The most memorable moment I had personally on the trip was visiting Conkle's Hollow.
Driving along the country road from our camp site, I saw a thick dark unending pine forest.
There was a hush coming from the woods. It beckoned me, pulled at my blood memory.
The forests in Poland looked like these woods.
Thick towering trees blocking out the sun, needles pillowing the ground, ferns uncurling their greenery as they have since the Age of Fishes, before the Dinosaurs. Life quietly growing, undamaged by Man's hand.
Mushrooms waiting for the right rains and temperatures so that they can ripple the pine needle floor and peek out, fairy tales and legends recited on them by Krasnoludki.
The eyes of creature residents, unseen by us, yet I know they are there. There is a slight tingling sensation that I am being watched by something. Something that knows what I am, human, creator of fire and death. Perhaps it's a flock of deer, a chipmunk, a bear. They know of me, of my kind, of how we tear apart the Earth and claim it all as ours for the taking.
Shhhhh... The wind blows, the tops of the trees sway, the forest remains quiet. Calling me.
We move down the road, the forest on my right side, steady.
On the trail, our group of seven spreads across the trail, adults stepping in stride with the children, teaching them. How to watch for snakes, to stand in silence a moment around water so that you can see that the creek is indeed teeming with life, to find new life on plants, to touch a tree and look up and to rightfully feel the awe of this wondrous life, brown and green and strong.
Reminders to stay on the trail, not to disturb the life there, to know that in Nature, animals live here and that we are entering their house.
Little needles on the ground, green with two white stripes, eastern hemlock, a species from the end of the Ice Age. On tiny fingers, eyes absorbing the details quickly, ears hearing the hush and our voices.
A turn of the head and we see a Native American couple walking the path, slowly, looking at all that is around them, in traditional dress. They are beautiful.
I smile at them, knowing that here we are doing the same thing, conversing silently with God. And sharing with the next generation so that they know as well.
My mother-in-law bravely approaches them and asks if we can take a photo of them, which they agree to. Conversation naturally flows, like the creek a few feet from us.
The woman tells me they are Cherokee. The man is quiet but his eyes shine with wisdom and his words carry weight.
She speaks words that could have come from my mother, my father, my grandparents, my cousins. From across the ocean, from Poland.
"Nature is important."
"This is our church, God is here."
"Each tree and rock is unique, has it's own characteristics, just like people."
We agree that it is a wondrous thing to see people walking in the woods and teaching the next generation to behold Nature and enjoy it.
She talks about giving thanks throughout the day for the Sun, for a new day, for the rain, and everything else around us.
In my heart, their wisdom hits every chord of how I want to mother my children, what impact I want to have on my great great grand children.
It's a moment of clarity, refocusing me.
I didn't catch their names but we ended up agreeing that perhaps we will see them at a Pow Wow sometime. I hope we do. They truly blessed me that day.
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