Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

The Temple of my Mother

My mom would want me to take my camera along on my voyage of remembrance and I'm glad I did! I was channeling something that day and I can't wait to share more of the results.

When the news of my mother’s passing went out, we received many encouraging words and offers of support. It feels really good to know that I am the opposite of alone: I have many friends who would gladly do anything I ask, no matter the reason.

There was one invitation I especially could not resist: James’ cabin in the Goshen Pass, the seat of many joyful memories, a place of terrific beauty, and not least a place where I could spend some quiet time with a very dear friend, talking over weighty (and weightless) matters.

With my family’s blessing I threw my sleeping bag and a cooler in the car and raced over the Blue Ridge with an elated spirit. Knowing I would arrive about an hour before James, I resolved to go for a run and I knew just where I wanted go: a trail called Laurel Run that follows a lovely side canyon along a mossy and steep-falling brook into the heart of the mountains. I just wanted to stretch my legs but I got more than I expected.

After climbing a few miles, the trail petered out into a secluded glen high in a sheltered amphitheater on the mountain’s shoulder. The ground was mossy damp and open, with mighty oaks soaring up to support a green canopy high above. There were no human sounds and a quiet that is not typical in Virginia—just a few crickets, distant birdsong, and the sound of acorns falling.

I had strode unexpectedly into a cathedral, of the kind my mother had often spoken longingly and there could be no better place to remember her. I walked through the trees feeling completely invigorated and in touch with all lives, both current and disappeared or even forgotten. I thought about her presence in this place, within me and everywhere.

At a moment when I was receiving encouraging notes and gifts, this was the mightiest of them all. I am grateful for whatever force called me to that particular place. Whether it was a benevolent voice from my mother or from within me or simple chance that took me there, it was exactly what I needed.

After some remembrance and contemplation, I flew down the mountain and back to the cabin, ready to celebrate. I picked up some of that bumper crop of acorns. I will plant one in my yard to remember my mother, who taught me how to walk with the trees.


I stored the acorns in a little plastic cup on my side porch. Meredith reports that some squirrels raided the place and spirited the acorns away. It looks like the job of planting them is now out of my hands. One can only hope that the squirrels buried the nuts in spots with plenty of light and that they forget a few of them, as they often do. It's an absurdity that my mom would appreciate. Meantime, I'll be on the lookout for tiny seedlings with alternate-lobed leaves.

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