October 21, 2016

i carry your heart...

I have never kept secret the fact that I am an autumn girl.  Sweater weather is by far my favorite time of year - hot apple cider, cinnamon rolls, chili and cornbread, and pot roasts for Sunday dinner.  Apple pies, apple kuchen, apple strudel, apple turnovers, apple dumplings (especially apple dumplings!)  Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin pies (you can never have too many pumpkin pies on hand!) 

Fall foliage, crisp air, twinkling stars at night, and a warming fire in the family room if the nip in the air gets a little too nippy.  Books that have been shelved during the summer reappear, and the cultural scene gets underway...concerts, lectures, exhibitions, plays, and all sorts of wonderful art offerings return to delight all the senses.  And in the middle of all this autumn giddiness comes the heart of the season - our annual family fall picnic.

This tradition was started by my parents years ago in South Dakota, and all of us would pick a Sunday where we could caravan up north to a state park called Sica Hollow, which translates from the Lakota language to Trail of Spirits. My parents, as many of my siblings that were around, and car loads of cousins all came together to walk the trails, admire the natural beauty and eat fried chicken and potato salad and peach crisp.  We all looked forward to it every year.  We even captured one year's trip in a Christmas ornament that makes us smile when we unwrap it and hang it on the tree every December.

When my husband and I moved to Wisconsin about sixteen years ago, our kids were homesick that first autumn so we decided to carry on the tradition and found a similar state park in our new state.  It's not quite the same - I wish my mother and siblings and nieces and nephews were all able to join us, but I'm proud that we have kept the tradition and memories alive, and you can imagine how happy I was this past Sunday when ALL of our children gathered together again to hike the trails and admire the fall colors.  Over the years we've outgrown the windsuits...

and have also grown our family from this...

 to this!

My beautiful children have grown up surrounded by the family traditions that hold us together, and create a bond that will never break.

Sibling bonds...

And brothers grow up...

 to become fathers...


And because everyone wanted every dish that we had ever brought on this picnic over the course of the last thirty years, we dined on homemade fried chicken and potato salad, courtesy of my husband.  I contributed baked beans, rolls, peach crisp and mint chocolate brownies, and my daughter brought birthday cake and fall cupcakes so we could celebrate one of my son's birthday while we were all gathered together.  A perfect day in every respect. It had been at least ten years since all of our children were able to join us on our fall trek, so even though we had to battle hordes of nasty Japanese beetles during our picnic it was perfect in my eyes!  We wore off all the food with a strenuous hike afterwards.

I couldn't help but think of my Dad, and in my heart I knew how proud he must be to know we are carrying on family traditions and making new memories with our granddaughters.  

I know I looked up at the beautiful fall sky several times, whispering his name, but I really didn't need to look up.  I carry him with me, wherever I go.

Dad and I at Sica Hollow, mid-1990s
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
~~e.e. cummings

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