The Journey of Place

Harry and I walked our favorite circle – up the road, up the hill, across the empty pasture, through the woods and then dropping down to the backside of our property. I do this loop often because I have such a growing love for this place.

We’ve walked this path so many times now that as we go by, I naturally look for and acknowledge familiar plants, trees, ponds, cattle and the tremendous view that takes my breath away. I’ve become so partial to it that I can’t imagine ever moving from this house.

I’ve always walked the areas around my homes, but most of the time I have walked on paved surfaces and viewed yards and gardens instead of natural areas. When I lived in Alaska, we would walk to Memory Lake but I was more aware of weather and moose than the plants and trees.

Being here in western NC with a diverse ecosystem has been much like unwrapping a gift every single moment. There are always surprises. And yet, now that I know one particular path and the beauties that await us, it’s more like a homecoming. As my affection toward it is growing, my heart opens more.

As we enter a pasture at the beginning of our loop, we pass over a small rushing stream. Later in the year, a field of milkweed will greet us on the left. I happily anticipate the spring appearance of the three big circles of mayapples across the big rolling field.
Then to one side of our path there is a row of apple trees (whose fruit our daughter will convert to exquisite pies in the fall) opposite a yarrow patch. Over the fence, up the well-worn cow path we stop at the nearly dead apple tree that still has one small branch alive and productive. The next part of the journey is almost like climbing a staircase and we look forward to the view from the top. Here we breathe in the expanse.

Turning around we enter through another gate and pass a small pond that is fed by small waterfalls of streams tumbling through woods from higher on the ridge. Next we pass the tulip poplar that hosted the red-tailed hawk nest last year and begin the gentle decline into the next pasture where we often meet a cattle herd.

From here, we pass the old collapsed homestead and we start heading for home through the forest. In this little patch of very wet woods, I know we are passing all kinds of native plants which will revive in spring – even native dwarf larkspur! We need to pass over the final barbed-wire fence, walk by sleeping lobelia and heal-all, past the willow and hawthorn and pick our way through the muddy swamp fed by the spring that provides our house to return to our yard.

Knowing this place has opened my heart. Is there a place that you know well? Does it open your heart?


Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.