We used to come to these woods when she was young and small. In the spring during the breaks that schools used to take for planting and farm work and during the summers off that I had in an earlier life, we’d come here. We’d walk along the path that curved through the meadow beside the big black barn and curled alongside the small creek to where it joined another larger creek.
Wildflowers grew and bloomed in their summer stages. Young trees and those of ages past rose up, bending out over the path, over the stone bed creek, leaning into each other from opposite banks. Just before the joining of the streams, a series of limestone ledges stacked up, their edges smoothed by centuries of running water. Water rippled over those edges, tumbling into the small pools below, their sound a primal soothing, music of ancient notes.
Even on the hottest days, the air was fresher here, sheltered by shade and cooled by stone and the flowing water. A small bluff rose up from the edge of the creek right in the curving at the joining of the streams. The freshening green of water moss glimmered in filtered beams of sunlight along the long edges of stone. Susan and her brothers looked for crawdads and salamanders and whatever else was held in small pools. We didn’t bother to measure time during those long walks together and seeing who could get the most skips from a flat stone thrown sidearm across the long flats between the riffles.
On this day, twenty-five years later, in spite of rain and drizzle and chill, Susan and I have returned to Raven Run.
We take a different path, one she has never been down before, the one that leads to the bluffs along the northern edge of the Kentucky River. The path is slick with matted leaves and thin mud. She wants to learn the shape of leaves that define certain trees and I teach her ash and hickory, yellow poplar and elm, maple and oak. She already knows the telltale blooms of honeysuckle bush and I show her the additional tell of the texture and pattern of bark and branches.
At the bluff she asks for stories of my childhood, stories she’s never heard before. With four children of her own, she longs for the links broken by choices and chance, time and distance, to be healed and mended. I ache for the pains and pangs that cannot be changed but am grateful for this moment, this day, this fresh sharing along an uneven path of stone and mud beneath trees bent with rain.
We stand together on the rain-slickened stone edge of the bluff, looking out at miles of muted forest along the long bend of the river. The sky is low and gray. “Look,” I say softly, pointing out toward the south, out past the hanging shroud of clouds and mist and rain, “there’s blue sky.” A break of brilliant blue frames the edge of the front, just above the horizon.
Beyond every cloud, beyond every storm and every gloom, there is hope for healing and strength for the journey. For those willing to walk whatever path is needed, there is always a way back to that place of grace that waits for those who truly seek peace and are willing to show and receive mercy.