My Secret Place: Do You Have One Too?

Carrie Minns Photography

Hello my lovely friend,

Around five years ago, a new family moved to our neighborhood during the winter. Our winter that year was mild. Only a couple days of snow and below average rain fall as opposed to the usual three straight months of rain. When we were first introduced, I remember her telling me she was nervous to move here. She wasn’t sure she could handle all of the Portland rain she had been warned about. Her fear of the rain never materialized. Instead of endless drizzle, she was treated to crisp, clear winter days and she loved it…for a while.

She and her family only lasted a few years before heading back to the Midwest. When I asked her why they were moving, she cited a few different reasons—jobs, missing family—but she finished up by saying, “You know, I thought it would be the rain that would make it hard for me to live here but that wasn’t it. It was in the summer when all of the trees and the forests filled in. I felt like they were closing in on me. I felt claustrophobic.” She wanted to go home where she could look up at endless sky and stretch out her arms without bumping into trees and ferns and blackberry vines.

For me, I love it when the forest fills in and becomes a kind of a refuge. I have a hard time in deep summer when the temperature goes above 80 degrees, the sun is always bearing down on me, and I can’t find a shady spot. I know. A little nutty, right? But I grew up under gray skies playing in the woods. Most of the afternoons of my childhood were spent traipsing down wooded trails with my golden retriever, Duchess, or making a secret hideout among the ferns, climbing up to the tops of fir trees or creating a land for tiny forest people in the root ball of a downed tree. You could say that I was a tree hugger before being a tree hugger was even a thing. Instead of claustrophobia, I feel a sense of peace in the woods. It calms me.

Carrie Minns Photography

I don’t have time to spend every afternoon in the woods anymore. My life is busy. Really busy. As I know yours is as well. Most of the time it’s good busy or happy busy. Occasionally though it’s frustrated busy or “not even 3 cups of coffee are helping I’m so exhausted” busy. The amount of running around we do as parents is ridiculous. It’s too much. And yet, we do it. But after a while all that activity makes me feel dizzy. I lay down to go to bed at night and I feel a static buzzing running through my body.

Oh I know, I could go to yoga or try meditating or all that kind of stuff but instead, I’ve been sneaking out of the house in the early morning with my furry coworker, Benson, while everyone else is still sleeping. I cross my driveway and tiptoe right into the woods. We walk up a little bit to a clearing and Benson sniffs out all the creatures who visited our spot during the night. While he’s doing his bloodhound routine, I turn my face to the slivers of early morning sunlight shining through the cracks in the trees. I take a few deep breaths, lean against my favorite moss covered tree trunk to do some stretching, and take note of the birds waking up the forest. We only spend a little bit of time in there—10, maybe 15 minutes—but it’s just enough for me to start my day with a calm mind.

I believe that we are formed by certain places that touched a spot deep inside of us at some point in our lives. These places become an integral part of who we are, how we live, and where we seek refuge. For some it’s wide open spaces, for others maybe a coffee shop on a busy city street, or like me, a clearing in the woods. When life becomes too busy, or the news becomes too overwhelming, or our job as parents becomes too frenetic, that’s when we have to seek out our secret place. Even if only for a few minutes. I hope this summer you are able to carve out bits of time to spend in yours.

Much love,
Carrie