Our daughter was born in China. She came to the United States at the age of fifteen months. From then until the end of second grade, she lived in Los Angeles. For the past three years, Yosemite National Park has been her home. Part of the poignancy of living here is that she knows that one day we will pack up and head back south. These days it looks like that will be sooner rather than later. So she's sad. Sad because her love of Yosemite knows no bounds, sad because she knows that living here is a blessing -- one that she doesn't want to end.
When we moved to Yosemite, I felt that one of its great gifts would be to give our daughter a deep sense of place. To know that no matter where she goes in the world, there is a park so beautiful, so magical, that even decades after moving away, it will still feel like home. I wanted her to have this because I never did. Growing up, we changed neighborhoods, cities or states every couple of years. After college, I spent a decade traveling the globe, and while I liked some places better than others, nowhere left me feeling rooted.
Enter Brenda Negley. I met her this past Sunday when our daughters attended the same birthday party. Brenda's childhood was a lot like mine. Lots of moving. No sense of place ... except for this: Every summer of her life, Brenda would stay with her grandparents -- John and Marge Hawksworth -- at the Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias, just outside the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park. The Hawksworths spent their summers in the grove because, after a lifetime of working for the U.S. Forest Service, they became the Nelder Grove's first campground hosts.