“Earth Friends,” Aug. 1, 2017

There are places on the Earth that we connect with in the same way that we connect with people. Something about them attracts us and puts us at ease. We feel a kinship, a sense that we have come home. And then, if we’re lucky, that place becomes a friend.

My first “Earth friend” was a mountain in South Carolina. I was 6 years old when my family moved 10 miles away from my grandmother’s home, where I felt whole, to a cow pasture where I felt broken.

One evening, I left my mother and stepfather arguing in the kitchen and went out to the pasture to climb a tree and sulk. As I sat there, straddling a tree limb, the setting sun brushed my face. I looked up and in the distance, I saw a blue mountain.

Actually, there were a lot of blue mountains. But the tallest one reminded me of a pig I had fed on my grandparents’ farm. I later learned the mountain was aptly named “Hogback.”

I never liked the pig, but I fell in love with the mountain. Not just with how it looked, lit up by the sun, but with the way it made me feel: Whole and wholly at home.

I didn’t have to climb a tree to see it. It showed up whenever I needed it. On the bus to a new school; in the car as we ran from my stepfather’s drunken fits; or on my way out of town leaving home for college.

It followed in memory when I moved to California to start a new life. And it has always been waiting to welcome me “home” for every visit, every reunion, every funeral, every loss.

For 30 summers, my first husband and I camped for a week in Yosemite National Park. It had long been his favorite place, and it soon became a favorite for me and our three children.

Half Dome, to me, was a long lost friend. It looked a little like Hogback and it has always made me feel just as whole, just as much at home.

The summer after my husband died, my grown children and I camped in Yosemite on a site their dad had reserved for us on his last visit to the park. While the kids went off to do their own things, I sat by the river looking up at Half Dome, and realized two truths at once: I had been broken in half. And yet, by some miracle, I was whole.

Years later, when I moved with my new husband to Las Vegas, I took with me a gift from my youngest child: A poster of Half Dome with a storm raging at its base and its summit rising out of the clouds, shining in the sun. On the darkest of days and in the dead of night, that poster never fails to light me up.

Recently, I visited Yosemite for the first time with grandkids and I loved getting to say to them, “Look, guys! There’s your nana’s old friend, Half Dome!”

Hogback and Half Dome are not my only “Earth friends.” I found a new one in Las Vegas.

No, not the Strip. Mount Charleston. I can see it from our patio. It’s a different kind of mountain with its own rugged beauty. Despite the heat from the desert, it stays snowcapped much of the year. And it makes me feel whole and at home.

Nature has the power to heal us, if we let it. I have felt that power in countless places that I’ve been blessed to call friends, from Hogback to Half Dome to Mount Charleston:

On the Monterey Peninsula where I raised my children.

At the beach where we’d picnic on Sundays after church in the fog.

In the rose garden at the hospital where I prayed while their dad had surgery for cancer.

In the deep blue bay where we scattered his ashes.

And at a lake on the border of the Carolinas, where I’ve often gone to rest and write and renew.

Most of us need to heal once in a while. I’m not saying you do, but you might.

I hope you have a place in Nature, or in memory, with mountains and lakes or whatever it takes to make you feel whole and at home.

You never know when you’ll need an “Earth friend.”

If you’re like me, you need one every day.

Comments

  1. Shashi says:

    I lived in I India 43 years, saw mountains once in 1976. Newly married roamed with my husband like a little girl and he held my hand . My husband loved me like a princess. Now when we are married since 41 years and live around mountains, he walks many steps ahead as I get tired very soon. He just walks away telling me to go back home and rest. We get old in no time and living together under one roof, look for space to adore nature because it is older than us. It is beautiful and fresh forever.

  2. Diane Moorhead says:

    I just read your article Earth Friend I can relate, I live in PA between Harrisburg & Allentown and I have the Blue Mountains and the Appalachian trail basically in my back yard. my deck is my friend and I can view the mountains watch the deer, rabbits and squirrels listen to the birds and just enjoy Gods work. I can relate to you because we have a lot in common. beaches are nice but I’m just a mountain hic at heart, I love the woods especially in the fall, the color and he smells. I’m in love with nature. :). You are very uplifting and give us all peace of mind.

  3. Very beautiful article. This is the first time I have read you but it won’t be the last. I think Mount Charleston is where I once tried to ski. That was a great memory.

  4. Patty Andrews says:

    You are truly gifted! I’ve never before thought of places as friends, but I certainly have experienced the healing and wholeness and the sense of belonging that you described just by seeing or being in a beloved place. Bless you!

  5. Ron Cole says:

    It is not surprising we share a lot of memories. I am only a few years older than you and grew up in the same general area of the Carolinas. Hogback Mountain is very familiar to me. I still see it in the distance when I go back “home.” One of my uncles on my mother’s side was a minister, and he was at a church at the base of the mountain in the late 50s and early 60s. I remember riding over to visit him and his family and seeing hogback get larger and larger. When we reached my uncle’s house, we, of course, could no longer see the shape of the mountain. Always wanted to go to the top, but we never did. Thanks for reviving another memory, Nana, Queen of the Moon!

  6. Maria says:

    Lassen National park…my soul craves the landscape, some of the purest air to breath. That mountain fills my spirit. Love my Earth Friend…see you soon.

  7. Kate Sciacca says:

    I always feel protected by the Sierra – just up the street from our home. And many years ago, living and working in Mammoth Lakes, I loved coming around a curve on Hwy 395 and seeing Mt. Morrison… such a strong, sturdy mountain. I would say to myself, “if God were a mountain, He would be Mt. Morrison.” Thanks for reminding me of that happy thought 😀.

  8. Fred Hernandez says:

    My favorite Earth friend is Mono Lake, or Sister Mono as I have come to call her. Its super-salty water leaches negativity and pain via my feet. Its power refreshes my spirit and imbues me with a calm that is hard to find. While wading in its waters, I send blessings to friends and family, including one dear writer who makes me smile with simple words and honest caring. I wish you could see her. If you happen to see her in the mirror, please remind her that I love her very much.

  9. Barb Fisher says:

    This is another beauty from your pen and your heart, Sharon. You always seem to know what I need just at the right time.

    When my husband was terminally ill with cancer he still wanted to visit Ohio Amish country and we did just that. I had to do all the driving from Alabama, but we made it and he had a good week. Somehow we both knew that was the last trip. I honor his memory at least 5 times a year and even stay in the same hotel room we always stayed in. He’s there and I can feel it. That’s when I dream of him almost every night. Wakes me up and I try so hard to lie back down and finish that dream, but the comfort they give me make life not seem to lonely now.

    Thank you again for this week’s memories – they help more than you know.

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