Friday, October 02, 2009

Where do you find your peace?

The other day Kathy mentioned the National Parks series that is currently airing on Public Television. I'm so glad she did because I've been watching and enjoying it and it's really got me thinking and remembering the special feelings I've experienced on my visits to some of these beautiful parks.

National Parks mean so many different things to so many different people. For some, they're there simply to look at and be awed by. Others love the camping aspect and getting back to basics. And yet others like to dive in to the depths of the parks and find out not only about nature up close and personal but find out more about themselves in the process.

Over the years, I've done all these things. I have vivid memories of a summer vacation we took when I was ten. Mom, Dad and my older sister and I set across the country by car from Iowa to California in July to visit relatives. My mom had all these side trips planned using her handy dandy trusty AAA road maps with our route all highlighted on page after page of color coded highways. We stopped at zoos and parks and any little spot of interest she could get my dad to drive to.
My dad. Now there was a man who wanted to get from point A to point B in the most direct, expedient way. For him, the trip was a means to an end. We had to take 'the trip' to get from Iowa to California. It was a function not an adventure. I'll never forget when we arrived at the Royal Gorge in Colorado. Along with amazing photographs, Mom had fed us tons of information about it before we ever arrived. We were primed and ready to gawk and explore and be awed by the wonder of the Gorge. It was Royal, after all. Well the day finally arrived and we drove into the parking lot. Dad stopped the car, we all piled out, walked over to the rail and he said: "Big hole." Then he turned around and got back behind the wheel. He'd seen it and was ready to go. That was kind of how the whole trip went. The anticipation building as each new park appeared on the horizon ... and Dad rushing us through so we could get back in the car and be on the way.

Remarkably, I still remember a lot about that trip. Enough that I've made it to my fair share of national parks through the years. And yes, some we had to rush through, others not so much. Each visit, however, no matter how short or long, has always left me with a renewed sense of wonder and awe and peace. I've blogged before about one of my girl's trips where 6 of us choppered in to the Grand Canyon then spent 5 days on the Colorado white water rafting and camping out. Mostly I talked about cute Johnny, our J-rig's first mate and master baker (yes, cute Johnny master-baked his way into my heart with his cherry pie and chocolate cake). And I blogged about the thrill of the white water and jumping off a 40 foot cliff into the Colorado and the laughs we had.

But what I truly remember about that trip - and about other similar trips before it - are those few moments when something magical and very personal happens. You know what I'm talking about, right? Those extraordinary moments when you become so immersed in the overwhelming beauty that an all encompassing sense of wonder just sort of takes you. Like the first time you see the ocean. First time you live a sunrise. First time you hold a newborn's tiny hand.

Several times on that trip and on the trip where I hiked the Canyon, the sheer size and scope and beauty just grabbed me and I 'went away' for a while. Not physically, but spiritually and emotionally, I went away all by myself and just experienced. Everything. The wind on my face. The sun on my shoulders. The taste of the air. The sensation of being so totally insignificant in the face of the millions of years of geological history that had passed before I found myself there. Right there. And while that insignificance factor was over powering, the peace that came with knowing that with or without me, this amazing place would always be here ... well, it's just a humbling experience. And a very peaceful one. It's the same kind of feeling I get when I sit on our dock at the lake and I imagine all the history that went before me - the fur traders that trapped those ever green and aspen forests, the Ojibwa warriors who rode their spotted ponies along the shore line - and I think, yeah, this amazing place will always be here and I will have been lucky to have been a part of its history.

So, here's what I want to know. Where do you all find your peace? Where's your special place? Whether it's a fond memory of a visit to a national park, a library where you used to spend hours getting lost in books? A flower garden or a mountain stream?
Share and at the end of the day, I'll pick a winner to receive free copy of FEEL THE HEAT, my hot off the presses brand spankin' new October release.

Oh and I have some photos that I soooo wanted to attach but I'm challenged technically I couldn't figure out how to. So, if you would like to see them - and they are AMAZING, e-mail me at cgerard@iowatelecom.net and I'll send them to you :o) I could find peace in any one of the spots in these photographs. Simply stunning.

30 comments:

Kylie said...

