My darling husband, who I lovingly refer to as Bird (the man is an insanely devoted duck hunter, blech) and who has been my best friend for 30 years now since our first meeting on a school bus, did something wonderful for me once.
We have a "special place" that holds many sweet memories for us, dating back to 1991 when were were still friends pretending not to be in love with each other. That place is Cades Cove, in the Great Smokey Mountains right next to Townsend, Tennessee, where they happen to have the best fudge on the planet (thank you Little River Village Fudge Kitchen & Sweet Shoppe), in case you're interested.
Anyway, without getting into the whole story, which I could never condense into a manageable size, Cades Cove has been a source of love, beauty, hope, and wonder for us since we first hiked it way back when. We love everything about the place, and I have always been especially enchanted by the plant life and rocks there during every season. I just can't adequately describe it in words; you need to see it for yourself, especially if you are interested in southern Appalachian history.
Our whole crazy history is very hard to put into a time frame, but we ended up marrying in 2000, and he was very late for our first date. I was worried sick.
He finally showed up at my door and handed me an oddly shaped (mini-Stonehenge-ish), beautiful, smooth rock and I immediately knew where it came from. Bird had driven six hours to bring me a rock from the Cove. The friend who rode with him thought he was nuts.
So. Every year we visit the Cove and we bring back an unusual rock for our collection. This year we'll add number sixteen!