Dear Cuyahoga Valley National Park,
You were my first true Love.
The one that never left.
The one that I still carry with me wherever I go.
In childhood, there were the 20 mile bike rides my sister and my dad. 20 miles along your towpath, following the once burning river, now home to turtles and river otters.
Providing me with the adventure my young heart yearned for and the memories my wizened heart now cherishes.
As an adult, I discovered your winding trails, like veins pumping bloods to the heart state.
You were the escape from what others told me was the “real word” and taught me that actually, I got create my own trails, shape my own journey, and decide what my “real world” would be.
I had forgotten what it was it was like to be held.
You reminded me.
You reminded me what it was like to be lost…and then found.
To feel alive.
In your valleys, I found home.
You were a reminder that there was always sun behind those seemingly encompassing grey clouds.
I still visit you at least once a year for Christmas, and more many more times in my dreams. I picture myself entering the Portal Tree, blue jays perched on Her branches, to a place of safety, wonder, and answers.
Truly, I know you are always here with me.
While I now live in the land of high summits and alpine lakes, you’re here too.
Different, but the same.
And in me, you’ve created both a valley and a mountain girl.
Dear CVNP, I love you.