Trea­sured places feel like home, heal heart

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NOTHWEST/TELEVISION - Sharon Ran­dall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Hen­der­son, Nev. 89077, or on her web­site: sharon­ran­

There are places on Earth that we con­nect with the same way we con­nect with peo­ple.

Some­thing about them at­tracts us and puts us at ease. We feel a kin­ship, a sense that we’ve come home. And soon, if we’re lucky, that place be­comes a friend.

My first “Earth friend” was a moun­tain in South Carolina. I was 6 years old when my fam­ily moved 10 miles away from my grand­mother’s home, where I felt whole, to a cow pas­ture where I felt bro­ken.

One evening I left my mother and step­fa­ther ar­gu­ing in the kitchen and went out to the pas­ture to climb a tree and sulk.

As I sat there, strad­dling a limb, the set­ting sun brushed my face. I looked up and in the dis­tance, I saw a blue moun­tain. Ac­tu­ally, there were a lot of blue moun­tains. But the tallest one re­minded me of a pig I had fed on my grand­par­ents’ farm. I later learned the moun­tain was aptly named “Hog­back.”

I never liked the pig, but I fell in love with the moun­tain. Not just with how it looked, lit up by the sun, but with how it made me feel: whole and at home.

I didn’t have to climb a tree to see it. It showed up when­ever I needed it: rid­ing the bus to a new school, in the car as we ran from my step­fa­ther’s drunken fits, or on my way out of town leav­ing home for col­lege.

It fol­lowed in mem­ory when I moved to Cal­i­for­nia to start a new life. And it has al­ways been wait­ing to wel­come me “home” for ev­ery visit, ev­ery re­union, ev­ery fu­neral, ev­ery loss.

For 30 sum­mers, my first hus­band and I camped in Yosemite Na­tional Park. It had long been his fa­vorite place, and it soon be­came a fa­vorite for me and our three chil­dren.

Half Dome, to me, was a long lost friend. It looked a lit­tle like Hog­back and made me feel just as whole, just as much at home.

The sum­mer af­ter my hus­band died, my grown chil­dren and I camped in Yosemite at a site their dad had re­served for us on his last visit to the park.

While the kids went off to

do their own things, I sat by the river look­ing up at Half Dome and re­al­ized two truths at once: I’d been bro­ken in half, and yet, by some mir­a­cle, I was whole.

Years later, when I moved with my new hus­band to Las Ve­gas, I took with me a gift from my youngest child: a poster of Half Dome with a storm rag­ing at its base and its sum­mit ris­ing out of the clouds, shin­ing in the sun.

On the dark­est of days and in the dead of night, that poster never fails to light me up.

Re­cently, I vis­ited Yosemite for the first time with grand­chil­dren and loved get­ting to say to them, “Look, guys! There’s your Nana’s old friend, Half Dome!”

Hog­back and Half Dome are not my only “Earth friends.” I found a new one in Las Ve­gas.

No, not the Strip. Mount Charleston. I can see it from our pa­tio. It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of moun­tain with its own rugged beauty. De­spite the heat from the desert, it stays snow­capped much of the year. And it makes me feel whole and at home.

Na­ture has the power to heal us, if we let it. I have felt that power in count­less places I’ve been blessed to call friends, from Hog­back and Half Dome to Mount Charleston:

On the Mon­terey Penin­sula where I raised my chil­dren.

At the beach where we’d pic­nic af­ter church in the fog.

In the rose gar­den at the hos­pi­tal where I prayed while their dad had surgery for can­cer.

In the deep blue bay where we scat­tered his ashes.

And at a lake on the bor­der of the Caroli­nas, where I went to rest, write and re­new.

Most of us need to heal once in a while. I’m not say­ing you do, but you might. I hope you have a place in na­ture, or in mem­ory, with moun­tains and lakes or what­ever it takes to make you feel whole and at home.

You never know when you’ll need an “Earth friend.” If you’re like me, you need one ev­ery day.

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