A million or so years ago, my young husband and I took a drive down South. We wanted to visit some college campuses, because we were looking for graduate schools. We made some appointments, got into our old brown Toyota Corolla and headed South.
We stopped in New Jersey, on the very day of Bruce Springsteen’s 31st birthday. We went on to Delaware, to Maryland, and then to Virginia. We camped, in Shenandoah National Park, in a place called “Big Meadow”.
We were young, and open and ready for the world to show us what it had to offer. Shenandoah showed us mountains, and fields and deer and music and a gentle beauty that we could not forget.
We went back there, of course. We stayed in a cozy cottage for two, in the fall. We watched the sun set over those mountains. We walked at dawn in a dewy field filled with does and fawns.
And we returned, first with our little girl, showing her the rosy light of dawn in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We brought her hiking, taught her to pick blueberries and raspberries in the wide, wild field. We fed her pancakes and bacon in the homey restaurant of the Big Meadow Lodge on Skyline Drive.
We came back again, with her brothers. Camping on the edge of the Appalachian Trail, singing with the guitarist in the lodge, walking the wide meadow at sunset, hiking the beautiful trails.
And every time we’ve been there, every memory that our family has made there, has had a soundtrack that has run beneath it all. The songs have changed as we have grown and changed. But one song has been there through it all.
“Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you
Away, you rolling river.”
In a few days, my daughter will be married. That little girl who I held on my hip as we watched the sunset on the Shenandoah Valley will bind her hand and her life to her love, and will become a married woman.
At some point during the celebration, she will stand and walk to her father, who will take her hand in his. They will smile, and embrace, and dance together as they both think back on the history of all that they have shared. The song will be “Shenandoah”, by Van Morrison.
Listen to this, and think of us: Shenandoah