Friday, June 18, 2010

where the pines are so high

Good heavens, it has been more than a month since last I posted! Summer is (unofficially) here, and life continues moving rapidly along. My apologies for my brief hiatus from this space. One reason for my absence was a recent trip out to the beautiful west, first to a wedding in Minnesota and then to see family in South Dakota. And yes, recap follows.

So first things first: the wedding was wonderful. I loved seeing Rita and G at the start of their adventure together. There were many dear folks to catch up with at the wedding, a couple of charming little farm towns to explore, reception tables to decorate and, of course, joy-filled tears to be shed. I love these two so much, and I'm confident that they will make it and, together, offer the world so much wisdom and hospitality and strength and goodness and beauty.

From this weekend of celebration, I journeyed on to South Dakota...

Although I am from Michigan, through and through, I've always felt that some small part of me is from the Black Hills. My parents both grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, and most of my dad's family still lives there, along with my mother's tall and lovely aunts (seen in one of the pictures below). Every summer of my childhood, my parents, sister and I would vacation out that way, and my memories of growing up are peppered with the moments of those trips. When I walk through the door of my beloved grandparents' house, that peace of home settles into my bones, and I am flooded with the memories of family gathered together and rhubarb pie and card games at the kitchen table, reading books in the living room and falling asleep in the big bed I shared with my sister as the cool summer breeze drifted through the screen of the open door. Life was safe, simple and ever-so-good.

This summer's trip brought meals and ice cream and coffee enjoyed over meaningful conversation with loved ones, long morning runs with my dad, a cousin's graduation party, a bike ride on the Mickelson Trail, a morning of baking with my grandmother, hours spent poring over old photographs while drawing out stories from the past and the simple joy found in the togetherness of family.

And without fail, when I am up in the Hills, surrounded by the deepest browns and greens that nature has to offer, with a herd of buffalo around each corner and elk hiding somewhere in the woods, the sense of home returns. Maybe it's that song my mother used to sing to me, a song, she told me during this trip, that her mother once sang to her: "take me back to the Black Hills, the Black Hills of South Dakota, where the pines are so high that they kiss the sky above." When we were riding our bikes on the Mickelson trail, my dad breathed in deeply and told me that that smell, the smell of the Ponderosa Pines, smelled like the Hills to him. Like home.

And the tiny green leaves of the aspens turn and blink in the light, flickering like candles, clapping like the smallest of hands, welcoming my soul home, urging us to live on in gladness.