Unpacking Old Friends

book shelves book stack bookcase books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of the pleasures of moving into a new home is tearing open boxes of books to rescue the favorites packed away for the duration of the move.  When driving cross country in a suburban packed with seven humans, space is precious. In fact, the only physical book I carried along on this recent journey was a pocket-sized bible that I tucked into my purse.

E-readers saved me. I had hours and hours of reading available with the press of a few buttons, and I am grateful that I was able to carry a virtual library in the palm of my hand.  Still, there’s nothing like a real, bound book.

I like the weight of hundreds of pages in my hands. I like thumbing back to reread a passage, or holding a place with my finger because I know I’ll want to experience a particular phrase one more time. I like the straight edges, firm covers, the sound of shifting pages, the mysterious fragrance that belongs only to books. My e-reader sustains me in difficult times, but it is a thin sensory experience when compared to the comfort of real books.

Wherever I’ve made my home, I’ve always kept a stack of good reads on my bedside table. It’s an optimistic volume of reading material. Some books lie unopened for weeks, but I like to know that they are there, whenever I want them.

This was the box that I  unpacked yesterday evening, my bed side table collection, packed away to declutter our last home for showing. I pulled out Patchett, Bonhoeffer and Lee, adding them to Dillard and Kingsolver, picked up for pennies at a library sale last week, and L’amour, gifted by my mother, who knows I have a fondness for his short stories. It was a joyful reunion, welcoming these old friends to my new home.



In the Company of Trees

cropped-smriver2.jpgSix years ago, when my family moved from a  suburban lot in Texas to the feet of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I felt we had entered Eden. Rivers brimmed with water, the landscape curved voluptuous, and trees covered hills and mountains in the rich, warm shades of autumn.  Soon after our arrival, I wrote the following.

I grew up beneath the outstretched arms of a century-old native pecan tree, its limbs reaching up and over our historic two-story home.   In winter, bare branches were stark sentinels against the cold blue sky.  Then spring brought flush after flush of leaves, softening the severe lines.

There were other trees on our property, too. In memory, my father planted any seed, seedling, and transplant that had a chance of surviving. There were ash, live oak, jujubee, pecan, mesquite and pine trees.  And though the great pecan tree towered over all, the patriarch of our yard, every one of them gave us the dreamy shifting patterns of light and shade that carpeted our play yard.

For the last six years, I have lived without the shadows of trees.  My suburban lot, scraped bare to facilitate quick construction, was bereft of even the tiniest of trees.  Sunlight, at all times during the year, struck our faces unfiltered by leaves, branches, or fruit.  The grass was always warm and bright beneath our feet, neither marked nor cooled by the shadow of overhead beauty. The soft, mysterious light between the shadows of trees was missing.

Now I have it again, almost to excess, an abundance of light and shadow, dark patterns and mellow autumn light moving across my children’s upturned faces as they stretch out their hands to catch the drifting colors.

After three years in the eastern United States, we moved to California and lived on three acres in the central coastal mountains of Santa Cruz County.  It was a whole new world of trees, tenacious, always green despite the drought, and never mindful of seasons.  There, our land was speckled with coastal live oaks, a living playground made for exercising body and imagination.

Redwoods still towered in little pockets here and there outside the great forest parks.  On our neighbor’s land, a beguiling footpath curved past an old farm shed and led us to a fairy ring of the ancient giants. Beneath their evergreen branches, upon the cool, soft carpet they laid for our feet within the masses of pale,  voluminous ferns, we stepped back in time to the fragrance of fecund, unplowed earth.

IMG_0346Now we’re back on the east coast and as we wound our way to our new home through familiar, brightly-hued landscapes, I looked forward to again experiencing the change of seasons with my old friends, while in the pages of my mind are pressed memories of all the trees I have loved.