My happy place is by the lake. My grandfather’s—now my aunt’s—house is on Lake Barkley in Western Kentucky; my boyfriend and I go up every year for a visit. Each morning that we’re there I sneak out early to sit by the lake and and listen to the birds and just watch the ripples creep closer to the shore. I love that place—it makes the frantic/panic/do & be more just go away. It silences the frenzy. And seriously? Nothing seems to silence the frenzy.
We always have a few bonfires when we’re visiting in Kentucky. We tote a bit of booze and a few snacks out to the fire pit that my grandpa dug when I was a toddler and we drink and talk and look at the stars and watch the glowing embers float towards the sky. It’s kind of intoxicating, what with all the woods and crickets and stars and fire and whatnot. I love that. And it’s silly, but I always feel some sort of a fundamental continuity with the past when I’m sitting by a campfire—women have been sitting by campfires, planning and dreaming with the men in their lives, for eons.
I do that about trees too—there are these huge trees around my house in South Carolina—I lie in my hammock and stare at the branches and wonder about all of the women in the last 300 years who have looked at these trees. Native Americans, pioneers, slaves, plantation owners—it gives me perspective when I think about the continuity of it all.
I don’t believe in a god. After more than 20 years of Christian education (kindergarten, elementary, high school, college, teaching in a Christian high school) I finally “came out” as an atheist. And letting go of that hope in a higher power, in a bigger picture, is the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced.
But I can find the bigger picture again when I look at trees. Not because I believe in a deity when I look at trees, but because I think about my connection with other generations of people who have looked at those trees and it gives me perspective.
Work tonight was pretty much the worst thing I’ve experienced since, well, since my ex-boss went nuts. Tonight was awful. I almost walked out, and I’m hoping to find alternate employment, well, immediately. But as I drove home, I noticed the sky was amazingly clear and the stars and the moon were so bright I could probably have driven without my headlights.
And when I got home, I changed clothes and poured myself a glass of wine and took myself back outside. I sat on the hood of my car and looked at the stars and the black skeletons of trees against the indigo sky and dreamed about what life will look like in a few months.
And my brain was a little crazy from the last few hours of telling myself that I could not cry, and my heart was pounding because I do the whole flight or fight thing when I get stressed, and I was concentrating on my breathing to keep myself from hyperventilating… but I stared at the stars, and I thought about all of the people who have looked at these same trees and this insanely beautiful night sky, and just like that–
I found my happy place.