Aspen trees seem to me to be a special tree. They appear to be clean and have crisp edges and perfectly shaped leaves. The sound that they emanate as the wind combs through and ruffles their tops, has a calming effect on me. I instantly become nostalgic of my childhood, running around in the aspen forest at our family’s cabin.
There stood an ancient grove of aspen trees behind the cabin, and it was a jungle as far as I could tell. The Aspen forest’s fallen logs made for an endless bridge system suspended above the foliage of Queen Ann’s lace, Skunk cabbage, Columbines, and Stinging Nettle. The bridges extended over a creek, which had mud as black as night and water clear as crystals. We dipped our mouths in the stream drank straight from the pools up when we were thirsty. We grazed on gooseberries, and sucked the nectar out of the Columbine flowers.
In the shade of this extensive Aspen grove we as children romped, stomped, and tumbled our summer days away. Amazing forts were constructed, which were fearlessly defended by skunk cabbage wars. Exhilarating games of hide and seek and capture the flag taught me to be sneaky, taught me how to move over the logs without a sound, and slip silently behind giant Aspen trunks without ever being seen. These skills came in handy at the end of the day, when evening fell. As the sun sunk below the horizon, my family would meet up at the old cabin built at the edge of the Aspen grove nearly a hundred years ago. We would follow my grandfather back over the suspended log system, cross the creek, and duck through the willows that open up to a large meadow. I'd squeeze my Dads’ hand as my grandfather would signal to us to be quiet and we crept, just as I had practiced, to the edge of the meadow. He smiled and pointed and there they were.
The heard was massive and all calmly grazed on the meadow’s feast. I could hear them breath, I could hear their thousands of hooves as they stepped and mulled over the earth. The setting sun shown on their chestnut brown bodies and gave them a superior stature and mass I had never seen before. They seemed so grand to me, so regal and so powerful. This healthy heard of elk had been frequenting this meadow for generations. The dominant male would bugle from time to time. His voice echoed through the forest, sending out his message, that he owned this forest, this meadow, this heard. We would crouch there on the edge of that meadow as a family and watch the beasts in awe until the darkness veiled the show. We would find our way back to the cabin in the twilight, all of us hungry but also deeply satisfied with the abundance and wonders that the ancient Aspen forest had provided us with, just as it had for my family’s generations before me.