There is a peace about this place that I trust.
Everything about this natural sanctuary reminds me of a place in time when I was just a little girl. Barefoot under towering Evergreens, cool dirt between my toes, I found a home amidst green ferns and trickling drops of rain.
In the five and a half years I have called Texas my home, I have traveled around the Hill Country searching for my center. Within the walls of each home I had, down trails paved with gray concrete, and driving up winding roads, I longed for the comfort of something familiar. Cibolo Nature Center beckoned me one lazy afternoon… I found what I had sought out for years.
The trees are a different kind. The ground spends more days cracked and thirsty than damp and green. Creeks dry up, and rain hardly ever falls here in Texas. Nevertheless, I have found my home.
Right now, I sit on the outstretched roots of a wise oak tree. Her branches stretch up into a soft blue sky, and her dress is changing soon with the season of summer winding down as autumn gracefully takes her place in the waltz of another year.
My feet are bare, as usual for a girl in tune with the earth.
As I sit here, I listen to birds happily chirping in the leaves, and now and then, a fish jumps out of the creek to catch a fly on the waterline. A cool breeze has nearly fled from this place and the morning is starting to heat up. I grow wary of the warmth of summer in Boerne… now, I dream of cool evenings and the changing colors of fall. I breathe in the air and wait for the greatest telltale sign of a holiday season around the corner; the musty smell of the first fire in a neighbor’s fireplace. Each day that brings us closer to October gives me quiet peace, as this is the time in the Lonestar state that really starts to usher in the days we long for all summer long.
When I am here, I feel as though I am where I belong. Not just amongst the water and the trees, but in the momentary glimpses I breathe in of a childhood long gone – the air at times smells just like it did back then. If that happens more than once in a day, I start to feel nostalgic for innocence, childlike laughter, and a home filled with siblings and two young parents. I think about barn kitties, makeshift parachutes tested off eaves, and a treefort so magnificent it withstood a beaver chewing straight through the stump of the tree in which it was built. My heart remembers tall yellow hay in a horse pasture, gardener snakes wandering through the grass, and my two older brothers chasing me with a bbgun…
I grew up without the cares of the world on my shoulders… I long for that now.
I have toted my children here many times before. My intentions in doing so are to give them some of the same memories I had growing up. In Texas, however, the scary bugs and hot weather do not allow for constant bare feet, and because we live in apartments, there isn’t a yard to explore, trees to construct a fortress in, or moisture to wet the ground for mud pies and dances in the rain. Still, I hope a place like this gives them a sense of the beauty of the world… though I know it is very different from what I knew, they will grow up knowing this place as home, and their memories may be just as sweet.
Life moves swiftly, and as I age, I realize how much of these little moments pass without so much as a second thought to make proper use of them. How much of my time thus far has been spent idle? When I am here, when I feel this peace and cool my feet in the creek, I stop and give thanks for each second of my life, and I vow wholeheartedly to make every effort not to waste it.
My greatest prayer as a woman is that who I am, the mother of two precious gifts from God, learns to keep my promise to pay attention, to appreciate the moments we share together, because I know now that I can’t get them back once they’re behind us.
As a quiet, wandering soul, I have always been a seeker of peace. I have always been in love with nature, giving reverence to its Creator as I gaze into the heart of this world. What matters most in the scheme of appreciation for life is not money, not material stores of useless goods, and not the position one finds himself in his career. It is not a fast car, an expensive meal, or social favor… The most glorious thing I believe about life is what is free.
Love. Love is free. It cannot be bought or sold. It cannot be given without intent and [hopefully] good will. And the earth… the beautiful, wonderous, mysterious mass of dirt, water, and land… could I search a million years and ever find something as perfect as this?
I have love in the face of my child; what greater gift can be given to my soul than a sweet smile? Than a whispered, “I love you”, when she awakes? Again, I have welcomed, albeit in grave disagreement, another season of being alone as a woman, and as a mother. In that way, when I look into the eyes of my two beautiful daughters, I have to realize what is most important now is what I offer them; teaching them to love what society takes for granted… to love first God, to love each other, and to appreciate what God gave us that doesn’t require money, status, or bargaining.
A stroll down a dusty pathway. The trickle of water flowing slowly down a hundred-year-old channel. The song of birds as they dart through the trees. The jumping frog as it clings to the bark of a tree planted on an island in the middle of a creek. To love what is free – to love what God has made… There is no better gift I can give my children than a real adoration for what will only bring them peace, joy, and memories to reflect upon someday when they have their own moment to remember. There is nothing else I can offer that is free, besides my love, and so I will make an effort to ensure they appreciate what too many others never even bother to see.
The innocence of childhood fades in less time than a blink of an eye. I was once a little girl, awkward and stubborn, but I knew even in my youth that something special God has offered us can be found only in the peaceful song of nature’s rhythm. That, for me, I would have rather spent all my time outside than inside playing with Barbies or video games. I felt the ground beneath my feet and found a home there, dirt-stained and happy.
My children will grow and their tender hearts will learn disappointment, betrayal, and fear. They will know financial hardship, relationship struggles, and find out too quickly that not many people in this world will stop and help you if you fall. . . I am not a cynic; these lessons we all must learn, and their timing is the only thing yet unknown – inevitable is what I speak of now.
It is my duty, then, more than anything else besides to love unconditionally, to guide my two Princesses in their quest to enjoy what matters most.
I hope they become a reflection of me in how I love and see this glorious thing we call earth, and I hope they never take for granted the most simple, the most basic, and the most beautiful things about it…
I wish great things for my children. Success, education, love… I wish good health, wise choices made, and as little suffering as can be possible for any of us. I pray they seek the Lord and that I can model what that looks like for them firsthand. I pray they know I love them always, and will walk closely behind them so when they fall, I can help lift them back up.
For a period of my childhood, I was given the same love from my parents. They offered us a childhood of laughter, perfect and in-depth family conversation, and a plot of earth to roam free…
I remember it well, and as I sit here writing this, breathing in the sweet air, I am ever grateful for the gift of appreciation they instilled in us to be thankful for what God made.
My soul is peaceful and my heart beats steadily now…
I am home. . . Home in my life. Home in my head. And home in my heart.
I am free to roam barefoot again when I walk down that dusty trail and finally see this peaceful sanctuary in my daughters’ hometown of Boerne.
What a life I have lived, and so may I never neglect what I love the most… Never forget where I come from, and never forsake a perfect August day as fall approaches, as the birds serenade me, and as my mind finds rest, quiet, and peace under the trees.