This weekend, as my beloved Rocky Mountains tip-toe lightly into SPRING, careful to sidestep any more major snow and wind events, I was fortunate enough to return to a favorite mountain hideaway. A place isolated from the circus of everyday life; up a long, lethargic driveway, meandering around Aspen groves and pines, hidden high on a sunny south slope enfolded by trees, commanding a place of importance under gigantic rocky outcroppings. This place is a sanctuary for me and I am its’ grateful guest. In my absence of six hard winter months, I dreamed often of its hand-worked beauty and primitive silence. It is a place like no other. When I could not sleep I would wander its rooms, imagining how strongly the wind was rattling the roof, wondering how many mice families were frolicking there, riding out the winter in its relatively balmy interior. Hoping no trees were uprooted. Looking forward to seeing the wildflowers that were planted last summer just outside the kitchen door.
I have spoken before of the significance of PLACE. If you are someone who has an extraordinary place to go to – one that gives you back your sanity and holds the rest of the world at more than an arm’s length for you as you regroup – well – if you have that you are indeed blessed. This special place need not be grand; it could be a humble chair in a tiny space by a fire, could be a beach, a trek, a restaurant, a cabin, an art studio or a journey to St. Peter’s Basilica. But if it always without fail gives you the gift of peace and comfort, it is a home place.
Walking in the door was like returning from an enforced confinement somewhere else. A home without a family comes alive again when a door is finally opened, after long days and nights signifying nothing but the passage of time on empty rooms, and people arrive. Everything looked bright in the noon sun. The dust motes danced in swirls as we entered, instantly transforming the stagnant internal climate with our human presence. Piles of dead bugs were neatly arranged in corners as if they all knew where the graveyard was and went there when the end was in sight. Cobwebs swinging like iridescent threads with the breeze of our movements, the smell of powdery, dry dust – it was all perfect. We smiled and embraced the beauty.
Getting water back in the pipes. Turning on the heat. Cleaning the bugs out of the sinks and bathtubs, then discovering a small bathroom window that had been accidentally left half open all winter long! Through record-breaking snows and roaring wind racing through the pines at break-neck speed this window gave old man Winter access to the house. Why didn’t a raccoon tear through the screen seeking warm shelter? I wonder how much snow had piled up on that floor….what the temperature plummeted to in that area of the house – mysteries we will never have answers to.
A builder of fine homes once told me that houses need people in them – they deteriorate rapidly when they are empty for long stretches of time. The materials that go into the construction and the interior finishes need the warmth and humidity that people provide, doing all the things that people do. Cooking, washing clothes, taking showers – all that and more is what houses need. Houses are almost alive. Wood needs to breathe. Call me crazy but I firmly believe that houses need love, laughter and conversation too. If you do not believe that houses have a heart, a soul, and a need for human companionship then I am sorry for you – you have missed a key point somewhere along the road of life. Several of my very best friends have been magnificent old houses, weathered, wrinkled and wise…
Your special place need not be a house, of course. The discovery is yours. But do find yourself a unique footprint that you can return to for re-fueling. It will keep you sane, prolong your life, listen intently to your thoughts and that place will watch for your frequent return.