I like to think of myself as a traveler of the Earth. There is much I wish to experience, and remaining in one geographic area will not accomplish this. I travel to stimulate my five senses, but more importantly, I travel for the emotion. I travel to create and collect stories. There are many locations I hope to soon visit, but I can check off various cities, states, countries, and most recently, Yosemite National Park.
Touring Yosemite, I met a park ranger, a woman in her forties who called Yosemite her home and had many stories to share. I imagine spending more than ten years in such a wonderful area will produce such stories, but her favorite story, and her favorite memory from her time posted in the Yosemite Valley, I will now relate to you:
There was once an elderly man who gave the park rangers all sorts of grief, her story began.
The old man kept asking, “What happened to the bridge on the old road?”
“Which bridge?” a park ranger responded.
“The bridge that crosses over the pond!”
“Well there are numerous streams and pools in this area. Come with back with us and we’ll see if we can help you.” But the old man refused to leave. None of the other park rangers could get him to budge.
After all, in the Yosemite Valley there are numerous creeks and pools, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of pine trees. Then I went up to the old man and said, “Tell me what is so important about this bridge.”
The old man stared at me with another impatient look, then his eyes drifted to the side and he looked onward. He finally spoke, this time with a kind voice, and I learned why this bridge was as important as he made it to be.
When the old man was a fresh college graduate, he took a trip to the Yosemite Valley with four of his closest friends. It was only the first day on the trip when he met her during a hike up Glacier Point. She was a year younger than he was, with her family on a vacation. He called her the most beautiful woman, and somehow, someway, he was able to ask her on a date, in Yosemite.
The two spent their first date walking through meadows. By the end of the day, they had managed to learn more about each other than they had known about anyone else, and they had also found a small pond with only a single tree next to it. No longer strangers, they met under this ponderosa pine the day they had to separate, and they shared their first kiss underneath its branches.
Two summers following, the man and woman kissed again within the tree’s shade, and here, the man asked the woman to marry him. Years later, the two would return to the tree and the pond with children of their own. It went like this for some twenty years, the man, the woman, and their family spending summers and holidays in Yosemite, always making sure they returned to the spot where the love began. As more time passed, the children, who were no longer children, found their own love and started their own families. Summer after summer, trips to Yosemite were put off. “We’ll go next summer,” the man and woman would say to each other. But it became harder to travel, and the two gradually began to accept they may never return to Yosemite.
Yet, here was the man. He had returned to Yosemite. And listening to his story, I knew where the spot was that he spoke of; it was a favorite of mine as well. But where was his wife, I thought. When I told him I could take him to the spot, he grinned, and he told me where his wife was before I could ask.
I remember the moment as clear as if it happened yesterday: we drove the ranger truck off road and curved along the edge of the grass, around the pond, stopping in front of them, at the tree. We helped the woman out of our truck and brought her to the tree. Underneath its branches, within the shade, the woman saw the man, 50 years after meeting him for the first time at this very spot. However, this time they were not alone. With the man were other men and women, girls and boys, all of varying ages, all with vastly different lives, but they were brought together—they were the man and woman’s family. And there, the man spoke of his love for her, and once again, asked her to marry him.
There are people who feel connected to the earth – to the trees, the grass, the mountains, and the water. I am one of them. I believe the best stories exist among everyday people and everyday lives. The best stories are made special because of us. And in this instance, this story has been made special because of the love that exists in Yosemite, among the trees.