birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Forest Friend for Life

We wear matching silver rings made by the Hopi people ever since we married 32 years ago today. I was drawn to John as a mate after I saw how he studied the buds on trees, holding the closed sexual parts of the tree and observing them in the winter. John would note and describe the bark, sharing the name of trees and bushes we walked by. He was shy around folks, but very happy to introduce me to every tree in the forest. And, in the warmer months, all the birds and flowers that lived where we walked.

Early in our courtship we picked sticky Pinon pine nuts on the east side of the Sierra and made pine nut pancakes. We carved the meat from pumpkins and made home-made pumpkin pies. It was soon evident that John was the better, more inventive, cook and he has been our chef for over thirty years. I clean up. It works well.

We lived a year in Costa Rica while John was doing his doctoral research by talking with rural farmers about their trees and land. I noticed how comfortable he was talking with the campesinos and realized he wasn't always such a shy man. He was a very good listener and his Spanish made the people feel very comfortable to share their life stories with him.

He has been an anthropologist with the Forest Service for many years now and did a great job figuring out his line of work. He works with African American land owners in the South and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee in NC, helping them to better manage their forests.

Together we have a son. Getting to be a parent with John was mostly lots of fun when our boy was a little guy. I was a tad jealous when the two of them would walk in the woods ahead of me with their longer strides as our boy grew to be a young man. Together, we miss him now as he lives in NYC finding his own life.

Today, on our anniversary, we hiked in the Great Smokey National Park on a green mossy trail. John is still teaching me the names of trees. You would think I'd learned them by now..and I have... some, but I like to watch him rub his hand on their bark, remark on the shape of a leaf, and enjoy telling me all about the forest.


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