It was a surreal experience to wander through a local watershed park today with several confirmands and our youth group leader and pastor. I first walked this park at age 12 with Richard, my biological father, and his dog, Old Blue. As a young mother, I brought my son to this trail (and many others) to learn to walk, and run, and experience the endless, cyclical wonder of this beautiful land.
And now I was standing on a side path, listening to the whispers of the rain through the evergreens, the gurgle of the creek, and the occasional chirping of birds. The pastor invited us to drink in the water sounds, to hold those sounds close for comfort when life got tough, as a reminder of God’s baptismal promises to us as we walk through the season’s of our lives.
Over the years, my son and I have watched for the first trilliums to push through the sleeping earth and open their white petals. We have charted the growth of tiny green buds to baby leaves to full summer foliage on the trees. We have crunched through autumn leaves covering the trail in rich colors. We have splashed through puddles, leaped over mud pits, and exchanged smiles and nods with other trail-walkers.
We have created leaf boats and set them free in the creek, for fun and for grief, to say goodbye to ones gone before. We have urged the salmon upstream and helped plant trees. We have made stickyweed crowns for each other, and posed for pictures in grandfather trees. We have crossed moss-covered logs, gaped at an owl, and watched red-headed woodpeckers show us what true head-banging is all about. Saved fuzzy caterpillars from being smashed under heedless boots and waved away swarms of gnats. Nibbled on blackberries and captured raindrops and snowflakes on our tongues.
As the forest has grown up, so have we, changing even as the forest has through life’s many seasons.