The sun came out this morning, surprisingly. It was gone by lunchtime, and once again, it is gloomy and windy. I took this entire week off to celebrate my fiftieth birthday, figuring that was about the best present I could give myself.
I went up to Valley Forge Park to enjoy the spring sun while it lasted. And it was a lovely morning.
When my son was young, we would come up here on the weekend and walk or ride our bikes. I haven’t returned here in a very long time. The park is only a fifteen minutes drive away, so it isn’t distance that kept me from coming back.
It felt really great to be out in the sun, my iPod pouring Alan Jackson into my ears, the wind blowing my still-wet from my shower hair crazily around my head. But it was also nostalgically sad.
I can’t even imagine what it must have been like that winter, long ago, when the soldiers stayed in these little wooden cabins, wondering if they were ever going to go home to their families.
The last time I walked up this path my son was with me. And I wasn’t fifty years old. I was in my twenties.
The park must have had a very hard winter and spring. There were trees broken, toppled, splintered all over.
It kind of felt like my inner spirit was being reflected out there. I am a very lucky woman. I have a good job, a house, a car, wonderful pets, a son who I love and am very proud of, who grew into a very good man despite my piss-poor parenting skills.
But more times then I want to admit, I feel like a tree felled by harsh weather, broken and battered. I may be surrounded by new life, flowers, greening trees, but my spirit is a pile of beat up branches.
I want to be the dogwood, not the decaying wood on the forest floor.
This tree has the right spirit. It may have lost all its branches, but it has a fresh new leafy stole wrapped around its trunk.
It could have ended up like this poor tree, snapped in half like a discarded toothpick.
Nothing left here but some bugs for the birds to dig out and feed to their babies.
Further up the trail, I came to this particular rock outcropping. This was my goal on the walk; I was hoping I could still find it.
My son and I would climb up to the top and sit on these rocks midway through our walk. I managed to climb up here today (telling myself “don’t fall, don’t fall” over and over again as I did so) and planted my butt on the exact spot I did some twenty-five years ago.
There was a little piece of broken quartz nestled among the brown leaves. I picked it up and stuck it in my purse. Alan Jackson kept crooning in my ear about love coming eventually if you don’t give up hope. The sun was really bright on my face but the rock was cold through my jeans, so I didn’t stay long.
Climbing down from the rock was a little bit scary; I am not the most agile of people, but I did not fall. I kept walking along the trail, and smiled at the few people walking their dogs as I passed them, out there under the trees.
I have to stop avoiding places where I was happy long ago. It is just as easy to be happy in those places now as it was then. I have to keep the right attitude. Leave the house, get outside. Smile at people. Feel the sun. Enjoy the music and the smell of fresh grass and flowers. Be thankful for what I have. Keep hoping for the future. Smile.