Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Bastrop State Park has erected a new building: From this viewpoint one can see the burned forest in every direction.

At this location I felt the tears again. Over a year since the fire. But why? Forest fires are natural. I looked at the charred bench that marked the beginning of a walking trail that led far into the the forest. For many years one could have seen from this bench the evergreen pine trees pointing high into the sky and hear the gentle brush of the branches against one another as a breeze danced through the woods. But, no more. One by one the burnt trees will fall and disintegrate into the soil.

Are some images iconic? I once went to camp in these woods. My first real time away from home. I remember one night when homesickness struck my group of 12-year-old girls at once and we wailed together our longing for home.

And I also remember the camp song we learned "why are the skies so blue?" and barely grasped the conclusion of all that is is "because God" made it so. And it made it all "okay." Ah, but that was so long ago!

This is the autumn that begins an eighth decade in my life.  I now know in a way that I did not know then that there are people and things that die. They are gone forever from one's vision, touch, experience. It is the battle of the newly bereaved that we catch a glimpse of the recently lost in the way another walks, a look, an expression. Each glimpse bringing new pain of the reality and yet processing us through the loss--letting us down lightly.

Is this what it is like to grow older? Slowly, slowly all the sights that were once familiar are lost and nothing remains from long again. My nearly 90 year old mother tells me that she recently saw an old classmate. But it wasn't the same, she said, because her girlhood friend looked so old. So old. Not the same.

Is it the loss of the forest I grieve, or is it the loss of childhood innocence? The loss of an assumption that what I loved would always be there. I well remember the thick cloud that formed to our west as the forest burned. It was a fearful experience knowing what was happening beneath that dark cloud.

My 70 year old self grieves for the 12 year old that wailed that night with all her cabin mates. Perhaps home sicknesses is never relieved on this side of life.

Our souls are restless, O Lord, until they rest in Thee. (St. Augustine.)