Cindy I never fail to be awed by pics like that. We had an aunt in Colorado so took many trips there when I was a kid. I can so relate to the dad who wanted to get there as fast as possible and then on to the next thing!

But I remember as a kid hanging on the suspension wire fence (separating us from a long fall), awed at the majesty of the place. Royal Gorge and Garden of the Gods were my favorite Colorado sights on that trip.

Terry Odell said...

When I was in college, I used to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway and watch the ocean. I still feel all the inner knots untangle when I'm listening to the surf.

Or off in the redwoods.

One summer in college, I worked at Yosemite as a maid in the tent campgrounds. The work sucked, but man, you stepped outside and could see El Cap or Half Dome -- can't imagine a better work environment.

Now, living in the flat, green heat and humidity of central Florida, I enjoy sitting in my chaise by my bedroom window and watch the lizards and birds and butterflies in the shrubs outside.

Helen Brenna said...

Cindy, I think the reason these spectacular spots of nature have so much impact on us is the fact that they remind us just how tiny we are in the scheme of things. So it makes our problems even smaller. If that makes sense.

Seeing Alaska humbled me. It's so big and the mountain range so imposing ... Same with the Grand Canyon, Yosemite. I think I could go on and on.

Emmanuelle said...

Love those pictures !!! Two years ago I travelled by plane from Chicago to Las Vegas and I remember being glued to the window for a good while. DOn't know exactly what part we flew over but it was amazing. The only images I had from that kind of senery were from western movies so really it was a great moment for me.
My place to escape is my bedroom. Really ! I do love it, especially between 2 pm and 4 pm when my oldest is at school, my youngest is having his nap and DH is at work... *sigh*... all this peace and quiet... *sigh*.... PERFECT !

Diane said...

I did see the Grand Canyon years ago and that was humbling.... the beach is also wonderous for me, but unfortunately in NY I am limited to beach weather, :O)

I Heart Book Gossip said...

I find peace in my backyard. It sounds nutty, but I actually like sitting on the patio listening to the squirrels scamper around and the birds chirping. The sunset is a great view to look at too. So yeah, that and the beach are my favorite places.

cindyc725 at gmail dot con

Cindy Gerard said...

Kylie - must be a thing with Iowa dads :o) if the land can't grow corn, what good is it? :o)

Terry - I sooo want to see Yosemite!

Helen - Alaska? Oh, man, I'm so envious. that's a must do for me too!

Cindy Gerard said...

Emmanuelle. I can totally relate to that. We find peace at different places at different times in our lives. When I was a little girl I had a tiny, tiny bedroom and I used to make a tent over my bed with yardsticks and blankets and then hide inside with library books and read for hours!! I can still remember the feeling of comfort and seclusion and peace.

Cindy Gerard said...

Diane - I think that anywhere near the water - lake, river, ocean - is a special place.

Cindyc - Oh yes. I LOVE our yards. I could sit for hours (and sometimes do) watching the birds and flowers. Lately, we've been toying with the idea of moving and the thought of leaving our yard full of flowers and trees and shrubs is one of the main things that keeps us from getting too excited about leaving.

Michele Hauf said...

I think seeing the 'grand sites' as a child is much different than seeing them as an adult. As a kid it was cool, but I didn't know how to appreciate the grand canyon and probably thought it was a 'big hole'. As an adult I haven't had opportunity to travel much and yearn for it because now I know the sites would be so meaningful to me. I have Paris! And that meant a lot.

Where do I find my peace? In a bath tub filled with bubbles, knowing there's a batch of brownies waiting to come out of the oven when I'm done soaking. ;-)

Cindy Gerard said...

Paris?? Oh, Man Michele. You're killing me here. Sounds wonderful.

And I can hear the bubbles popping and smell the brownies baking ///

lois greiman said...

I'm still jealous of your time in the Grand Canyon. Travis and I are going to try to get there in May.

Probably the place I get the greatest feeling of peace is the Black Hills, but I like the spot where I am right now...in my little office with the horses grazing in the pasture behind the house.

LSUReader said...

Cindy--
You have some great conversation starters in your column. I loved visiting the Grand Canyon; its beauty is remarkable. And gardens and libraries have always held a fond place in my heart. But at this point in my life, I'd have to say my true "place of peace" is church, especially on those mornings when it isn't crowded physically but is nevertheless overflowing with spirituality.

