I can also smell that musty, mottled and tangled old rope. Oh yes, two large pieces of it. Each knot of it, looking almost frayed yet amazingly strong - I can smell that rope. It held an old slab of wood at the bottom - making a swing that you could seat yourself into on a warm summer day. I was so small then - skinny, even. Skinny's not something I was very much in my life, but I was then. It's the early 80s. Some cars still used leaded gasoline - I remember how the pumps used to smell. We stopped at one on the way up to camp - oh so far away, nestled in the trees and hills of the Adirondack Park in New York State. The journey used to always seem so long to me as a child - it was truly a different work we were getting away to. We'd get on the freeway, a modern marvel (I was told; it wasn't there when my parents were my age!) and cars would scoot along at speeds designed to make travel across state so much more convenient. Though the speed limit was capped at 55 mph due to the oil shortages of the 70s, to me - it seemed as if the green rolling hills and rock-cut streams sped by my window in hyperspace. They were merely blurry lines when I looked at them, but each mile we passed was one more step, for me, towards the bliss of escape.
Camp - or "Up North" as we called it. When we pulled off the main road, onto that old dirt-road, we pulled ourselves into a place out of space and time. To my mind, when the large pines began to envelope us, and they let small rays of sunlight spray across the road in dappled patterns, we were in paradise; the world as it was, or meant to be, away from the rest of civilization.
The road winded on for miles - past a sunny stream that flowed over the rich, iron laden rocks, and old hunting camps. The first stop for us was always an old homestead, known by the name of the family that built it: The Miller Camp. The Millers had a farm out here once, near the turn of the 19th century to the 20th. Now, it was a hunting camp, though well maintained and a favorite place for the families to stop and hang out at in these long summer days. There was a massive tree out front; to me, this tree probably sprang from the center of the Earth and was just as old as it. To my little, skinny self, that tree could have housed families. But, instead, off of one sturdy branch hung that old swing. The seat was such an old, grey piece of wood. It had seen summers and winters and aged accordingly, but it still held us - we were just little children. I was young, my brother was younger and many of my cousins were still just dreams in their young parents minds. Now, as we're all grown, it's funny for me to think of a time when they didn't exist yet, and I ran around in shorts with white trim, and wore track socks with stripes up to my shins. It was the early 80s, as I said, and such things were the fashion of the day. So, I'd swing - and I'd swing till I was called away. We'd have adventures, but that swing was always like the first greeting into that world.
That limb is long gone, now - and the tree, though still a massive and impressive specimen, looks smaller to me now. Now that I'm older, taller, wider, more bald, more battle scarred from life. But it remains, and I remain; we've both lost some things along the way, but we stand tall. Neither of us has the swing anymore, but I'm quite sure that the old tree, like me, can still probably smell the old pine needles and the rope that used to hang off of it - and it can still hear the laughter and feel the love that surrounded that tree, oh so many years ago. It does my heart well to remember these things - after all we both have been through, we remain. We remain.