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by: Bill Greer, Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul

Since my wife is away visiting family, I have taken time to explore some new hiking trails. This day my selection is a grove of old growth western red cedars.

The walk to the grove is through a field abloom. Showy scarlet Indian Paintbrush mingle with white daisy-like flowers. In fact there are a dozen or more varieties of plants blooming in various hues. It is a picture you would see on a post-card, but here it is in real life.

The old, tall trees are not far up the gently sloping hillside. As I walk up the trail into the 80 acre grove, a tree 20 feet off the path catches my eye.

I move slightly to get a different view and realize that there are actually two trees. The larger of the two cedars is as big around as a large refrigerator, but taller than two bus lengths. Immediately beside it is a smaller tree, perhaps two-thirds the girth of the bigger tree. The trees have distinctly different root systems, but rise vertically from the forest floor side by side. For the first eight or ten feet of their height there is no space between them, and then an inch or two for twenty feet, and then none for another twenty feet, where again they stand apart ever so slightly.

About 20 feet above eye level, the larger tree has a branch that loops out from its trunk, and then divides into two smaller parts. The first part of the branch follows the curve of the smaller tree's trunk in a wooden hug. The second fork of the branch subdivides several more times, and mingles with a branch from the smaller tree, becoming visually indistinct, like fingers laced together when two lovers hold hands.

I mentally label the trees 'The Lovers.' I would guess they have been in that embrace for more than a century, and have stood side by side since before the United States was a nation.

Immediately my mind shifts to my wife on the other side of these United States of America. She had to change travel plans, and will be away yet another week. It is amazing how much I miss her, and I wish she was here with me at this moment. She will return the day after our anniversary.

I contemplate our relationship. I am the luckiest man alive, let me assure you. I have been fortunate enough to be formed, to stand side by side, to embrace and hold hands with this woman for thirty years. We will not make three centuries, as the old lovers in the forest have, but each day with her in my life is a blessing.

I will return to this spot one day soon, wife by my side, and I will stop in front of 'The Lovers.' I will put one arm around her, hold her hand with the other, and show her the two old trees and say, "this is you and I, my love."




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