That Place

We joke when hoisting our cat into our eager arms that she’s gone to her happy place as she stares off, looking at a location we cannot see, and waits patiently to be set free to meander the floor until she returns to demand pets and attention. She’s at her happy place, we say when a friend gets excited over a prospect and gets caught into her own thoughts.

I’m in my happy place, I think when I devour Mary Oliver poetry and the visuals of nature and the woods become so real that I can taste the air on my tongue and feel dew on my toes. That’s my happy place, I realize, when I am stressed and try to think of things that bring me joy and my mind instantaneously sees foggy evenings and bright mornings.

We were married for only four days when we arrived at the cabin in the woods. On a steep hillside, my car whined as I forced it to climb higher and higher, but finally we found level ground and the small cabin, log framed, looking out proudly over the diving landscape and rising hills that were just barely noticeable through the fog.

Our footsteps over loose gravel seemed to reach the mist and bounce back, the echoes of wild hens in the woods crawled over the landscape, and the small drips of rainwater off the dying leaves of trees seemed quaint and individual. We stood in the midst and looked at what was our kingdom for only a few days and heard…nothing. The lack of air traffic overhead made me pause and shiver, bringing forth memories of the circle we were in after September 11, when no planes were allowed to fly over our home as we were too close to New York City. But the lack of sound for ground transportation brought my attention down. This, now, reminded me of another wood thousands of miles away with towering redwoods and unique squirrels.

We gathered our things, whisper quiet, and brought them into the cabin. The world commanded silence and reverence as the mountainous side sat in a cloud. Here, even the brown leaves of autumn oaks had a vibrance of ethereal energy. Here, the glow of animal eyes brought startling realization that this was their world, not ours.

We woke with the dawn while we remained in twilight. The flat land miles away shown brightly in sunlight but we were nestled in the shade. Slowly, darkness receded like a vampire, drawing back and back against the hillside. First the flat land was bright, then the mountainous hill before us that had previously been hidden by the fog, and finally the bright blue of sky was over our heads, the butter yellow of sun on the tall grass that glimmered from the wet fog the previous night. The sun caught the glimmer, the breeze made it sway, and we were still silently observing it all.

It was cold, all too cold, and coats and blankets were essential as we stepped barefoot over the wooden flooring of the screened porch. Ladybugs lay dead, their small legs extended up toward the sky as if they had given their lives to the sun. When I die, I hope it is under the bright blue sky and the glimmering sun. I hope I am old and a kind nurse will push my bed out onto a porch so that I may embrace the world and reach to the heavens before I am welcomed into that realm.

Our coffees steamed and we shed our blankets to step our frozen toes over the edge of the step and into the heated whirl of the Jacuzzi on the porch. And there we remained, clutching coffee while being slowly roasted, our gaze out to the open view from the porch and catching the caw of crows over the bubbles around us.

We slept in the darkest of night with only the far distant cry of a fire whistle haunting the hillside and the occasional hushing echo of a train whistle as it passed through the valley. We were witnessed by the brightest of stars. We ate smokey steak cooked on the open fire that crackled and popped and provided the only warmth as the cold November winds insisted on joining the party. And months later, months afterward when the real world had returned, the hustle and bustle of school and work and family dramatics filled our days, my mind would return here to the quiet of the wood. To the peacefulness, the happiness, to that place.

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