I wrote this years ago as part of my therapy. I had to write about my “happy place”. It’s still relevant.

    My mom was kind of a hippie.  When I was a teenager living in the sticks of East Texas, she always went on nature walks, collected herbs, studied holistic medicine.  I didn’t buy into any of it.  She cut a little sanctuary for herself in the woods.  It was just a circular clearing around a large oak tree in a sea of pine trees.  There was a little white bench that was always covered in pine sap.  I was caught smoking out there once because she noticed the bench had been cleaned and found a cigarette butt on the ground nearby that wasn’t hers.

    I never thought about the silence or serenity when I was a teenager.  I didn’t need it.  After living in a shit-hole desert for 12 years, all I want is that spot.  For a while, I can hear the leaves of the oak rustling, but time seems to stop.  Pine trees are generally silent, but their scent is undeniable.  There must be a synergy between scent and sound, because I start to focus on the pine and everything else goes away.  Even my hands sticking to the bench doesn’t bother me.

    I used to bring my dog out on my hidden smoke breaks.  He was a silver tip German Shepherd named Sebastian.  Beautiful dog.  He knew why I went out there, but he didn’t mind.  He was an outdoorsman himself, coming home covered in dirt and pollen more than we liked.  As I would poison my lungs, he would post up at the entrance to the clearing and sit stoically.  Once the smoke cleared, he would sit at my feet, passively demanding attention.

    I’m not a dog person.  I can count the dogs I truly cared about on one hand.  This guy was special.  He was smart and loving.  He didn’t beg for approval, he demanded your respect.  Once you respected him, he would respect you.  He was strong, unlike most dogs, and I could tell when he was in his “contemplative” mode, as he did the same with me.  He was shot in the leg by a cattleman while chasing coyotes off his property.  The owner knew it was Sebastian, as he always protected his land, but it was just a bad shot.  He became an inside dog after he recovered, but he couldn’t run like he used to.

     As a teenager, all I thought about was beating Lavos in Chrono Trigger or getting my next paycheck so I could gas up my 6 miles per gallon pickup and cruise the back roads.  It’s impossible for me to go back.  My family is still in East Texas, but worlds apart.  Sebastian has been gone for years.  The bench was falling into disrepair even before I left for the military, so by now it’s probably a collapsed pile of steel and lumber.

     I can’t find a place like that in Tucson.  It’s a dump. Every time I think of being back in Texas, I feel peace for a brief moment, until the realization that I’m still in Tucson ruins it.


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