Last week I took time for a walk up into the woods. The woods that I normally walk is filled with beautiful stands of oak, but on this particular noontime walk I happen to notice that there were many smaller black birch trees scattered in the hilltop area where I had stopped to half sit, half lean against a loaded-pallet sized boulder to rest.
I was suddenly taken back in my mind to a walk that I had taken with my family as a boy. Occasionally we picnicked in a deep wide ravine which we called Tough Gully. One day as we were hiking back up out of the gully from our picnic, my father pointed out a large black birch tree with branches hanging over into the field where we were walking. He plucked some twigs and told us to chew them because they would taste like root beer. I did.
Now on this day, more than 50 years later, I suddenly remembered and I walked over to the nearest black birch and knocked down a twig from its 9 foot perch with my walking stick and began to chew it, and, sure enough, it tasted like root beer! Thanks, Dad for the memory and the lesson. I’m sure such demonstrations are one of the reasons I know what a black birch tree is today and how its twigs taste. I snapped a picture of my twig with the tender bark gnawed away.
On the way down the hill from my walk I saw a young man walking up and I thought he might think it strange to see me chewing on a twig. So I explained what was going on. He gave me the strangest look.
I wondered to myself. Who in my family will know this little piece of forest lore when I am gone? Not that it is an earthshaking or survival-crucial fact. But how many other tidbits like it will fall forgotten when my generation passes? And how much practical info must have already fallen forgotten when the generations before us have gone on?
I thought about how important it is to spend somewhat unstructured time with future generations. For as things come up in life experience or in conversation, it is then that we in the older generation have an opportunity to pass on something that we have learned or that was passed on to us. Some of it might be interesting trivia, like enjoying the root beer tastes of a black birch twig. But something else more weighty that we share might someday become crucial for the emotional or spiritual or even physical survival of someone we love. Chewing on the memory made me value all the more the time I get to spend with my daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren.
Our new home is in the country and we love it that way, except for the poison ivy, of course. There is a trout stream across the road from the parsonage. Yesterday we had a great illustration of our country status. I had forgotten the garbage day so the garbage can outside the garage was getting a little ripe. In the middle of the afternoon we had a visitor. The picture tells the story. Probably a yearling bear, he (or she) was only as tall as the garbage can when standing as you can see. But still the bear probably outweighed me. He was skittish and moved quickly when he sensed movement inside the house. But returned he later and that is when we got this picture. He tipped over the can but Keely tapped on the window and he was gone. We moved the garbage inside the garage lest we create a nuisance bear that goes for garbage. Our Adirondack camping experiences had trained us well. Mark held Sam up to see him. Sam dubbed him the “naughty bear” for getting in the garbage. I agreed since I had to clean it up.