Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tree Book Chapter 9 - The Blue Ridge Forest - In Which I Learn to Reflect and Dream

During my middle school and high school years, my family would go to West Virginia to visit my mother’s parents, who lived up the road from the Bluestone Dam.

Visiting my grandparents was pure pleasure for a number of years, since we got to know all the kids for miles around and everyone in the neighborhood had a porch. Porches in those days had real purpose--this was where the grown-ups would always sit after supper, enjoying the cool evening breezes and catching up on the happenings of the day across the neighborhood.

We kids would run from house to house, where each family welcomed us as if we were their own, sharing cookies, sweet lemonade, lollipops, and love.

We used to go across the street to the elementary school to hang out and play on the grounds. The school was often closed for breaks when we visited. One time we snuck inside and wandered through the hallways and classrooms, soaking up the feeling of magic. This was a place of learning that smelled of chalk dust which floated in the sunbeams coming through the big windows, and crayons, and paint, and floor wax. It was like being in a theatre before the play starts or after it's over and everyone's gone. The magic lingers. 

As I got older, many of the kids weren’t as available as they’d been in past years, and I found myself alone more of the time--our school breaks didn’t always coincide when we visited. I loved to walk up the street in the early afternoons, past the porches to the Bluestone Dam, where we’d spent many afternoons playing by the river while our daddies and granddaddies fished.

I’d hike around the sheltered part of the water and head up the steep side of the mountain into a thick forest of pines that grew just to the side of the dam (bottom right in the photo within the link above). I loved being under those trees, walking barefoot on the soft, spongy carpet of needles that had been piling up for decades, and I’d usually choose a spot to sit about half-way up, where I could see down through the trees to the sun sparkling on the river below, but mostly nobody could see me.

I’d practice smoking cigarettes and write in my journal, another new habit I’d picked up and enjoyed. I liked to reflect on things that were going on, figure things out, and daydream in my journal. It was someone to talk to when no one else was around. I've written in my journals every day for some 40 years now, hmmm....

Being in the pine forest felt safe and nurturing, ever so fragrant, and peaceful.

The alone time helped me grow inside myself, surrounded by the twittering of tiny birds, soft summer breezes, and the security of knowing I’d be going home to Gammy and Granddaddy’s to help with dinner, be around family, take a cool bath, and slap a bunch of Calamine on my mosquito bites.

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