Almost Heaven

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Always Something There to Remind Me.”

The year was 1973. In a cedar-panel lined bedroom in a middle class Oregon suburb, I would sit on my bed, my record player blaring:

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze

My young voice would lift with the chorus.

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

I don’t know why this song spoke to me. I’ve never been farther east than a short pass through Kansas on a long road trip.

Born in the city, I was raised in suburbs newly born, clean within the downy fuzz of farmers’ fields, an island of new split-levels and kaffeeklatsches. We roamed the safe streets in freshly washed packs of multi-age explorers, feeding horses, sneakily entering the local farmer’s field and ducking down with stifled giggles when he came out on his deck shouting at us to leave. Bikes with loose chains were our transportation, and we whizzed up and down the hilly street, racing each other, laughing, and occasionally wiping out.

We were young and invincible. And we were loved.

When the summer weekends came, my family’s blue Ford F150 took off for the mountains. The canvas tent, camp stove, propane tank, family dog, and my sister and I were all loaded in the back under the canopy. We headed to the Mt. Hood wilderness for a weekend of fishing, exploring and relaxing at our favorite campsite. During the day, the creaky rowboat and our impatient voices betrayed our presence, scaring potential dinner away from thin, yet hopeful, fishing poles. Back on land, frogs croaked their locations and were surprised to be lifted from their resting spots by inquisitive hands, though always returned, unscathed. Dusty sneakers beat down paths around the lake. Water sandals slipped and slid in the cold mountain water. At night crawdads scurried from overturned rocks and glaring flashlights, and we laughed and chased them until the glow of the campfire and the gooey goodness of s’mores drew us all together again.

The scene has changed throughout my life like a flipagram, speedy, with common backgrounds and changing humans. The fields were exchanged for more split-levels, and the wonder of childhood became the pursuit of knowledge. Even so this song has played in the background. It lingers and beckons, pointing the way to sun painted mountains and calm, clear waters. It begs to go on a journey of exploration. It never ceases to paint in my mind a picture of childhood freedom, of connection with nature, of curiosity and wonder, and of a deep desire for simplicity in life.

And it always implores – take me home, country roads.

(lyrics by John Denver)

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