My online writing group is a wonderful and encouraging community. I no longer write to every prompt-of-the-day, but I try to read what others write and I contribute as I can. Yesterday’s prompt was “The Great Outdoors.”
Oh goodness, choose one favourite place? Just one?
Should it be the tiny prairie cemetery where I feel my heritage most keenly?
My dad’s sisters, my grandfather, his parents, and their parents are buried there. Kingbirds light on the trees, swallows ride the thermals and more often than not, tumbleweeds are actually tumbling. It’s near Great-Grandpa’s cathedral, the large clearing surrounded by birch saints and prairie-sky stained glass.There are other places where I think I can hide, but when I visit that tiny piece of land a mere mile away from where my great-great-grandfather homesteaded, all such pretenses fade away. Without fail, I cry.
It’s the place I feel most naked before God.
Perhaps it’s the top of Mont Blanc, Switzerland–a place we hadn’t intended on visiting but that gave us one of THOSE moments. It is the only place I ever felt altitude sickness, unable to breathe or stand straight for the first hour. The muted colours melted into each other as though blended by a master’s brush–which of course they were. Yet, a look to the other side revealed the harsh reality of such a place. Craggy peaks that would not hesitate to take one’s life instantly, should one fall. I admired the hikers there, the brave ones who would test their own limits as they negotiated a path down through the snow.
It was a moment where I felt privileged and yet so small.
Another of my favourite outdoor spots is closer to my home. Last year I discovered how accessible the river is to me, and it is a delight. I live near the aviation museum, so I often see a 1930s era biplane overhead. The distinctive buzz of its engine mingles with the chugging of boats on the water. The trail is a place to connect with other walkers, a place shared with beavers munching on twigs, woodpeckers hammering bugs from old trees, geese settling arguments, and goldfinches delighting in the freedom to swoop. I am able find clarity as I walk and think.
It’s a regular blessing.
Sometimes however, favourite places are intensely painful places. The incredible vista where my nephew’s ashes blend with the mountain is both stunning and heart-wrenching.
It is a reminder both of what used to be and what should have been.
But maybe that’s the point. Whether it’s a place that brings us closer to a memory, or a place that makes us look up from our phones and unplug our headsets, whether we are able to wander freely–and recognize the privilege of being able to do so–or whether it is a place that makes us feel naked and vulnerable, I think God gives us “favourite places” because those are the ones where we just might pay attention. These are the moments when we are pulled out of our own myopic little universes and swept into the realization of something bigger.
I think I’m going for a walk now. Join me?
What places in your world speak to you like this?