I am reminded of sliding and picking my way down the ravine behind the parsonage where I grew up: past two old outhouses that had long since fallen into disuse and disrepair; past discarded Christmas trees, now needle-less; being careful not to step on any rusty cans or kitchen utensils left over from the days when my back yard had been a Free Methodist campground.
The ravine was steep. I would loosen my grip on one handhold, a tree or protruding root, and half run, half fall down the slope to the next. The ground flattened out in a broad plateau at the bottom of the ravine where more and thicker trees grew, interspersed with tiny maples, ferns, and wild flowers. There was also a little dirt road which avoided the steep slope of the main roads it connected to at either end. It never seemed to match where it was coming from or where it was going, as if it was a slice out of some other world.
The "little road," as it was known in my house, was the perfect setting for childhood imaginings. I was on an adventure far away from home - I couldn't see my house because it was too far back from the edge of the ravine. Even when I got older, it was a place I often went both to celebrate the goodness of life, or to seek refreshing from the badness. The smells of dirt, and growing things, especially the wild onions, seemed to fill my lungs and my heart with life. It was a place where even delicate things were allowed to flourish in their own time, away from the frequent interruptions and too-fast expectations of the world above.
The little road was a place I went alone. Although it must have been my parents who first introduced me to it, and surely I took a few close friends there over the years, it is difficult for me to picture anyone other than myself there. For me, it was a sacred place. It was a quiet place, but always in a way that was also alive - a way of being that has never left me.