Cindy Gerard said...

LSU - again - I remember, as a child, riding my bic to the church in the summer during the week and going into the sanctuary all by myself. such a sense of majesty. So I truly do understand.

catslady said...

My everyday favorite place and time is very late at night, in bed, surrounded by purring cats and a good book (except when hubby starts snoring lol). In the summer I have a porch swing and a small woods behind me. I use to spend time there reading and reading to my children when they were small. Times change though and the woods are smaller and my neighbors are noisier and lately I've been letting my feral cats have my porch lol. On vacation, I just love reading on a beach and listening to the waves, the wind and the seagulls :)

Cindy Gerard said...

Lois you're going to love the Grand Canyon. And I love the Black Hills too - so totally accessible.

Catslady - yes, yes and yes... :o)

D Twomey said...

It's funny sometimes where you find your peace... I grew up in the country just a few miles outside of a small(ish) city. Probably between 50,000 and 65,000 people at the time. Lots and lots of open pasture, woods, trees, wildlife and foliage. Lived there most of my life. About 10 years ago we moved to a huge metropolitan area.. and was very excited when we did! I'm the type that enjoys being able run to the corner convenience store for something to eat if I wake up at midnight hungry ... you know? My parents are still where I grew up, so we are often making the trip to visit. My peace comes when we get near "home"... I can literally feel all of the hustle, bustle and stress of the big city just melt away as we get near. It is a physical feeling... it's my peace. And it feels great.... Who knew?

Razlover's Book Blog said...

Good afternoon Cindy!

Great post and I love the pics!

I remember visiting the Sydney Opera House back in 1996. It was beautiful and peaceful just to walk around and check out the shops around there.

I would love to go back!

Debra Dixon said...

This will surprise no one...

I find peace in my quilt studio.
I'm not an outdoor girl.

Cindy Gerard said...

Deb - of course you do. And rightfully so. You create beauty and peace

Razlover bb - Let me know when you go. I'd love to tag along :o)

D towmey - last time i was in NYC i spent some time in Central Park. I was stunned by that pocket of peace in the middle of such a robust and bustling city. And I hear you about home calling.

Jane said...

I still like to sit down at the library and read the newspaper or book. If it's a nice day I like to sit on a park bench and people watch.

Pamela Keener said...

I love the beach for the serenity it gives my soul. I love it even in summer when you can hear the laughter & shouts from the children chasing the waves. The seagulls screach is also calming as is the sound as the waves lap onto the beach.
Love & Hugs,
Pam

Cindy Gerard said...

Jane and Pamela - you both paint such peaceful pictures. :o)

kimmyl said...

My special place is sitting on the deck in my back yard away from everyone reading my book or messing with my flowers.

Cindy Gerard said...

Kimmy - deck+book+flowers = perfection :o)

GunDiva said...

On the back of Estes in the mountains is my perfect escape. Though I recently fantacized about putting up a hammock in the pen where I could lay in the sun with a good book and my horse nearby. 'Course she might have something to say about the hammock, maybe I'll just settle for a camping chair. I can already feel the warm sun on my face and a good book in my hand with Miss Estes grazing nearby.

robynl said...

I find peace sitting on my swing in the back yard listening to the birds chirping and other noises around me. I swing away with my head back and my eyes shut. At one time my best friend, my poodle, would lay beside me and we'd swing and I'd be in Heaven. We had to put Sam down as he was 14.

Linda Henderson said...

I used to live in Durango Colorado and it is very beautiful there. I used to just sit and look at the mountains and the beautiful trees in the fall.

Linda Henderson

Virginia said...

I find my piece in reading books, taking walks and such! I sometimes just take a walk to get away for a while. I love going to the country though, where i was raised as a child I find piece there too!

LINDA M. FAULKNER said...

I used to find my peace at the seaside, until I moved to the Rocky Mountains.

Now, I'm fortunate enough to live in the forest on 10+ acres without seeing/hearing neighbors. My peace is looking out at the pine trees,hearing the wind sough through their needles, and inhaling crisp,clean, quiet air.

Nature's sounds - without the interference of car engines, police sirens, and human voices - is the most beautiful, peaceful music.