Treasured places feel like home, heal heart
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.