, of which you were a part of the dream. Imagine how it was when I was there, if you will, what I saw through my eyes, how I must have felt.

I will be there still, as always, in you, and in the goodness of the earth, in Love and in Peace, in your breathing in and your breathing out, in your eyes and your heart, in the feeling of hope and delight that you experience.

May you find me, and may I find you, here in this beautiful earth.

all is well,

gaga vicki

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