There is a pitch-black place in the center of my constitution. An inescapable, dark part of my makeup. A place where my father departed far too soon and my mother, who had issues of her own to contend with and consequently could never seem to see the forest for the trees, decided to deny us all. Her father. Her brothers and sisters. Her only child. It’s a place I do my best to stay out of. There is hardly light enough to write by, there.
My wife and kids make the Sun rise again, in my soul, every day.
Today, a jet plane’s dissipating contrail parts the sky’s cerulean zenith. Our car pushes up the elevation, holds tight to the road and rounds its hairpins, past vistas where what looks like the ground, five thousand feet down, is actually the tops of two thousand year old conifers.
In the back seat, J starts stirring, and her first words upon waking are, “Dada, those trees smell like Cabin trees!” The inflections betray her utter elation.
She is right, and we are almost there. Our family’s Cabin in the woods of the Stanislaus National Forest in the western Sierra Nevada foothills near a State Park called Big Trees for good reason. A house my wife’s late father had built as a nexus for family members and their various extensions to escape the hubbub and come center themselves. A tradition I am doing my darndest to uphold and not only for the obvious selfish reasons.
For a brief handful of early years my mother was big on taking trips. Some with me, some might say too many away from me. But as it was just her and I, due to several self-imposed and otherwise obtained exilings, I can’t think of any bonafide family traditions I was ever a part of. No annual reunions. No seasonal tree lighting ceremonies. I regret that. It is hardly the only reason my thoughts wander toward Thoreau and Walden whenever we are up here.
“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.” Henry David Thoreau
When we get there, Mama settles the baby down for a Cabin nap, the most peaceful kind of nap there is. The baby has been here a time or two, the toddler a few times more. I carry some stuff up the stairs and am met with my single favorite cabin sight, the loft and it’s two rows of six twin beds. I quietly practice my, “Knock it off and go to sleep, already!” and think about my kids and their friends that will one day be horrible at making these beds in the morning. I think about my kids having kids.
After I unload the car, J and I walk into the woods a bit to soak up the serenity. We don’t talk, and this may be the only place that ever happens. The silence is only snapped by the branches and foliage our feet fall on and the unseen creatures that alert each other of our presence. Thick, bright, rays break through the canopy high above our heads. Giant Seqouias assert themselves amidst the less statuesque Ponderosa, Incent, and Sugar Pines that mingle to make that “cabin tree” scent. J breathes deep. The Cabin is a place for breathing deeply.
The Breeze And Creatures Through The Trees
Today we will play around The Cabin and reacquaint ourselves. Tomorrow we will swim with the fishies at White Pines. I can already hear Mark Twain’s celebrated bullfrogs serenading us through the reeds at the water’s near end. That instantaneously recognizable warbling croak.
Maybe Sunday we’ll picnic by the shores of Lake Alpine. The days get hot this time of year, but they don’t call it Lake Alpine for nothing. There will be snow in sparse patches, around the surrounding hillsides, that feed into it. A few months too soon for a full, crisp, dip and reason #600 to take another Cabin trip, soon.
I owe all of this to my wife’s mother and late father. My family. My sanity. I think about him, often, and couldn’t possibly thank him enough were he still here.
Dear Mr. B,
I want you to know two things. No matter what tribulations life throws my way, I will never lose sight of the bigger picture. I am trying my best, every day, to honor the things that you held dearest.
Ciao for now,
“Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you.”
-Simon And Garfunkel