Thursday, January 25, 2018

That favorite place

What is your favorite place?

Is yours far-away and exotic? Perhaps where you once went on a fabulous vacation?

Or is your favorite place just up the road? Somewhere you go to all the time, anytime you need to?
My favorite place is a quick drive away (but it feels remote enough).
 It's beautiful (but not so stunning that it makes it into all the guidebooks).
It's got the usual favorite elements-- water, trees, silence. Butterflies, bats, beavers too.
I like it because you can go there to see forever (well... at least all the way to the La Sals), letting the expansiveness wash over you, feeling connected to the bigger picture with distant landmarks on the horizon.

You can also go there and be surrounded by trees and living things and enveloped by comforting, glowing warm redrock.
This is what it looked like last spring
Green bursting forth
Then in early summer, when the green seemed to take over
And the mourning cloak caterpillars loved it too
In this spot, you can pop between the two worlds, from the expansive to the lush, up and down. The two best feelings in the world.

***

A favorite place must be versitile. Last winter, I liked to go here to run around on the rocks.
Continuous rocks like a racecourse
When I started working here, I decided I needed to build my confidence for scrambling on rocks (so that I wouldn’t show any hesitation or fear in front of my students.) So I started coming out each day. “I’m going to go run around on the rocks,” I’d tell my roommate as I headed out the door after work. I’d test myself bounding up steeper and steeper terrain. Seeing the effect of momentum and sheer willpower. Practicing my skills until I could bound like a gazelle.

Other times I've gone here to be still.
I learned that rocks can feel soft and inviting. So another time I even got a permit so I could stay the night.
Sometimes I’d bring my computer out when I needed to write. One time I was sitting and writing at the canyon bottom and wild turkeys walked by and didn’t even see me.

Another time I was perched on top of the rim and a great blue heron flying above traced the arc of the canyon. Not one twinge to reach for the camera. It was just for my eyes only. 
Great blue heron time
There was a week we brought our students out here for field trips.  "Over there a bat was circling just last night," I would point as we played our bat and moth game. "Look at these tracks, I think a beaver was just here, maybe if we are quiet we will see him." And they would gaze expectantly.
Beaver dam, but the water always stayed still
After lunch we would dig in the sand and feel how cool it is beneath the surface.

I hardly ever tell anyone about this place. But for the students, we tell them all to come back here and bring their parents to show them the beaver dam and the places the bats live. "This is a special secret place," we tell them, hoping they will treasure it forever.

***
On a dark, mid-January day, I come back here and run around on the rocks for a while. Then I curl up in my favorite spot in the embrace of the slickrock and cry.
The sun feels so far away
It is two days before I have to get surgery to repair a hernia that I got in my groin. The surgeon says that if I don't get it patched up, then it might strangulate which could be life-threatening if it happened when I am backpacking on a long trip. Plus it's starting to hurt.
The idea of getting surgery makes me scared. I'm scared about how painful it will be. I'm scared of the what-if's. What if I don't wake up. What if something happens and I'm not able to backpack again.

So I lay on the rocks and feel the coolness of the earth supporting me. The La Sals are covered in clouds off in the distance and wonder if I will ever again climb their peaks. I run my fingers along the sleeping branches of a cottonwood, knowing that no matter what happens to me, that this canyon will wake up in a few months, that the leaves will expand, that the caterpillars will hatch from eggs and munch away. And it is comforting to know this place will be here no matter what.

18 comments:

  1. Lots of good thoughts going your way! Virtual *hugs* from Texas!

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    1. Thanks, Misti! It's really made a huge difference knowing I'm not alone. Especially since I've been spending so much time at home lately.

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  2. Glad you got the surgery. As you know eventually the time healing will just be a blip in your life. I have a bunch of favorite spots but some are really far away so I don't know if they count. I need a close favorite.

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    1. I'm glad I got it right away too. Plus then I'll be all healed up and ready for spring.

      Favorite spots far away totally count. It just makes life more expensive.

