Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Happy Place

We all need a happy place, somewhere we can go and things are just - better. When I was a younger man, already in the workplace (so in my twenties and thirties) my happy place (in my mind's memory) was a spot in Washington State. I actually wrote a short essay on it when I was in a Creative Writing class in college.
Living in Washington State was a happy time for us, my three younger brothers and I. At the time I was in the end of fourth grade and all of fifth grade. I don't really know how happy it was for Mom and Dad, but I'm pretty sure the four of us thought we were close to Heaven. That includes the times we went with Mom to pick strawberries, and the time that I popped a strawberry, complete with attached stinkbug, in my mouth and chomped down on it.
We lived on about five acres of land. When we first moved into the house almost all the land was covered with trees. I helped my Dad build a chicken coop, which is a subject and story all its own, and would include my two youngest intrepid brothers climbing trees and falling into the coop. B would climb any tree around, but I wasn't too far behind him. Since many of the trees were pine, our hands were covered with pitch and dirt most of the time.
For a while we had a horse. We grew crops in a huge vegetable garden. I still remember how the rows of beans and corn looked. Magnificent doesn't do it justice in my mind.
Then the bulldozers came. I didn't know why Dad did it, not at the time, but I realize now that he got some cash for some of the better hardwood trees in the middle of the patch of woods. The 'dozer came in to get to the trees it wanted and piled the broken husks of my beloved forest in the middle of what Dad promised would be pasture land. That wet pile of broken trees burned forever, even in the damp and rain of our Pacific Northwest home.
The money was handy. The money bought a new room for B and me, in the back of the house. A big room. I remember doing the tiling on the floor with Mom. In those olden times we warmed the tiles up with a space heater until they were a little pliable and used real buckets of glue to put them down on the floor.
The money is probably how we got a horse. Much as we kids loved that horse, we eventually parted ways.
Still, for years, there was this one spot in my mind, a spot not bulldozed down with the rest of the trees, a place sacred enough to be left alone. That spot had a large boulder on it. I'd go there, climb on the boulder and watch the sky, sucking on butterscotch candies, and dream of my future. I was going to be a lumberjack. Maybe a cowboy. I wanted to be an Indian, but didn't know how to do that.
That was my happy place, a sun-warmed boulder in the middle of a croft of trees, gazing upward at the white clouds floating over the azure sky. The scent of pine trees and summer berries was almost always there, at least in my mind.
Things have been tough at the house lately. Financial issues arise and need to be handled. We worry about cancer and Darling healing well. We wonder if she should do chemo or not, though it looks like not. Darling gets tired quickly, and when she is feeling well, she forgets and then does too much, paying for it later with recurring pain and sciatica acting up. At work the Sword of Damocles dangles over all of us, with most of us waiting for some notification of a layoff. With the shuttle era ending, it is likely just a matter of time, and not a lot of time at that.
I know the Happy Place from my childhood is gone, probably destroyed in the expansion of Port Orchard, WA. I suspect the house is gone, as is Mr. Kajander's house across the street, as well as his apple orchard. The strawberry field down the road is no doubt long faded into memory.
So I searched in my mind and found a new Happy Place. Now, when things get a little tough and I don't know what to do, how to cope, I take my mind on a short vacation into the future. I take the issue of job security out of the hands of my employer and decide that I will retire at the end of October, when I reach the still-functional age of fifty-five. I imagine that Darling and I are driving through a green countryside, turquoise sky overhead, maybe even a sun roof open and our hair tossed by the cool breeze and we travel to Costa Rica, looking for a quiet place in the sun, a place where we can be revitalized after so many decades of simply surviving.
Costa Rica, Lake Arenal beach
A place where the future is still very much ahead of us, and it is full of joy and happiness. Oh, and butterscotch candy.

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