It wasn’t even half an acre of land, but it had our name to it and the acreage stretched when the shoreline waned because somebody decided to drain the lake or we didn’t get enough rain that year. It was my favorite patch of dirt and rocks and grass on the planet.
I knew it like a friend; preferred sore feet from jagged rocks and brittle shelled oak leaves to wearing shoes because you don’t wear shoes where God meets earth.
But I wasn’t a terrified Moses. I was Jesus in the temple. I knew where I belonged.
Here was the tall grass we stamped down to make houses and the patch of worn dirt where I fell off the tire swing and the tree I lounged on a few times, but claimed as “my spot” for reading and writing and staring into the distance romantically like a normal eleven year old.
When I wanted to explore, the land opened up secret treasures. When I needed to hide, she provided that, too. When I was lonely or scared or so mad I could scream, I found refuge and comfort in worn paths and curves like arms. When I was excited or in love or ready for adventure, she celebrated with me. Whatever I was or whoever I was becoming, I was home.
Leaving felt necessary at the time and I didn’t think to say goodbye. I would be back; I would bring my husband there, someday my children, and I’d show them the gifts I’d spent my life finding and set them loose to find their own.
When the divorce happened and so many things shattered, that piece of land was just another casualty. I lost pictures and toys and my wedding dress alongside stability and trust and some part of foundation. I didn’t have the muscles to carry the loss of access to that point on the earth so I buried it deep in my own soil and the whirlwind of things lost piled debris on top of it.
Recently we’ve been going to this piece of raw land just to explore it. We cram into the van excitedly and we burst out of it when we get there. Our dog, Oliver, bounds around, no leash to hold him back. We traipse through the thick woods and stare at rocks.
The first time we went my toe was broken and it was raining so I held onto Gabe while he led me slowly through and slipping in the mud, having to be lifted over felled logs, limping on paths that were barely there, I was in heaven.
The second time we went I was able to go further. I made it into a clearing with a creek bed stretching toward the mountains and the moment I stepped into the sunlight, smelled the wet dirt near the water, I was nine—or six, or eight or eleven— and I knew my friend again.
I am experiencing the gift of the earth opening herself up to me again. I’m discovering her secrets. Each time we go, I feel more familiar and can almost hear the trees and rocks greet us. When I’m away from her—on the tiny patch of earth in the city where my favorite people live and my favorite things happen—a part of my heart is there and safe and held. There is a place here in this world, a physical place with smells and sounds and bear shit, that is hospitable to me, that welcomes me and my family, that shares secrets and provides rest.
In that spot, I know I belong here. On earth. Wherever I am. That whatever else is happening, whatever pressures and stressors we face, there is a quiet creek that waits for me to visit; doesn’t need me to, just as the little stretch of land I grew up on didn’t need me, but welcomed me nonetheless.
When things out of my control stack up and teeter, I know there is a wild that welcomes me, out of my control, but invitation extended. In that place I remember that I’m a part of this whole breathtaking creation—a part and a partner and mostly, a friend.