It’s officially summer. Do you have a place you can call your happy place? I am fortunate that I do. While it’s many miles away and many time zones beyond standard time I go there from time to time to visit.

I grew up privileged in many different ways but one of the best privileges was that my parents had friends with older sons that went to a wonderful camp in Colorado that had a boys camp and a girls camp. When their daughter was 9 and I was 8 they asked my parents if I might want to go with their daughter to this six-week summer camp where horseback riding was a main feature.  I loved horses and immediately said yes to this idea. I learned how to ride but also so much more.

For it was there that I learned about the importance of footprints.  It was the place I went for 6-weeks for three summers starting at age 8, then as a junior counselor, and finally as a counselor. It was my happy place, that place I went to later in meditations when someone intoned words about thinking of a place where you were happy. And, I was happy there, at a place where the elevation was 8900 feet and you could see Pikes Peak among the other 14,000-foot mountains, one of which I got to climb on an overnight backpacking trip, and then glissade down the snow on a slicker. Aspen trees and pines dotted the 6000 acres of camp along with big boulders. A place where a young girl could run free and do things that I had never done like river rafting, backpacking, (archery, riflery) silly skits, listen to folksongs sung by counselors who looked like Mary of Peter Paul and Mary and just be content.

That contentment and sense of pure joy was something I had never felt anyplace else. Sitting atop the saddle of a horse 6-hands high gave me a new perspective. I experienced what tall in the saddle meant. I saw the world in a new way. And my self-confidence grew as I experienced each new activity. It was even exciting to almost drown when I took the junior lifesaving class but I passed and I just kept doing things I had never done before. With each new step, even cleaning the cabin together or learning campcraft skills that I had to do with others, helped me learn about teamwork (and how you could get things done quicker in that way).

But, it was the smell of pine trees and being alone with nature in a way that a girl from the Chicago suburbs never got to feel that stayed with me. It’s one reason I now love the North Cascades area in Washington so much. It is my adult happy place for the smells take me back to that wonderful experience.

Those footprints I left in the dusty trails as I hiked along or the wet ones I left with my flip-flops as I walked from the pool to the cabin I shared with 10 other girls left their mark on my heart. There were also the footprints my western cowboy boots left as I trudged up the hill from  horseback riding to the dining hall when the dinner bell rang. So many footprints  that helped walk me into a new me, one who dreamed at age 8 of living in a place like Colorado. Someplace with scenery and mountains and wide-open spaces and blue skies and the fresh smell of rain, the beauty of aspen and pine trees. The footprints led me home to myself, a self I wanted to hold onto forever.

If you’d like to learn more about my Happy Place, check out Sanborn Western Camps!

If you have a happy place please tell me about it.

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