This meditative essay memorializes a Cottonwood tree, which passerby have encrusted with heart-shaped rocks they have discovered along the trails. The keystone tree represents the rejuvenation humans seek and find in refuges of Idaho’s nature, including magical discoveries of children, blind people, and dreamers. As a symbol of “The Heart of the Valley”, the towering tree is wildly imagined to represent the good nature and joys found brimming from the entire valleys hiking trails.
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Heartstone Cottonwood Branches with 'Hasspess'
By Jim Banholzer
There is a peculiar Cottonwood that you should know about; on the edge of this lifeline, we call the Big Wood River. The tree blossoms in Hailey, a hundred giant paces behind Robin Hood Lane in Sherwood Forest. Spilling out from the tree’s ridged bark are oodles of heart-shaped rocks tinged in pink, hugging the Cottonwood’s earthen base for all its worth. This steadfast shrine soars in the hub of the valley for everyone’s delight.
While owls and mockingbirds wildly caw “Boo Radley,” I wonder which kind hearted- person interleaved the first heartstone into the Cottonwood, at the start of this unadvertised sacred path. Others followed suit, paying forward random acts of kindness. Until the Thanksgiving-Tree roots loose, each reachable strategic spot for artfully enfolding rugged heartstones is nearly full. This keystone Cottonwood, centered between pinnacle mountain peaks and Snake River plains, symbolizes refuge renewal found in all of the valley’s hiking terrains.
Most of the grasping stones match the local geology, where rocking in the wind, the tree sways complete. For true seekers, Heartstones also appear on outlying trails in perfect ratios to retain enduring mysteries. Donor’s rucksack rocks from these far-flung valley paths to seed this shrine, leaving us breathless. Sometimes we take for granted how much good earth is grounded under surfaces that appear to be acmes of barrenness.
What hand of intelligent design chiseled fine these teeming rocks–each tempered slightly dissimilar? Has somebody secretly slipped a ruby-heart ring under the raw earth for the tree to draw eventually into its absorbing roots? The towering tree was a sparkling seedling when Haileyites Charlie Benson and Glenn Miller ruled this roost like two Robin Hoods scouting in the days of yore (Miller). Then mostly sidestepping nature, TV grew to be a hypnotizing spirit in the valley, with foremost gatherings around radiant fires as Dorothy clicked her Ruby slippers, casting surreal techno color cyber-wishes, to remind stunned viewers that there’s no place like immortal home.
These days on Youtube, modern-day whippersnapper’s blog songs about saps falling for this tree. Some have posted photos onto MySpace, jamming the Cottonwood into digital preserves. Double exposure photographs from the tree reveal fleeting glimpses onto unexplained paths leading to heavenly homes.
After hard rains, these natural heart-rocks glaze evermore brilliant. Since ancient times, rocks have recognizingly rolled as containing mysterious uplifting attributes. Consider lodestones, radio crystals and healing stones, which alternative medicine recipients vouch for from their magnetic personalities. Not to mention the dream a companion had in the woods about breaking off shimmering rose quartz pieces budding from her own heart, to hand out freely to friends as a symbol of her love. Enough to ratchet up sensitivity for the most jaded of Grinches trolling the trails.
One blustery Sun Valley winter afternoon, after an uncertain turn of events I was feeling lower than a snake’s belly caught in a muddy wagon wheel rut. While quietly going off alone for a snowshoe past this tree, I spied a sunny scribbled note, on a teensy paper plane, expecting a second wind. Quickly unfurling it, I read impressed, in rare earth ink the recharging message, “I wish ever bode hass pess”. Determining that the optimistic young writer truly meant, “I wish everybody happiness”, this charmed note raised the tree up another notch.
Thereafter, happiness in nature for me was forged into hasspess.
Anglers share secrets, as they stream past the cheery Cottonwood, on their way to fish out Huck Finn afternoons from the Big Wood. Businesspersons halt progress to hike the revitalizing paths, leaving their work toils behind. The valley’s collective paths roll out with hikers, containing miles of smiles. This sprays the trails contagiously with sockdolagers of hasspess. In blizzards, the tree offers its shelter for warming reorientations. It’s a good locator tree to stand under for a minute to shake off your mittens.
Miscreant’s juke-jump lizard-like past this tree, jolted while seeing the remarkable stones zap extra-life into its heartwood and consider reversing their own negative polarities. Even the blind trade cherry-crimson hasspess rocks enfolded in the Cottonwood heartleaves. Feels like fantasy crystals breaking off a Wonka tree of golden ticket opportunity. As the unsighted, presume H.R. Pufnstuf kind worlds, they sense textured beauties, the rest of us mostly miss (Kraft).
Some find flashier places to be the core of the valley for them, like the dance floor of Whiskey’s or the Mint when a hot band is on. That is nice, but for me breathing in the natural sounds and fresh scents exuded by these peaceful paths, helps me hum a simpler song -attuned to the tranquility I seek. Sometimes in the refuge I’ll restructure lyrics around in my head, such as Neil Young’s Mirror Ball “Throw your Hatred Down” into “Hold your Hass-pess Up”, tossing to the rubbish war-beaten stanzas of cruelty that cement off double-blind gifting tree knotholes from today’s precious Scouts and Jems (Lee).
Returning to the hearthstone of my home, reminds me of local life-bespangling stonemasons, who hoist Heart-of-Idaho-shaped rocks onto special stacks for unique adorning jobs. And reflecting about how the poorest appearing homes often radiate with the most character built around their holiday hearthstones, with spirited dancing candlelights -unextinguished by drafts of vacuous grandiose chambers.
While not every valley path contains a heart-rock tree, most have crystal-clear kindnesses, centered walking on their trails, raring to swap sparkles with your passing eyes and to help peacefully fuse a healthier hasspess into your own connected core.
Remember this Cottonwood stoned with hearts, in the power spot at the Cedar Bend Preserve as a symbol for the good of all these trails -and how much this beyond belief refuge called Idaho has to offer.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: HarperCollins, 1960.
Miller, Glenn. “Reflections of Old Times.” Idaho Mountain Express 01 September 1999. 04 November 2006. http://www.mtexpress.com/1999/09-01-99/old.htm
The World of Sid & Marty Krofft –H.R. Pufnstuf (1969). DVD. 2000.