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  3. Yes it is daunting and it is all part of life. Saw your FB entry a few weeks ago and assume you are hopefully well on the mend by now.

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    1. Yes it is part of life. I hazard to say that feeling more aware of my own mortality makes me appreciate many things more deeply these past weeks.

      Still mending, slowly getting my energy back, and still counting down the days until I can carry more than 10 lbs. Fortunately, I found out I am surrounded by kind people and caring friends. My students are even enjoying being my helpers and carrying our supplies.

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  4. "Then I drove through town - for the first time in over a year. My favorite yoga studio is now closed, as is my favorite coffee shop. Most of the pullouts in the desert now have 'no camping' signs, and worse ... there is a 'camping' sign on my secret road, leading straight to my secret spot - 'My' spot, where I have spent months, where I know each cat-claw bush, coyote song and firewood pile. There was a massive camp in 'my' spot..." -- The Roaming Bobcat (http://bit.ly/2Gn1oaa)

    poignant: "painful to physical or mental feeling", from Old French poignant "sharp, pointed", from Latin pungere "to prick, pierce, sting." (etymonline.com)

    Any place with a lesson, but not always a sad one.

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  5. Dave-

    Poignant seems especially approporate for this land that has so many pointy, prickeries.

    A few months ago, I was that other person hiking in someone else's secret spot. I was wandering around Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, offtrail, in some dense shrub, somewhere no one is expect to be in. "I've never seen anyone out here in all my years," he said. I felt so bad and hurried to say that I'm not living nearby anymore, just visiting, trying to be careful, not touching or taking anything and I certainly won't tell anyone. But still, the damage was one. One other person, out there in the vastness is too many for some places.

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  6. I lived in Moab one winter. I loved finding new spots around there to run and hike.

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    1. There is such great winter hiking here.

      I'm now on a quest for flat hikes since I'm not suppose to overdo it yet. Maybe this will allow me to find even more new places I'd never considered before. Will see...

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  7. I always enjoy your posts. I wish you a speedy recovery. You are young and will bounce back quickly. Keep smiling.

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    1. Thanks for the comment! Just had my follow up appointment and the dr. says it's healing faster than average, so that was a relief to hear.

      I'm doing everything I can think of to keep my spirits up, but I know the pain sometimes shows on my face. The other day when I was out walking, a woman stopped, said she was a nurse, and asked if I was OK. When I told her I was recovering from surgery, she said I was doing great. It was nice to know that there are caring people around who are willing to help a stranger.

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  8. It's a place of new beginnings and mourning the past. Just like the caterpillar cocooning until just the right time, I'm confident your body will once again soar like the most beautiful butterfly.

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    1. I hope you're right, Dr. Jan. That's what the surgeon says too.

      But also there is this fear:
      http://dailypicdump.com/media/20160803/caterpillar-vs-worm-aw-butterfly.jpg

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    2. Ha, you are all caterpillar! BTW, love the canyon photo filled with the green leaves. Maybe that means less understory? A bushwhack to be enjoyed by me? And, SHADE! oh how inviting in the summer.

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    3. Jan- I would have thought that dense canopy would mean less understory too. But no.

      Last year I explored this side canyon from the bottom in late spring and it was quite the crazy, thick bushwhack through alternating poison ivy, dense willow, and prickery fremont barberry. When I went there, I remember thinking how glad I was that no one else was with me because I can't imagine anyone else thinking it would be fun. But did I turn back? Of course not! (Type II fun, oh why do I mistake you for fun?!?) Plus the next day I got some colorful rashes that I wouldn't wish on anyone. But I was happy anyway because there were some alcove-loving plants that I'd never seen before.

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  9. Great Post! Remember when you endured the ordeal with your feet on the PCT? I do. Pretend you know surgery will benefit you in the same way. It will. Don't fear.

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    1. Thanks, my friend! I sure am using everything I learned from my PCT injury to get through this. I know that some good life lessons will come out of it too. Just not sure what they all are yet. :)

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