In Jerry Spinelli’s book Stargirl, which I wrote about yesterday, Stargirl talks about enchanted places. Often these are places that she goes to meditate. This got me thinking about special places and why we need them.
As a child, I always wanted a tree fort. Forts are supposed to be magical places where secrets are kept and anything can happen. Forts offer a solace from the busy outside world. A tree fort offers the benefit of being literally rooted in nature. You’re surrounded by leaves, branches, the traces of animals. And the best thing about a tree fort is that it doesn’t just come to you. You have to ascend out of the everyday and into the magical. You might even have to build it yourself. Working for the ability to be in your own special place makes it even more magical.
In Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, the two main characters make a whole backwoods area their magical forest kingdom. Nature inspires the imagination. This is why tree forts are so desirable. They don’t have to look like anything special; your imagination is what makes them magical. Maybe that’s why the book series “Magic Tree House” was popular. Traveling through time in a tree house isn’t that much of a stretch because we already do that in our minds.
I never had a tree fort, but I had my own special places. I would stand on the rotting tree stump in our front yard and sing at the top of my lungs for the neighborhood to hear. Standing on that stump, I felt like I was free. I was invisible to the world. Of course, the opposite was true, which I learned in high school when I was reunited with a former neighbor who remembered me as the “tree stump girl”.
In high school, I would go to the library when I needed alone time. I’d grab a book and sit at the study tables or in the aisle. Sometimes I’d skip the unappetizing cafeteria lunch altogether and just spend time with the books and the librarians.
Throughout college I had many special places. The park about 8 blocks from campus was my favorite place to walk to and clear my mind. I always went into it the “back” way, which was an heavily treed area that made me forget I was in the city. Sometimes I’d go into the playground area and reminisce. Other days I would watch random community leagues play baseball. Sometimes I would just walk to the park and then back to campus.
In the spring, the grassy area outside one of the classroom buildings was a little oasis surrounded by flowering trees. People could walk by 2 feet away and not realize someone was sitting there.
My junior year was one when Portland certainly lived up to its rainy reputation. Sometimes I needed a place to center myself, but I didn’t want to be outside. And though I had my own room in my apartment of four, closing my door alerted my roommates that I was indeed home, and then they might come to see why I was locked away. My bed was boosted pretty high so I could store stuff underneath it. So I would lay on one of my bins (there was still room for me to prop my head on a pillow), pull my comforter so it was draped over the side (me having a messy bed was nothing unusual), leave the door open and read with a flashlight. They didn’t catch on until I revealed it to them, as I was so proud of my cleverness that I had to let someone know.
There’s a park in my town that I like to visit every once in a while. I’ll take a book and a journal and sit in the empty ampitheatre and read or write. There’s always people on the playground areas, but the ampitheatre is usually pretty empty when there aren’t events. I like the connection to nature and a stage. I almost always set new goals when I journal there. Not that I end up meeting them, but at least I’m inspired. I just need to work on the follow through.
Do you have any special places? Are they “alone-time” places or places you like to share with people?