A very light rain started to fall, almost like tears, trailing slowly down our cheeks and nourishing the morning glories sprinkled across the ground.
After a minute, we were ready to move on. I took my wife's hand as the sky cleared.
We all walked to the grove of trees that stood in front of the entrance to the path that led down to our spring. Eden and I had talked about whether we'd make the steep descent with the kids or not, especially because Maya was so young, but right then, without speaking about it, we both seemed to agree we needed it. We made our way down slowly, me picking Maya up in spots that were extra steep. In my mind I was a seventeen-year-old boy, racing down the path, excitement and anticipation of seeing a beautiful girl lighting up my heart.
When we finally arrived at the first spring below, Jack let out an excited yell and Maya laughed.
"You think this is pretty," I said to Jack, "just wait until you see the other one."
"Other one?" he asked excitedly.
I smiled at him and Eden pointed to the opening in the rocks. All the brush had been moved aside, the first indication that others had been here.
We walked through the open area between the springs and when we ducked through the rocks again, Eden leading and me in the rear, we all stood and simply looked at the beauty surrounding us: the towering rocks, the crystal blue water with the trickling waterfall, and the flourishing plants. It was paradise. It was the place where our love had first blossomed. Emotion overwhelmed me. Eden turned to me with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. "It's even more beautiful than I remembered," she whispered.
"It is," I choked out, pulling her into me and kissing the top of her head, inhaling her sweet scent, apple blossoms and springtime.
"Mama's spwing," Maya said enthusiastically. I looked down at her and laughed with the realization that she recognized it from the paintings we had hanging in our home—the ones that reminded us where we'd fallen in love.
"That's right, baby," I said to Maya, smiling down at her.
We looked around for things we might have left there, but there was no trace of anything. The kids played and splashed at the edge of the spring as Eden and I enjoyed simply watching their innocent joy. We sat against the same rock I had leaned against so long ago as I’d sketched. My arm was around Eden, her head on my shoulder. We squinted upwards to see an eagle circling above us, the sky a soft, peaceful blue.
Here, I had fallen desperately in love with a girl and she had offered herself to me with her whole, beautifully tender heart. Here, we had shown each other how to be brave, what it was to truly be known. Here, we had learned how to live. Perhaps the land over the cellar was hallowed ground, but this place…this place was holy, too. This was the place where I had first found Eden.
When we were ready, we gathered our kids and went back through the opening in the rock. As Eden was ducking through ahead of me, she glanced back at the spring and then up into my eyes, her gaze tender and full of love. My breath caught. She smiled a smile I had seen a thousand times at this spring, and a thousand times since. I smiled back, realizing in that moment the depth of heartache and love, hurt and forgiveness we had experienced since the last time we were here. And my heart filled with gratitude for all of it, even the pain, because it had brought us here, to this very moment.
We ascended slowly and took the path to the main lodge. When we reached it, we stood looking up at what once had looked like the grandest place on earth. We walked around to the far side and Eden gasped softly. Morning glories vined up the wood, over the windows and all the way up to the roof, filling in the cracks, and covering up the ugliness. The whole side of the house was covered in deep blue beauty, each yellow center looking just like a light shining out from the middle.
And as I stood there with my family, I realized, in the end, it was the beauty that had taken over. It was the beauty we looked upon. And when we walked away from Acadia that day, it was the beauty we attached to our hearts.