When I was a little girl, my mom would always cart me off to woodsy paths and wildflower-y pastures just to see what we could see.
She’d pack our cooler full of Wonder Bread-and-bologna sandwiches and cold Dr. Peppers, and we’d set off to God knows where as far as her red Mustang could take us. Most often, we’d end up on trails around whatever Army base my dad had been stationed at the time: Lake Tholocco in Ft. Rucker, Alabama. Mt. Rainier near Ft. Lewis, Washington, the Bavarian farm- village tractor-trails around Gerach, Germany. Wherever we landed, she’d find a place for us to “get away to.”
So many of our most memorable conversations depended on taking these walks, as our words seemed to flow a little more freely out there in the open air. She’d tell me things on these excursions–the names of flora and fauna, what her childhood was like in a small west Texas town, and why she loved being outside in nature as much as she could. I realize now that my love for hiking was born on these walks, and when I think back on my mom, who passed away in June of 2005, my mind’s eye always places her on those trails, speaking to me from a lifetime of sage, worldly experience in addition to her 9 years in heaven. (I wonder what THOSE trails look like!)
Most of all, I remember how much more easily our laughter came out there, outside of the hustle and bustle. There were no mortgages due, no horns honking, no bosses to answer to; there were only birds singing, breezes blowing, and shade trees under which our picnics could be enjoyed. I recall on one such walk I was eager to impress her by demonstrating what I had learned that week in my elementary science class–that mushrooms were a kind of fungus and that the plural form of fungus is “fungi.” When we spotted a rash of mushrooms growing out of a fallen limb, I pointed them out to her, and then I then asked her offhandedly if she knew of any “fungi.” Yes, she affirmed with a giggle, she’d known a couple of “fun guys” in her lifetime. It would be years before I would get her joke, but I can’t look at a wild mushroom now with a straight face. I wished I would’ve asked her to elaborate.
Fast forward to now–I have my own curious ten-year old son and and an eager hound dog with whom to explore the woods. Thankfully, I picked a place to live that is becoming famous for its burgeoning trail system. The Greenprints Alliance in Woodstock is working on connecting local parks and green spaces with over sixty miles of trails for hiking and biking. Now it’s become my turn to pack the cooler. Our sandwiches are on whole grain bread now and we have filtered water in re-usable BPA free plastic bottles, but the hope for these walks remain the same. When my son, years and years hence, thinks back on me, on long conversations with his mama, I hope he remembers that we were walking through the woods of Woodstock at the time. (And that he and his dad are the “fun-guys” that I love to walk with most.)
Until next time, Woodstock…much love, Jennifer
P.S. I’ll see you out on the trails!
Jennifer Carter is a freelance photographer and writer living with her family in Woodstock, Georgia. Her work has been published by the Marietta Daily Journal, the Cherokee Tribune, Cherokee Life Magazine, Cobb Life Magazine, Woodstock Patch, and the city of Woodstock’s tourism brochure. The “I Love Downtown Woodstock” blog is what she considers a “passion project,” an experiment in homage that she calls “A Collection of Love Letters to a City.” See more of her work at jenwanders.com.