It is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, or more blasphemously, the day after Black Friday. I am sitting in front of a round stone fireplace in the middle of a sunken room, its copper cone-shaped chimney is the size of a Court House Christmas tree. This copper exhaust hood hovers above the roaring fire and reaches into the shadows of the wood beams as it exits through the roof. Floor to ceiling windows ring half this room with a vantage point peering through naked tree-tops onto a sprawling reservoir surrounded by more thick forests.
I am in north central Ohio and the day began with a thin layer of fog blanketing the scene. It is not so thick that the water below or a vulture circling the far shore are hidden. We stayed here for a night on return from our daughter’s home where the mashed potatoes I wrote about last week were indeed delicious, if only mashed potatoes. This lodge, and this forest, is a place we knew in years past, and swishing through a thick carpet of autumn leaves among old growth hardwoods is to be in the presence of an old friend.
You know what I mean by an old friend – the kind you have known most of your life, who you may not see often but when you do, the years collapse and the shared memories are made present by laughter and tears. Like the night your car got stuck in the mud after parking on a double-date your parents didn’t know you were on; or when your friend badgered you into knocking on the door of the house everyone knew was haunted. Memories like that, or when the two of you didn’t get caught after the famous prank at the high school dance. An old friend.
Well, a place can be that kind of friend, too. Walking among those giant beech trees forming a majestic Hall of the Grandmothers and the stone outcroppings trickling with long thin waterfalls, rocketed memories into the present. Perhaps it is also the speed at which the days of 2019 are escaping, but a sacred place can merge past and present in a twinkling.
This column is about place, if you have gotten this far and are wondering.
A place made sacred by familiarity, memory, and the joy evoked by being there, is highly underrated when the topic is personal and spiritual wellness. Everyone needs ‘a place.’ It can be a tried-and-true deer stand or fishing spot, or it might be your seat on the aisle in the sixth pew on the left. A place is made sacred by our being there again and again over time, with the history of our thoughts, prayers, worries, and hopes dusted, rubbed, or worn into its textures. It is a place we can go to and will miraculously feel the extraneous chatter in our head fall to the ground as we sit quietly and say, “ah.”
When life speeds up, as it sometimes does, or when it shifts into slow motion as grief can cause it to do, having a sacred place to enter for respite is primary healthcare. This may be a good time for you to visit yours.