One of these days, I will actually sit down and make a definitive list of my “happy places.” It’s an informal designation that I give to locations with significance in my life. They can range from the deeply meaningful Cathedral of Christ the King in which I got married to the far less meaningful sports book at the Aria casino in Las Vegas (there’s no better place for sports binge watching). All make me happy in their own right.
Because my happy places are tied to personal experiences, I usually think of specific spots, rather than generalized locales. For instance, I love London as a city, but London isn’t a happy place. Dukes Bar in London absolutely is one of my happy places though. I still dream about the martini I had there.
Off the top of my head, other happy places include Bennelong Restaurant at the opera house in Sydney, the Blackrock Summit trail in the Shenandoah National Park, Mercedes-Benz Stadium during an Atlanta United match, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the steps of the Rotunda in Charlottesville. Just the thought of being in those places puts a smile on my face.
One of my favorite parenting moments recently occurred at another of my happy places. A couple of weekends ago, I was solo-parenting my two kids since Chantel was hosting a baby shower for a friend. We needed to make ourselves scarce, so I decided to take my youngins’ to Fernbank Forest. I’ve written about Fernbank’s natural history museum before, but the forest itself is one of my happy places.
It’s noteworthy for being the largest old-growth forest in an urban area in the United States, clocking in at 65 acres. I find it so easy to tune out the “real world” and tune in to nature when walking under those towering trees. There is a purity to the place that resonates more with my soul than any other part of me.
So there we were, bumpity-bumping along with Cecilia in her stroller and J.R. walking beside me. As we walked along the path with no other people in sight, the three of us were in our own little world. My son in particular, nearly three years old, was silent, taking in the sights and quiet sounds of the woods. I slowed with Cecilia and let J.R. wander ahead. I watched as he slowly turned his head to the left and the right, always looking up at the trees with the exception of brief glances down to make sure he kept the path.
It was beautiful. I took such joy in seeing my child drinking up all of nature’s wonder in that forest. It was as if the trees were speaking an ancient language to him, one he’d known all of his short life, telling him stories that left him spellbound.
The spell broke as he turned around to look for me. I caught up to him and we continued our walk, but that brief moment is one I now cherish. More than ever, Fernbank Forest is one of my happy places. Apparently it’s one of my son’s now as well.