Sunday, August 2, 2009


Now, I will be the first person to admit that I've been a bit emotional, lately -- and that's an entirely different story. But I do believe that this may have been the perfect summer evening.

We started our excursion by heading to Port Matilda to see our friends Beth and Jamie. Beth is recovering from recent surgery and, by all appearances, is doing very well. That in itself is good reason to be happy, but we had an absolutely lovely time talking, and the Monkey hammed it up for everyone's enjoyment. I also must say that I think Beth and Jamie are two of the kindest people we have met here, which makes me thankful for the wonder of twitter, without which we might have never met them. Jamie gave us a tour of his incredible garden and showed us plants that I've never even heard of, let alone seen before. It would have been nice if they could have accompanied us on the next leg of our journey, but that would have been a bit much for Beth this soon after her surgery.

The Monkey knew exactly where we were headed as we left Beth and Jamie's house -- "the pink restaurant," or El Campesino, if you want to go by an actual name. And while I think there's a rather large contingent of folks in State College who wish they'd open up a location here, the drive to Altoona is no longer a huge barrier, so we can go and enjoy real Mexican food whenever we have just a little extra time to do so. It was, of course, delicious. And though I was tempted to literally lick my plate clean, I didn't want to embarrass my family in front of strangers.

But the absolute best part of the evening was the drive home. Perhaps it was partially the coincidence of The Weepies' All This Beauty playing as we drove that particular portion of Interstate 99, but right around the Blair/Centre county border, I looked out over the forest-laden, rippling remnants of mountains that were once higher than the Himalayas, and found myself again thinking that I live in one of the most beautiful places on this planet. A few weeks ago, while making the same drive, I commented to a friend that from that spot, if you stop and look all around you, you can see more trees from that very viewpoint than you would find in the entire state of Kansas, where I grew up. And while Kansas has a beauty all its own, I have always found myself drawn to the solid grandeur of trees. So tonight, as the sun began to set beyond those mountains, and the humid haze from the recent rains gave even greater depth to the distances between them, I swore that I could feel the breathing of the leaves as they cleansed the air around that mountain road. I was reminded of my grandfather, the man who taught me to appreciate nature, and the way I could feel his excitement at seeing a particularly gorgeous landscape. So as the music played and my beautiful wife and child sang along with it, I thought, "Not too bad for a couple of Kansas boys. Eh, Papa?" And in that moment, I once again felt the warmth of his smile.

It was, indeed, the perfect summer evening...