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Placing Ourselves

Our family recently took a trip that will not soon be forgotten. We spent plenty of time on the beach learning about waves, my daughter and I got our sunburn on, we swam, we ate, we drank, we chilled. I cried when I checked out of the hotel because all week I had checked out from everything else and it was magical.

And while the vacation was blissful, I took away from it more than the relaxation that we went there to seek. So did my family. I have always been keenly aware of the sense of place that I am in. There are beautiful moments to experience wherever you call home or visit, but there are only certain places that truly identify with your soul and for each person, the list of places they would include is different.

As we explored our temporary home for a week, I was struck by the diversity of place that can span just 50 miles. And not just the landscape that surrounds you, but the soul of the place. I love landscape. I love seeing how it changes as you meander down the road. I love the people that inhabit these places. Typically, though, I'm used to these drastic changes over a 450 mile trip, not a 50 mile one. And so as we traveled from amongst the breaching humpback whales, through rainforest, through high desert, and in to a moonscape atmosphere at the top of the volcano I fell even more in love with the diversity that life has to offer.

It was the surfer girl, though, fueling up her old Toyota pick-up and heading out to the north shore for some huge turquoise waves, that struck the biggest chord with me. That look in her crystal blue eyes that matched the water she was about to take on, I had seen it before. It's the same look the cowboy has when he is saddling up, eager for a day on the open prairie or maybe just reminiscing about days gone by. It's a look that mimics the one a singer has when he sings his most soulful song on a hot summer night in a an open ampitheatre. It's the look a climber has before entering his soul space on the mountain. And it's the one I had this morning when I hiked to the rock hills west of our house to visit the grave sites of a lifetime worth of dogs. My heart danced with their memories and the beauty of the landscape that surrounded me.

I never take for granted that I live on a farm in the middle of a vast wilderness of prairie. Ever. The thought of it can sometimes sweep my breath away.

When you find the places that you most identify with, they never leave your heart, wherever you may go. For me, I most identify with this short grass prairie land. I was as happy this morning atop that rock hill as I was a few weeks ago in Maui. Diversity, wonder, possibility, raw nature. These are the things that speak most to me when defining my sense of place. How lucky I am to have found myself living in a place that speaks so easily to me. Even more so, how lucky I am to be able to recognize that the world holds many places that speak to me and to share that wonder with my family. I was blessed as a child with the gift of travel and the places that speak to me are numerous: the Appalachians and the Alps, the beach and my backyard. I love them all. I'm trying to pay it forward by giving those opportunities to our kids.

I hope that I always have that look in my eye and that so, too, do my children and my husband. My dream is that they wake each day ready to take advantage of the possibilities in the part of the world that they find themselves in. I wish for them to find a peace in their surroundings and to never stop striving until they find that peace. Maybe it's right here. Maybe it's not. But what a wonderful world we live in that will give them the opportunity to seek out their own identity in their own special part of the world.

"In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught." ~Baba Dioum

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