I spent a blissful three hours on a sandbar in the Missouri River yesterday. I saw my first teal of the year (30 mixed bluewings and greenwings), waded in the pleasantly cool water (79 degrees, according to the USGS) and watched my golden retriever, Willa, joyously chase everything from sandpipers to giant Canada geese. Mostly though, I just wandered more or less aimlessly, soaking in grandeur that is unmatched anywhere else in our state except on prairies.
The river had no sandbars last summer, owing to a flood of historic proportions. A death in my family kept me away most of this summer, so it had been more than two years since I last sat on the wind-packed sand, losing myself in clouds tinged with the indescribable hues of sunset. I could actually feel my hurts and worries dissolving in a tide of serenity. The familiar feeling took me by surprise. I had forgotten how deeply that place affects me, how everything in life falls into its proper perspective when I am there.
For me, the Missouri River has the power to “knit up the raveled sleeve of care,” as Shakespeare so memorably wrote. He was talking about sleep, but periodic contact with nature is as essential to my wellbeing as deep, untroubled slumber.
As I mused on this deep need, I realized that The River is only the latest in a long series of places to which I have turned for solace and renewal over the years. My childhood spot was a 40-acre vestige of creek bottom that escaped development because it flooded frequently. In college, I escaped to land now encompassed by Three Creeks Conservation Area. When stationed at Fort Ord, Calif., in the military, I haunted a patch of coastal redwood forest. And when I lived in West Plains “My Spot” was a steep-walled spring branch whose 3-mile course harbored wild orchids in the summer and produced fantastic ice formations in the depths of winter.
I can’t be the only one who has a special place. What’s yours?