It is with the recent passing of the autumnal equinox when I remembered the highest of my summer days. Maybe it is in the passing of one time to another, from season to season, from the end of a year to a new one when I can’t quite yet be excited about what is to come until I have reflected on what has passed. I acknowledge respect and a gratitude that I will never be in those moments again. But before I release them to distant memory, I recall the details that enabled me to live in those pure moments.
When being alone in my 20’s meant being lonely, I tried to regulate my feelings and temperament by wandering to my secret place. When I was stiff with anxiety about my job not fitting well or my social life void of friends or a boyfriend, I made a jaunt from my apartment on Pine Grove and Waveland in Chicago to a grassy hill. My spot was there, ready and waiting for me to sit and to mark my presence. Even though my years were characterized by job and personal changes, my new spot became a constant. It wouldn’t leave me. It teased me with pleasure and then I would walk away. I embraced it with hollow feelings and drained spirit but once I entered the driveway of the boat dock at the end of the long gravel-pocked drive, I embraced the end, my haven. A thick strip of grass that carpeted the hill ran in tandem with the driveway. The anchored boats adorned the sidewalk like any baubles that soften a straight edge. These weren’t just boats I noticed; they were expensive yachts, toys for the rich and private with secluded slips. These yachts stayed for the summer and the hired help cleaning and fixing them was the only action they saw. They looked pristine and shiny sitting atop the shallow water parked in between two skinny sun-bleached wooden planks. The sun’s reflection off their white bodies on a sunny day was intensely bright and difficult to look at. I didn’t want to wear my sunglasses because I wanted the rays to bleed through my eyes and permeate the windows which were a constant reflection of my inner soul. I wanted to be healed from the difficulties I faced. The sun had healing powers and I wanted to rein them in from the top of my head down to the souls of my feet, passing through my heart and flowing outward.
I stopped at a dead end. I sat down Indian-style on the top of the slope. I looked back at the row of yachts and empty spaces of faint tinkling water. I was free from city noises and kids screeching and adults yelling in frustration in the park behind me as they tried to ignite their bar-b-ques. A fence behind me outlined my isolation and muffled the noise. I felt a brush on my back, a tickling where I snapped my head to look over my shoulder. Interspersed behind me were small, gentle birch trees, with space between them, trying to fill a forest of thick-leafed trees butting up to them and not giving in to their over-bearing tree neighbors. I, too, felt like I was a tree out of a forest, still able to stand, but needing the rest of my tree family to surround me in support. In front of me, heavy boats in shallow water balanced their frames leading them out to open waters of chartered routes to discover the beyond. There will always be a place to come back to, to moor and be left alone until the time was right again to set sail and be lead away. I sat quietly, undisturbed, a part of the backdrop I greeted at the end of my walk; one I often took to shake the pesky lonelies and feel the comfort of birch tree sightings patting me on the back telling me everything was going to be okay.