Longtime readers of this blog know that I’m happiest when I’m outdoors. I crave the sun on my face and the smell of the damp earth. I want trees around me and hills butted up against the horizon.
I always assumed that I had inherited my father’s love for the woods—which he, of course, managed to turn into a career. Whether that was imprinted in my genetic code or learned during the few years I had with him, I can’t say. I do know that my sister prefers dusky light and indoor pursuits. But at a very young age I was the one swimming the icy waters of Lake Champlain or eagerly exploring the woods at Girl Scout camp in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
Recently, though, it has occurred to me that I may not be giving my mother her due for my affinity for outdoor activity. When I recently stumbled across this photo of her with her cousin near Kentucky’s iconic Natural Bridge, I thought about the other recreational activities she had told me were part of her youth: swimming at Herrington Lake or Salt River; spending time with friends at camps along Kentucky River; swimming and bowling at Joyland in Lexington; playing tennis; riding ponies.
Of course, youth in the 1930s didn’t have the abundance of organized and electronic activities available to youngsters today, so by default my mother would have spent time with friends in simpler pursuits. But having had many more years with my mother, her subtle encouragement of outdoor activity (“Sallie, go run around outside until you wear off some of that energy!”) might have made a lasting impression.
On Tuesday, I joined George Jr.’s youngest son, Jim, and four of his friends on a hike to Natural Bridge. We walked up to the eponymous arch and over to Lookout Point and Lover’s Leap, and then meandered among the impressive sandstone formations along Rock Garden Trail. Jim and I couldn’t resist stopping to recreate the nearly 90-year-old photo.
At one point as we walked, Jim gestured at the beauty around us and said, “This is my church.” It is indeed a holy and a precious place. As the earth quakes and burns, as oceans roil and the atmosphere gnashes and roars in response to humans’ irresponsible actions and unforgivable carelessness, a walk in the woods reminds us, gently and persuasively, of what we are blindly sacrificing.
I look forward to more outings with this like-minded group. And I’m grateful that both my parents helped me understand the value of time spent outdoors.
More evidence of my familial penchant for perching on rocks: