“quick question for you, when you think of Nicene Marks, is there one image that pops in your head?”

I received that text from my nephew this morning. I tried to treat is as a word association, but there wasn’t just one image that popped in my head. In a fraction of a second, flickering through my mind, I saw:

  • My older son as a four year-old standing on one side of the steel bridge with a friend, tossing sticks into Aptos Creek, then running to the other side to see whose floated past first
  • The joy on my brother’s face talking about the Nicene forest on his yearly visits from the midwest
  • Yearly photos of that same brother with his family in front of the Advocate Tree
  • Myself training for the Big Sur Marathon 21-miler on the fire road with a friend
  • My sons talking and laughing as they hike in front of me, finding a rope swing over the creek and taking turns on it
  • The improbability of banana slugs
  • The bench at Sand Point and the view towards the bay
  • The old jalopy on Aptos Rancho Trail
  • Our pup running after his boys on a trail, stopping frequently in a “haven’t smelled this before!” pose
  • My mother proudly balancing as she crossed the downed log across the creek behind the Advocate Tree, keeping up with her more athletic grandsons
  • A funny fuzzy sideways redwood my younger son and I discovered on an evening stroll

The overriding image was of family, of living, of joy. His simple question make me reflect on how very much place define our lives. My identity as a mother, a sister and aunt, as nature lover, has been reinforced through the years in this improbable second-growth redwood forest that’s also a part of the history, growth, and identity of the community of Aptos.

But it was 8am. “Redwoods” I texted back. “Then wood sorrel.”

What do YOU think of when you think of Nicene Marks?