Dan and I are spending this week hiking and camping at Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. The campground is close to empty with our neighbors being an audacious murder of crows who will, if you put your trash bag outside of the camper, and then close the door to put on your shoes, merrily ravage the bag looking for food or something with which to line their nests. They will be discussing it loudly and clearly when you open the door. Our other neighbor is a pileated woodpecker, a large flashy fellow who pounds out his breakfast on a nearby tree every morning before flying off to other adventures.
When we camp, we hike almost every day. Hiking, we discover remnants of forgotten homesteads, small and large clear running creeks sometimes containing waterfalls and sometimes, as happened this time, a fast-swimming mink. We help each along the trail with Dan carrying the prepared-for-all-contingencies backpack and I carry myself, as Dan pulls me up over tricky spots and I help by not falling. We hike up steep, steep trails, pausing to breathe and grin at each other, and at the end of the day we sit by the campfire and remember that we used to always call Dan’s mom to tell her of that day’s adventure and she’d always say, “Are you having your heart medicine?”
A staunch Baptist all her life, Mrs. Arp thought a small glass of wine was “good” for her heart – a small family joke.
Before we came on this trip, we attended an outdoors family 70th birthday party. It was almost like watching a play as this was the family of a dear friend with five adult children who all, just like the Bible tells us, increased and multiplied, resulting in a large number of children. There was an impromptu performance by a singer/songwriter granddaughter, electric guitar lent by her grandfather, amplifier set up by an uncle, while her father kneeled before her, holding her phone so she could see the words of her latest composition. There was a bonfire, amazing food, a baby bouncing joyfully in his walker while his father tried to keep up with the baby’s two very young brothers who were running, running, running around the dark yard. Love was, literally, in the air.
So why, you ask, am I telling you these very different stories? Because all these stories have produced for us, as the old hymn tells us, precious memories. Memories of love and adventure that stand us in good stead when we are having dark nights, sad days, tired, hopeless thoughts and feelings. Precious memories are made and stored. We’re able to pull them out when needed or they come back to us unexpectedly, giving us pleasure yet again. Precious, needful memories, how they linger.
Precious memories, unseen angels
Sent from somewhere to my soul
How they linger, ever near me
And the sacred past unfolds
Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness, of the midnight
Precious sacred scenes unfold
– J. B. F. Wright
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.