When my wife and I first started our walks on the beautiful trails of Eden Prairie back in March, the trees were barren and winter wind cold.
Snow seemed to disappear as quickly as bad news appeared.
A mysterious disease making people sick.
Family members that we could no longer hug, or even visit. Walking was our escape, our moment of quiet, and our moment of sanity.
We changed up our routes in order to explore the many trails Eden Prairie has to offer. But one became my favorite – a chunk of blacktop, four feet wide, little more than a tenth of a mile long, connecting two streets along the trail.
And in the middle was The Rock Tree. A sign saying so was attached at eye level, just in case you didn’t recognize it.
Sometime early in the spring, at the base of the tree, appeared a menagerie of stones. Small, hand-painted rocks graced with simple greetings dotted the ground.
I imagined a mom giving birth to this idea after a couple of weeks of no school with her kids trapped indoors. “Go find some rocks and make them pretty for the people walking by,” she said with a smile.
And so she bought them some paint and brushes and sent them off.
Little did she know the light those brightly colored messages would bring to walkers weary from winter and the added scourge of COVID-19.
They provided a brief respite from the conversation of corona virus, toilet paper and hybrid models.
It made you stop when normally you would keep going.
“Hey handsome,” one read, “hey” in artful cursive and “handsome” in tall block letters with a red heart to top if off. Instinctively, I looked around to see who was watching. Then I caught myself. It wasn’t meant for me. Or was it? Nah. But it didn’t matter.
“Stay positive!” implored another, the words emblazoned on a sea foam blue background and adorned with a small rainbow and shining red sun. Ok, I will try, I thought.
One rock that I make a point of looking at every time I walk by is wedged in the gnarled bark of The Rock Tree. It’s tiny and it’s bright pink.
And it says, simply, “Peace.”
When we began our walks the branches were bare. The sun shone through them, its rays creating a dappled pattern on the path. As spring became summer, the leaves were so thick that you needed to remove your sunglasses to see.
Now the leaves are gone again, carpeting the ground around The Rock Tree. There is a palpable anticipation that when the leaves turn green on this path once again, there will be a breath of hope in the air; hope that our lives will return to some kind of glorious normal.
I hope The Rock Tree is still there to remind us of just how wonderful that can be.