Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Happy Place, as corny as that may sound

Several years ago I was given a gift, some cash to use to buy something special for my work space. I found the perfect thing, an art print, the matting and the frame. The print was a landscape/seascape. A place very familiar to me, it was a beach scene of sorts, but not the usual spread of sand with ocean waves. Instead it's a scene of the terrain that's usually more toward the higher shore, but not quite the dunes. The focal point is a mound of grass with long blades that stand above the more razor type grass. The long blades gone to seed and blond, blown by the wind but no longer flexible rise above the green grass. Above the familiar chunck of dunes there are gulls, but only a couple. Behind it all, the lake. It could be ocean, but for me it's Lake Michigan and the stretch of sand is Oval Beach near Saugatuck, Michigan.
I have seen at least a small stretch of the Atlantic while in Florida the year I turned 13, that would be 33 years ago. I saw the Gulf of Mexico that summer too. I've seen the Pacific near San Francisco, in fact, I've seen the underside of the Golden Gate Bridge. I've seen the Mississippi, Ohio, Chicago, Kalamazoo and who knows how many other rivers, not to mention both the east and west forks of the White River here in Indianapolis. I've seen Cumberland Lake, Lake Lemon, Gull Lake, Lake Erie, Lake Monroe, Lake Freeman, Strack Lake and a laundry list of others. Creeks too many to mention and probably enough puddles to fill a hole big enough to ski on.
The paddle wheeler on the Ohio River was nice, the ferry on San Francisco Bay was better and try as I might I'll never forget the canoe on Sugar Creek. They pale in comparison though to the place that I see in the picture on the office wall.
For fifteen consecutive summers I spent at least four days on Oval Beach, all but one of those alone. Each evening watching sunsets that could be rated from fabulous to fizzle. I really didn't care. They were all beautiful to me. People flying colorful kites on the beach still come to memory when I think of that place. I often think of the tanned, beautiful young man, white linen shirt unbuttoned and being blown about by a gentle breeze, barefooted with his chinos rolled up at the ankle, dark shoulder length hair, the entire tableau looked like something from a travel poster or the cover art on a bodice ripper novel. As beautiful as he was alone the scene was even more beautiful to me because he held hands with a couple who were most likely his parents who appeared to be near their late 60's. The three of them and the love that radiated from them was more beautiful than the sunset they were walking under and it made me happy to see it.
Oval Beach is a place that is dear to me, I have walked it in the early morning hours and as the moon rose from behind the dunes at my back as I watched the top edge of the sun slip quickly into the lake. I've seen it rain on the lake, usually while I stood in the midst of a rise of grass like the one in the print. Never minding that it was raining because I was entranced by the raindrops on such an expanse of water. I don't usually think about it raining on a huge lake, but I know that it does, it makes me happy to see it.
There are times when I get especially low, when I have to make an effort to find something even slightly beautiful in the world around me. I try to find a place near me where I can find a peaceful place, a happy place, to regroup. I can always look at that piece of art work and see a beautiful place, feel the breeze on my face, the wet sand between my toes, the warmth of an August night when the moon rises blue and full over my shoulder reflecting on the brisk waves, all while the sun takes a bow at the horizon. I never have trouble traveling there in my mind, especially when I can't travel any where else. I usually think of the trio in love and I feel peaceful and happy, a family sharing love. It makes me feel peaceful and happy, I repeat the thought, “peaceful and happy” over and over in order to bring me the calm that I need. As trite as the phrase may be, it really is one of my, “happy places.”