One of the old adages of the psychotherapy world is to tell a stressed out patient to go to their “Happy Place.” People might choose a sunny beach or a luxurious room filled with pillows; or perhaps a meadow. Something lovely, but often an imaginary place in their mind. Well, my happy place is real, and I once lived there. In fact, it’s where I was born. And truly; it was the place I was the happiest I have been in my entire life.
This place may not seem significant to all. It is tucked away down winding dirt roads, sometimes impassable when it rains or floods. Hot, dusty and yellow in the summer time; through rolling hills with oak trees and red tail hawks; rattlesnakes and jack rabbits. There are creeks, bay laurel trees, and many rock outcroppings. Large sandstone sentinels keep watch over the bowl shaped valley between sets of hills with the visage of Duncan Peak to the southeast.
I spent a long time researching the history of this place. 14 million years ago it was an inland sea. And that’s where those sandstone edifaces came from. I remember climbing the cliff face of Bus McGall Rock as a child, using the small places that water had worn through as hand and footholds. Peering into shallow caves where wild goats slept. They had a very distinct smell, I recall. Some of the caves had water and were like small terrariums that held green plants and tadpoles. They were like miniature dioramas that held treasures as I went up and up.
Sometimes we would find fossils. My dad found a fossil trilobite once, and embedded it in the flagstones by our front door. Sometimes we would find petroglyphs. I remember how fascinating and delightful it was for me to find these rock carvings, and pieces of arrowheads, and the grindstone holes where native people processed acorns years and years ago. I remember during an excavation project for someone’s house the backhoe dug into the side of the hill, and it was layers and layers of black where someone had built a fire, covered it up and moved along, and then someone else built another fire, covered it up and moved along, for I don’t know how many umpteen years.
There were relics from when it had been a sheepherding ranch. Old cabins, feral animals; especially wild pigs and a herd of goats unlike any other in the entire world. Old fences that meant nothing, old signs. One of my favorite places was a bay tree that had a small outcropping of rocks under it; where someone had built up layers of stones to make some walls, carved a tree stump chair and left it there. The neighborhood kids called it “The Castle” and we would play there for hours.
Not everything was idyllic. There were many strange things. Stoves thrown into a creek, highly eccentric people, loose animals like our neighbor’s horses or pigs that used to come wreak havoc on our property. Random grass fires, loud dirt bikes, and our neighbors having drunken all night parties where we would hear their laughter echoing up the back hill.
But this place was magical to me. When I think of the place I connect to the most; where a piece of my soul is. This is where I go. When I feel like I can’t take anything else that the world throws at me. This is where I go. It’s one of those things that’s almost a part of the cells of my body. And maybe it is. I did eat plants and animals that were raised there, grown in the iron rich earth of that place. So I guess I would say that when I need to ground; I realize that I have a piece of that ancient 14 million year old sea somewhere in me. I have the wind in the oak trees, I have the wildflowers and the sunshine. The wild grass; maybe even the stickers in my socks.
It’s amazing that even though my family sold that property in the late 1990s I still feel a deep sense of longing when I think about it, and a tear immediately comes to my eye. When my dad sold the property; I ran out and ripped the parcel marker off of the tree by the road. It has been hung on the wall of every place I have lived in my adult life. McNab Ranch; Unit 4, Parcel #33.
So when you see me dragging; or when you see the world pushing me down, or when you know I’m being affected by people being hideous to each other. When you see the light start to disappear from my eyes. Remind me.
Remind me that I can go back there any time I like; even if it’s not physically. Remind me that somewhere back in the circular realms of time there is a little girl with long blonde hair and mudboots running down the hill as fast as she can go with a bounding corgi dog beside her. Remind me that I can go feed my horses, or pick wildflowers, or just climb a buckeye tree in the cool woods and sit in silence. Remind me that inside my soul is this place of peace. My Happy Place.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton