Thrice happy he, who by some shady grove,
Far from the clamorous world, doth live his own;
Though solitary, who is not alone,
But doth converse with that eternal love.
– William Drummond, Urania
Next to the big barn attached to the big house on the big hill in South Paris, Maine was my favorite place: the pine grove.
It was a quiet place. The pine trees reached up to the sky, so tall that I wondered whether their tops could touch the blue sky and the white clouds I would watch floating over them through the filtered light of the trees, lying on the pine needles of the pine grove floor.
Sometimes Annie went with me to the pine grove. She lived just behind Grandpa’s and Grandma’s big house on the hill.
We would lie there and look up…without talking…smelling the aroma of the pines. It was a sacred place of solitude and quiet – God’s greatest gift – where I could forget that my father was somewhere far away on the other side of some great big ocean in a great big war against a great big monster. I would retreat to the pine grove to get away from the radio broadcasts we listened to that might tell us whether my father was alive or dead.
There was no war in the pine grove. There were no people there. Just the great big pine trees that didn’t seem to care about the war. They just kept reaching up to the sky.
After we moved far away to Pennsylvania following my father’s return from the war, we returned to South Paris annually for vacation. Every year those pine trees were there waiting for my return.
During the 10 hour drive to South Paris, I looked forward to lying on the floor of the pine grove with a fresh-baked sugar cookie. As we drove up the road from Gray and rounded the bend by the Fair Grounds, the anticipation grew. I could almost smell the scent of the pines of the pine grove.
Until the year I looked up to see a franchise submarine sandwich shop standing where the pine grove had stood. The pine grove was gone. Clear cut. All the trees. All the pine needles. And the hill had been leveled to street level.
Someone had declared war on the pine grove, and the trees couldn’t fight back. Trees don’t fight. I sobbed like a baby.