Happy Places

The world breaks everyone, and afterward,
some are strong at the broken places.
~ Ernest Hemingway

How many times have we heard “go to your happy place.” Movies, books, friends, jokes, the dentist—it’s everywhere. Not any old place, but a happy one. And not anyone’s choice, yours.

For me, it’s the water. Yes there are certain puddles more special than others (i.e. I don’t miss the cold of Wisconsin, but I do miss that lake… a lot, some days), but all water counts. I’ll gladly walk along a river, sit at a bay, or jump in a puddle. I’ll play in the rain, and have been known to close my eyes and pretend the shower is a waterfall. I heart the water. When I’m musing I go there. When I’m happy I go there. And yes, when I’m broken, I find myself there—without necessarily remembering how I got there.

But this isn’t just about the water, it’s about the landscape around it… the accidental happy places. The places that can be changed, lost, or worse, broken.

Occasionally, I have adopted something near the water as a happy place. There was a graveyard when I was about ten, yes I’ve been warped for that damn long—don’t judge. A couple years later, near another body of water, there was a broken tree with a limb that hung out over the water, and I quickly claimed it as mine. As a late teen, there was a particular rock at the lighthouse I spent hours on. I knew the lines and pockmarks and colors of that rock better than my own hands. While they weren’t the generalized happy place known as water, they became important for their own reasons. And through the years I have continued to adopt these secondary spots near water. There’s a certain picnic table I’m rather fond of…

Sometimes bad things happened, even at your happy places. I’ve both found and lost things in these places, these places near the water, but I’ve never blamed the water. I’ve been broken near the water, but then healed and made stronger by other water—my heart was destroyed at a lake, my resolve found in the ocean.

I was crushed when I found the limb had been cut down. I was sad to realize the waves of time had rearranged the rocks near the lighthouse. And I trembled when I touched the picnic table I thought was no longer mine because someone else has carved their name into it. But then, I remembered it was my happy place. It wasn’t anyone else’s to tarnish. And the only way it could be tarnished was if I allowed the dirt and grime and ugly to cling to it. The only way it was ruined, was if I accepted it as such. And I don’t accept that.

They were my special places. I made them mine for whatever reason, so I’m keeping them—all of them. Gone through time and life? I just close my eyes and remember it. Tarnished by crayon-wielding demons? I wiped that shit off and reclaimed it. It doesn’t matter if I found it or it found me, I won’t let it go just because I moved, or it changed, or someone else left graffiti there.

Solace is a personal thing. No one else can provide it for you, because though they can try, it must come from inside. No one else can tell you where your happy place is, even if they may have suggestions. The water is everywhere, every day. I can find it in any direction (though it’s a little trickier without that ginormous lake right there). And the things that live around it that I’ve adopted? Whether still there or not, they’re mine. I adopted them. To memory. Through time and life and grime. Mine. Reclaimed. A happy place.


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