“This is my most special place in the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this…You feel for it like it was your child. I can’t leave here.” Doc Graham, Field of Dreams
A couple of weeks ago I had the occasion to visit Jones County, NC, the birthplace of both of my parents and where a majority of my extended family still lives. Unfortunately, the reason for my visit was not a happy one but I consciously chose to take the opportunity to visit a few special places so that the trip would not be forever remembered as a sad one.
You see, I feel a very strong, emotional connection to a few places on this planet. I call them my “Sacred Places.” You probably have them too. Like me, they are probably places from your childhood, maybe from high school or college. They are places that mean something to you, where you shared memories with loved ones, where once upon a time you were happy and content. These are places you can’t really show or explain to other people because they won’t have the connection you have; to them it may just be a park bench but to you it means the world.
My house I bought when I was 25 is one of my “Sacred Places” because it will always represent a major milestone of accomplishment for me. To you it may seem like a shabby little bungalow in a small town but to me, it’s a castle, made just for me.
There are places at Hollins that mean a great deal to me (the cemetery, a stone bench in Beale Garden, among others). Growing up in Johnston County I spent many a day on the Glendale softball field. Camp Mary Atkinson. The Bethany Community Building. The pond behind our house.
My parents, my brother, and I moved 2 hours east of Jones County when I was 5, so over the years we have spent many hours burning up Highway 70 to visit family for holidays. One place that I was enamored with from an early age was an old mill in Trenton, complete with Spanish Moss. I had only peered at it from a car window heretofore but after 28 years of just passing by, I decided to stop and actually take photos with this visit.
I stayed overnight in nearby New Bern, staying on the waterfront where the Neuse and Trent Rivers merge. When we lived in Jones County, this was where my mother ran her errands and I remember looking at the river as a child. Even more significant, my father proposed to my mother here and that always cast a magical glow on the riverfront.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the riverfront, although I did walk around downtown and snap this photo. Betcha didn’t even know New Bern was the birthplace of Pepsi, didya?
Finally on my list of places to visit was Catfish Lake, a lake found in Croatan National Forest. Where we lived in Jones County was right on the edge of this forest – less than a mile down the road the pavement turned to gravel and one could seemingly drive forever into the wilderness. Growing up, a favorite summertime activity was taking an evening drive into the forest, looking for deer or other wild game, and sometimes driving to look at the lake. When I was young, this lake was as big as the sea; it’s funny how things seemed bigger when you were a child.
So what does this have to do with a list about 101 things to do before you die? I guess looking towards the future and making plans often necessitates looking to the past. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few months thinking about how to move forward. In the end, I’ve decided I have to better understand who I am and I’d never figure that out if I didn’t know where I came from.
How much thought do you give to your past when thinking about your future?