We first met more than four decades ago in my grandparents’ orchard. I was learning how to walk, making my first wobbly steps, only to tumble down onto the ground, laughing, pulling blades of grass and yellow-eyed daisies, sticking them into my hair and inevitably my mouth. It isn’t so much a memory (after all I wasn’t even one), but rather a story retold so many times I can now clearly picture that whole scene. And while I don’t remember taking those first steps, the smell of fresh grass is still with me. I stop in front of every freshly mowed lawn, close my eyes and immediately get transported into the orchard of my childhood: a babbling, ice-cold brook nearby, white fluffy clouds drifting up above, daisy chain crowns and the tart taste of green apples I’d just picked from the ground.
I remember long summer afternoons idled away in the tall grass under the protective spell of the forest that bordered the orchard. And hours spent wandering through those enchanted woods in search of mushrooms and tasty delights: green patches dotted with wild strawberries and prickly branches bowing under the weight of luscious, ruby-red raspberries. Oh, the sweet burst of taste in my mouth!
I remember the tall pines that could touch the sky with their shaggy heads. They danced in the wind and whispered of unknown lands. My dreams nestled in their branches. My yearning to wander hatched under their watchful gaze.
I remember the first time I knew I loved you, Nature. I was about 15, on my first multi-day backpacking trip through the Carpathian Mountains with my classmates. Although tired after a long day of hiking, my friends and I decided to stay up all night waiting for the sunrise. The moment I saw the red orb burst into the sky to the exhilarating accompaniment of nightingales, I knew a part of my heart was lost among those peaks forever.
Those early hours before the start of the day are still my favourite. The time when the world stands still, holding its breath, waiting for the red ball to part the fold between the earth and the sky and spill its life giving energy into every crag and crevice. I love those moments of intense oneness with you, Nature: my heart swelling with joy, drowning in the explosion of colour.
That eternal thirst for connection is what pulls me out of bed before the crack of dawn, pushes me to the mountain tops and drives me into the woods, onto remote lakes and backcountry trails. Perpetual search for beauty, sometimes exaggerated, overwhelming, splashed across the sky, rippling through an endless expanse of water, rolling over jagged mountain ridges.
At times that beauty is understated, subtle, tucked away inside a snowdrop, reflected in a shimmering bead of morning dew, revealed in the exquisite perfection of every snowflake. Unfailingly satisfying, soothing, invigorating.
You never let me down, Nature, always go out of your way to make each encounter special. You roll out multicoloured carpets of meadow flowers, spill myriads of lights across the midnight sky, and lay out your softest, whitest duvets. You choreograph most exquisite of dances with twirling autumn foliage and frolicking butterflies. You compose intricate arrangements: a soothing harmony of gurgling waterfalls and whispering treetops punctuated by loon’s yodel; a stirring rhapsody of crashing waves and howling winds… Especially for me.
You take me as I am: tired, happy, exhilarated, sad. You send rainfalls to quench my thirst and pour sunlight over my wounds. You nourish the body and soul, and shower me with your wisdom. You lift me up all the way to the skies and firmly root me in the ground. You inspire and never cease to amaze.
You always give and never ask for anything in return – just to tread lightly and protect your bounty for future children and lovers.
I know my love is forever. It has survived twisted ankles, freezing rains and cold numbing winds, the grayness of in-between seasons and my inexcusably long absences. My love is eternal because your rivers run through my veins, your stardust is etched into my skin, your song lives in my heart. We are one, Nature. Forever.