I bought this coffee mug in 2016 at the Glacier Point gift shop in Yosemite National Park to add to my collection of mug memories. My son and I were on day three of our summer trip to California. Printed on it is a quote from naturalist John Muir.
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
It was the perfect senitiment to capture this adventure of ours through central California. We’ve hiked a lot of paths together over the years, and more than a few of them have been dirt.
Each morning I’m home, I follow the same ritual. I clean the coffee maker, grind the beans, fill the water reservoir, and press BREW. I reach into the cabinet to choose from double stacked memories, from coffee mug mementos that remind me of events, experiences, and eras of my life.
Aside from photos, I don’t keep many physical reminders of my past, but the coffee mugs are an ever-present exception. I wake up my brain and fuel my morning from these vessels, sipping from the emotions and lessons they still hold.
On Saturday, my wife, son and I visited Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky on the tail end of a week-long vacation. As we were walking down to the entrance of the cave, I noticed large clumps of daffodils growing in the hillside. I remember thinking to myself that planting all those bulbs would have been a chore, and that there didn’t seem to be much rhyme nor reason for their placement.
Later in the tour, another visitor asked our guide about the daffodils. It turns out that they are a living reminder of the thousands of private landowners who once called the park home. Before Mammoth Cave was established as a National Park in 1941, eminent domain was used to forcibly evict many families from their land. Not surprisingly, this subject remains sore for many local families, nearly 70 years after the park’s founding.
There is no doubt that Mammoth Cave National Park continues to enrich the lives of millions of visitors each year by exposing them to both the human and natural history of the area. These daffodils emerge each spring as a bittersweet reminder that there is always a price attached to the common good.
I certainly will never again look at a daffodil without wondering a bit about the person who first gave it a home.