Monday, June 2, 2008


It was Cindy's idea to go to Yosemite for our mini-vacation. We had never visited the park together though we both had unforgettable memories of previous trips. Awesome experiences are easy to come by in Yosemite where water, rocks, trees, and wildlife take one's breath away again and again, but unbeknown to me, Cindy was on quest.

Shortly before Ashley died, she visited Yosemite with an old family friend. They snapped dozens of photos all over the park throughout their visit. In one picture, Ashley--laughing and full of life-- is standing in a tree in the angle formed by several large boughs. Cindy loves this picture and she wanted to find the tree. I was admittedly skeptical. How could we find one tree among thousands when the picture gave no hints--no identifying leaves, no distinguishing landmarks? Not only that, I knew that Ashley and her friend would have entered the park by a different road than we had. But none of that deterred Cindy. She knew the shape of those branches and she hoped to find this tree.

Years ago in her wilder days, the park gave Cindy a gift she'd never forgotten-- a transcendent moment. Freshly clean from a long-term addiction, she visited the park with friends and hiked to lower Yosemite Falls. In a brash move and against the advice of her friends, she went way beyond the safe perimeter, climbing over boulders and across slippery rocks until she was able to make her way behind the waterfall. Behind the thundering water, anointed by cold spray, she met God.

Not very far from lower Yosemite Falls, Cindy found Ashley's tree. I was astounded that she even noticed this particular tree, but she had the photo with her and there was no mistaking--it was the right tree. "Ashley told me to look this way," said Cindy, climbing into the tree. I snapped a photo. Later, when we arrived at the Falls, she once again climbed past the perimeter marked by park authorities. However, with age comes a little more caution. She stopped in a safe place before the rocks got slippery and sat on a big flat rock beneath the cold spray in quiet contemplation. . . .

Her quest was satisfied.

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