Lunch Among Giants

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This past weekend I was one of those fortunate few to experience Muir Woods, the southernmost coastal redwood forest in California. I awed at their grandeur as I strode along the boardwalk that meanders through the forest floor. I became hungry after exploring groves of these giants, many of them born well before me, and ate my lunch on a bench encircled by behemoths who have witnessed more than their share of our history.

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Later, as I hiked the upper trails threading through forests of coastal redwoods, ferns, clovers, and moss, words like ‘ancient,’ ‘sentinels,’ and ‘steadfast’ swirled in my mind. I could feel something forming, a poem, perhaps, or a statement to their tenacity and survival. This is what I came up with:

Lunch Among the Giants

Ancient sentinels stand steadfast

Guarding primordial woodlands;

I am but a speck in their imposing world.

They speak of tall tales;

For they have witnessed

Civilizations come and gone.

Born of fire and deeply rooted,

We envy their prominence,

For we shall never be

As steadfast as these trees.

I thought about how John Muir must have felt walking in these very woods, how lucky he was to have done it with no other humans (the place was mobbed with tour buses and hundreds of humans milling around making all kinds of noise). What an awe-inspiring experience that must have been, which, I’m sure, is how he came up with this quote:

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Amen.

A Sense of Place

I’m reading an interesting book titled “This is Where You Belong” by Melody Warnick. The title of the book struck me one day as I walked past a New Selections stand at my local library. She writes about loving where you live (and how to learn to, if you don’t). It’s as if she wrote the first chapter just for me. I know I’ve blogged about all the moving around this country I’ve done, in search of a connection, of a place to call home. She presents an enormous amount of research in a readable (and often humorous) way and includes checklists at the end of every chapter so you too can go out and learn to love where you live. (Many of which are quite doable and actually sound like fun.)

While still new to the area (13 months ago), I went to a reputable psychic reader for some guidance. One of the first things she said to me was, “you know California’s not your home, right?” I felt like someone had punched me in the chest and knocked the air out of my lungs. Did I seriously just spend 11 days on yet another (my fourth and hopefully final) cross country road trip, to end up in a place where I don’t belong? Story of my life, it seems. Perhaps she was wrong (since our futures are not written in stone and we change directions on a whim), and I can learn to fit in here instead of always trying to find the “right” place for me. Perhaps I’ve had it wrong all this time and I need to fit in before a place can fit me.

Moving offered absolution for whatever failures I’d amassed in my present town: the disappointing friendships, the inescapable, guilt-inducing commitments, the taunting list of unfinished home renovation projects. Each time the moving truck pulled away from the curb, these petty vexations and regrets vanished. Thus freed and forgiven, I’d relish the prospect of beginning again in the next city. Things would definitely be better this time. I would be better in Blacksburg. I believed so thoroughly in the healing power of geography that I didn’t bother to make plans for how these changes would occur. By stirring up the better angels of my nature, the right place would simply complete me.

A new city presses the reset button, forcing you to at least temporarily abandon old patterns of thought and environmental triggers. The Melody I was in Virginia would not, fingers crossed, turn out to be the Melody I was in Texas.

Ouch. Sound familiar to you? Certainly does to me. The right place would simply complete me has been my reigning affirmation – up until now. I have to participate in loving where I live? Who’d a thunk it!

Does where you live affect or inspire your writing? Think about it: the conversations overhead at the local cafe, in line at your bank (if you ever bother to go there in person), or when passing people on the street. I find myself listening to the conversations and watching the behaviors of people around me here, perhaps in an attempt to connect to the (my) community. And sometimes what I witness makes it into one of my stories, whether it be a conversation or a particular way someone dressed. But by reading this book I have realized that no one place can complete me. No, I must learn to love where I live, let it in and allow that love to filter through my fingers and into my stories. Because my stories are an expression of me and my life experiences – and they are what complete me, giving me a sense of place within myself and in my community.