Mountains of Memories
Copyright © 2015 by Parker Sheaffer
Some things are eternal, like mountains and rivers, or at least they seem that way to us fragile humans whose lives flash by in the blink of an eye. But even mountains rise and fall in the current of that river which is truly eternal - the river of time.
Even though he had been born there, when Lucas returned to the mountains he felt as if he was entering someplace new and foreign, a place that he had never seen. Things grow and evolve, especially these days with fast cars, computers and countless other miracles which would have seemed like magic when he was a boy. Oh, the land itself looked mostly the same as it always had but there were so many more roads, and crowds and crowds of people everywhere. Society grew like weeds in a garden or like tadpoles in a pond.
In some ways it made him sad and he sometimes questioned if it was really progress or a cancer taking over the world. Other times, if he relaxed and let himself forget the past, he could almost feel as if he fit in; as if he belonged here. He certainly looked the part and the people around him had little reason to suspect otherwise.
How many times had he been back? It was only four times in his life so far. Four times he was drawn back by curiosity, by nostalgia or by chance wandering. He used to come looking for answers, but he had given that up long ago. There were no answers for him; only a strange future that both loomed and beckoned.
Walking the trails that led to the old places, he found that he still remembered much of it very clearly, despite the long years since his childhood.
He found the spot where the Johnson's cabin had stood. Like almost all of the other homesteads it had been reclaimed by the earth many long years earlier. Where the trees had once been felled to clear the fields and to make those old log homes, nature had grown new trees. Twisty roots gripped tightly to stones that had once been the foundation of a home. Gone were the beautiful Chestnut trees, but giant poplars and hickories still sheltered the sassafras and thin dogwoods below. Pale blue flowers, tiny irises, poked up through the rotting detritus of fallen vegetation on the ground. His tread was light yet his feet stirred the dead leaves releasing the familiar fragrance of the earth. Lucas had always found scent to be the strongest catalyst for his memories.
In his mind he could still see and hear Jake Johnson and his boys plowing the rocky soil, trying to coax a small crop of corn to come forth. He had been friends with those boys, once upon a time, but they were now in the earth, too.
The path that led off of the trail to the right used to lead to the cabin where he was born and where he had lived with his folks. It was a wonder how, despite being such a small place, it could have been home to him, two parents, a grandparent, two brothers and a sister and yet kept them all safe, dry and reasonably warm.
Walking up the path he knew what he would find. He had seen it before. Each time there was less and less remaining evidence of his early life, a life that now existed only in his head. There were still a few foundation stones that had once supported the large beams which had been hand hewn from giant, long extinct Chestnut trees. He sat down on a pile of rocks and closed his eyes, absorbing his surroundings and letting the past come welling up in his mind. He could almost smell the smoke from the fireplace, the beans and salt pork cooking over the coals, the unwashed sweat of his hard working family. They were good odors, honest and real that today would be considered unpleasant by most people.
Smell was the strongest memory he had but he also remembered the sounds; the laughter of his brothers playing, his mother and sister's good natured complaining, his grandmother singing in her weak but pretty voice. The past washed over him, saturating and filling both his mind and his soul, and he quietly wept for the things that had been and would never be again.
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