Everyone needs special places. There are places that make you feel at home (like, hopefully, your home). There are places that excite you and places that calm you. There are places that fascinate you and places that bring back fond memories.
Knowing where your special places are, and having access to them, are, I would argue, important factors contributing to mental health.
So, what is it that makes places special? Particular people? Memories? Available activities? Scenery? Particular objects? Certain landscapes?
I talk about the magic of one of my special places in this blog post. Unfortunately, that special place is a 4-5 hour drive away.
We do have another one much closer. Let me tell you about my family’s tree. Here it is:
OK, I’ll be honest. We don’t own the tree. BUT, our family has a membership to our local conservation authority, and that’s almost the same thing. It’s a collective ownership. I have heard at least one nature interpreter also say it’s her favourite tree. I didn’t get jealous. It’s ownership in the sense that, because I feel it’s mine, it’s special and I care about it.
We started taking picnics at a nearby conservation area once we got the membership. Walking in, we found a giant butternut tree (I only recently found out what it was thanks to the aforementioned nature interpreter. I always thought it was a walnut). It is ancient, and the largest tree I know in the area. The crown is huge and spreads wider than its height, throwing an abundance of low hanging shade. In the gnarled upper branches there are supports tied to ensure they don’t come toppling down. Squirrels, birds, and a plethora of smaller, crawly types inhabit the tree. It is easy to imagine any number of mystical beings living among the roots.
Clearly, since then, picnics always have to happen under the giant butternut tree. It’s a fabulous tree for climbing and for family portraits. (Note: I love how it looks like my littlest is suspiciously eyeing the squirrel photobombing our picture).
There is something awe-inspiring about giant trees. The sheer length of time that they have existed on the earth is amazing. The act of trying to imagine all the landscape changes, storms, diseases, cultural shifts (and so on) that the tree has witnessed (and often carries stories of in the trunk), simply blows the mind. This tree has LIVED.
Our old butternut tree also gives us something to connect us as a family. It is something special (and somewhat unique) to the four of us, and will become part of a history that connects us to the earth, to each other, to the past, and hopefully the future (depending on how long those supports hold up!).
I hope you have a special place. Whether it’s under an old butternut tree, your grandmother’s garden, a favourite restaurant, a theme park or a beach, please share it with me below!