One year ago, on the Friday before Mother’s Day, 22-year-old Walker Taylor, “a big brown-haired boy from North Carolina” and a junior in forestry at Auburn, died in a kayaking accident on the Tallapoosa River.
A feature on how Taylor’s mother is using his recently-discovered journal (kept during his 10 weeks of summer practicum at Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center outside of Andalusia) to cope with his loss on the first anniversary of his death appeared in yesterday’s Charlotte Observer.
It is a black notebook, 100 pages thick, about half of them filled. “It’s mundane,” his mother warns, and yes, the entries are about Walker’s meals and lecture quizzes. But they show his excitement learning new things about the life of trees. “The forest we went to was awesome!” says one entry.
It is a glimpse of who he was and who he was becoming, in his words. “I have one I want to show you,” she says.
She begins to turn the pages. She pulls out the book regularly, and especially now as the milestones approach. The one-year anniversary of his death. Mother’s Day. Graduation next week, when Auburn will honor him with a diploma. It may be the hardest time for Mende since those days right after Walker died.
“Where is it?” she says. “I’ve got to read this one entry.”
She finds it – June 12, the day of the Swamp Walk, when forestry students trudge into the woods and up to their necks in muddy, snake-occupied waters. It’s somewhat a rite of passage, Mende says. In his journal, Walker says: “We learned about the different types of wetlands that exist.” And: “We came face to face with two water moccasins.”
And: “That was probably the dirtiest I’ve been in my life, but I had fun!”
You can read the rest here.
Thanks to Hobbes, in Charlotte on business, for the tip.