Every person has it.
There is a picture, painted in intensely unforgettable blazing detail on the inside of the eyelids. This picture can appear at any time, an unannounced blessing (or curse!), triggered by some small sound, sight, smell or emotion....
This morning I was walking Maybelle with the rain taking turns with the snowfall. We were nearing home when we passed beneath the branches of a big pine, low enough to brush the top of my head. The scent of cold air, snow and pine, and....
It was 1986. A very kind church group that I had attended VERY intermittently as a medical student had asked, "What can we do to help the medical students?" "Understand that we have NOTHING to give you. We are have no money, no time, no energy; and much of the time, we have no hope. Love us anyway." And they did. So I found myself with a group of caring young adults (not one of whom I can picture or remember the name of, to my utter shame!) on a ski slope in New Jersey (who knew! Ski Jersey!) with a free pass.
The day was perfect for skiing: Not too cold, perfectly sunny, endless blue sky, fresh powder. But for some reason, every time I got moving, I got nauseous. Some ugly combination of lack of sleep, poor nutrition and generalized deconditioning, no doubt - but it really slowed me down - and I'm a poor skier on the best of days (I am living proof that you can do something you enjoy for 30 years and still suck at it. Kind of like golf for most people, I imagine).
At one point, I gave up a little. I fell down in quiet place a little off the beaten path halfway down the hill ("Mountain" seems too big a word for a Jersey ski slope) and lay down on my back in the snow for a while to let my stomach settle.
I don't know how long I was there, but it was long enough to burn one of those pictures into my heart and soul. Surrounded by the caring of strangers who had brought me to this place of peace: Above me, intense blue sky, dark green hemlock branches heavy with tiny brown pine cones layered in fresh snow. I had nothing but time. Nowhere to go, and no hurry to get there. I stayed until the chill came through my clothes, and probably then a while, and to the best of my memory had no more difficulty for the rest of the day.
It was March 16, 1989, one of the longest days of my life. I'd already labored through all of March 15th, and was well on my way to exhausted. C-section was being discussed. Citygirl was being stubborn about making her way out. My Mom was my labor coach, since Citygirl's dad was out of the country, and she had stepped out to rest.
A very good friend from medical school happened to be working at the hospital where I was laboring. She turned up unexpectedly, just when I needed someone. "Picture your happy place!" she told me. "Breathe, and be in that place."
And there it was: Intense blue sky, pine cones, snow, and dark green all against the inside of my eyes. Surrounded by the caring of strangers: Peace.
Sometimes we forget that we have walked through hard times to places of peace already, and that those places are painted on our hearts and souls forever.
Take a moment. See it.