Most of my mom’s side of my family is in Yosemite this week. It’s a tradition that started in the early 70’s when we all lived in California and has continued unbroken, as a family tradition at least, until today. Although I am not with them this week—the journey is too long and the costs too high for the modest lifestyle my husband and I have chosen—I am there nonetheless in my heart.
I try to go at least every other year because this reunion provides a wonderful opportunity to get to visit with a lot of people–aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends all day and into the night, all in one place for a week. I love my California people and miss them still, despite having lived in Oregon for over twenty years.
And I also love the place. It is a precious thing to have a history with a place. I know Wawona, our particular corner of the park, when the water in the swimming hole is high, icy, and foaming, and when it is low, placid and warm amongst the rocks. When I cannot sleep at night I close my eyes and I am floating on a gently bobbing raft, with the silvery-granite Wawona Dome watching over me.
I have two favorite walks, both along the river. One is a short walk to the “Broken Bridge” where wild honeysuckle grows to one side of the path and sectioned reeds to the other, with ponderosa pine providing dappled sun and shade. It was the first “hike” I ever took my children on, and last year I enjoyed sharing it with my granddaughter, Grace.
My other favorite is “The Island Walk,” which, as my name for it implies, is along an island, long and narrow so the water sings to both sides of you. Tall pines make it like the walk through a gothic cathedral with all those fluted trunks reaching up to support the sky. It is a place I go to be peaceful, a place that comforts me.
As it is located alongside a river, our Wawona home changes subtly over time. We’ve been going there long enough that trees, no more than three feet tall when I sketched them in the late seventies now tower over our gathering spot. The sandwich shop has opened and closed. The school has tripled in size.
Yet in the end, Wawona is always Wawona, and just the scent of mountain misery takes me to my summer home. My life has been enriched because of this tradition and this place. Thank you, Jim, who got us started going there, and thank you to all the generation that came before me to make it a tradition.
What about you? Does your family have a special reunion tradition? Do you have a place you love and return to again and again and again? Tell me about it. I am eager to hear your traditions.