We slowly climb the mountain.
Leaves pack the earth,
A rustling cushion beneath our feet.
He holds my hand and
I feel the years of raking leaves,
Of planting vegetable gardens,
Of building stone terraces in his grasp.
We walk among the trees so tall
I cannot seem to find their tops.
He points and names them –
Needle kings and leafy queens.
In a clearing we stop:
Deer tracks – large and small –
No doubt made by a pair
That visit our salt lick.
The woods smell clean and crisp,
I blow hard, but autumn air
Not yet cold enough to
Form a frosty blast.
“I love the fall,” I say aloud.
“Leaf Dropper!” Grandpa replies,
And I nod my head and giggle.
“Party Gal!” I say and Grandpa laughs.
The trail winds higher and higher.
Off the muddied path I spy it,
A little fir tree trying hard to
Sink its fingers into a rocky ledge.
Strong rains and melting snows
Would surely pry its roots
From the sparse soil and
Wash the little fir away.
My grandfather and I are close,
So close that he can read my thoughts.
I don’t need any words.
This is one of those times.
With bare hands, Grandpa digs.
He digs around the tiny fir,
Careful to take some moist earth, too,
That clings to its lacy roots.
We slowly make our way back,
Down, down, down the steep mountain.
The little tree rides in one of the big pockets,
Grandpa’s red-and-black plaid lumber jacket.
The next morning we are saying good-bye
To cabin, to lake, to salt lick, to mountain.
Grandpa will return to check on things,
But it will be early spring before I return.
The fir tree stands all the way home
In a metal bucket with some rocks and water.
I wedge the bucket between my two feet.
I steady it and talk to the tree.
I tell him how big he will become,
That we will grow together.
Grandpa plants it with my help
At the corner of the house.
I don’t want to go back to Philly,
And the tears start to come,
But Grandpa says, “He needs a name!”
I smile because I have it….
“Little Pocono!” I shout.
And Grandpa nods in agreement.
“It is a good name,” he says.
“Little Pocono,” we say together.