10 years ago, my favorite high school English teacher wrote a book. I bought a copy. I had him sign it for me. And then I put it on a shelf.
I went to college, and brought the book with me.
I graduated, moved to the other side of the country, and brought the book with me.
I bought a house. And I put the book on my bookshelf.
All these years, I have been wary of reading the book. Partly because Mr. LeMonds was a literary genius – and I didn’t want to find out any differently. Also, the book is all about life in southwest Washington state – and, well, that was a place I was so desperate to escape.
I finally took the book off the shelf the other week, with the intent of reading it. It isn’t a very thick book, so I figured I could finish it in an hour or two.
I discovered that not only is it signed, but Mr. LeMonds left a little note: “No matter where you go, may this always be your letter from home.” I’m sure he wrote the same thing in all the books he signed for students looking for a few brownie points, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningless.
As I read, I was relieved to find that yes, James LeMonds is quite the writer. And he uses such big words. (I do realize that I use exceptionally small words; my blog difficulty reading level is about 2nd grade. So my definition of ‘big words’ really doesn’t mean much …)
As I read, I was flooded with all the good things that I left behind when I made my way out into the world. As a teenager, all I could focus on was the things I wanted to get away from; and I’ve never really taken the chance to look back.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, you can’t but help to have a connection to the land and to nature. It’s everywhere. Even in town, there’s trees everywhere. And just outside of town, there are vast expanses of trees. Acres and acres and acres of untouched, unexplored forests. It is believable that there could be an undiscovered bigfoot in those trees.
I went hiking. And camping. And backpacking. I volunteered to clear trails of debris; I volunteered to create new hiking trails. Enjoying the outdoors was just something I did, it was something everyone did. It was like breathing; it was a necessary part of life.
Last summer, the husband and I didn’t take the opportunity to go camping. Just a few weeks ago, I sent him a frantic IM: “We HAVE TO HAVE HAVE TO go camping this summer!!” I didn’t realize it till after I read Mr. LeMonds’ book, but I have a need to sleep among the trees. To eat burnt sausage and raw pancakes cooked over a campstove. And to hike down a trail just to hike right back up it. It’s a connection that I miss; a connection that I now have to drive 2 hours away to find.
The Pacific Northwest is also the land of lumberjacks and paper mills. There is conflict between those who need the land for their livelihood and those who demand that the land be preserved for future generations; but there is an understanding that, kept in check, they can be a part of that whole circle of life thing.
So, thank you Mr. LeMonds, for my letter from home. Whenever I miss my trees, I’ll curl up my copy of South of Seattle.