It is Saturday, January 23, 2016, and I am watching the effects of the winds that gusts over 60 MPH from a Nor’easter called Jonas. Manklin Creek is swollen well above our little dock and the pine trees are swaying. Although we are constantly sweeping pine needles from our floors and deck, I love them. They remind me of the solitude and safety I have sought all of my life Although I risk and fear revealing too much of myself, I write because I have too.
One would think that growing up in N.E., Washington, D.C. in the 60’s, there would be little opportunity to find places that offer solitude. I had many places and the only constraint was to be home before dark. I found refuge in the beautiful gardens and cloistered areas of the Franciscan Monastery, even sometimes sneaking down the steps to the monastery catacombs.
Across the street from our house there was a patch of bamboo that I would go into and pretend I was Tarzan. In our backyard there was a bush with branches that grew upward, then downward to the grass. I would crawl to the trunk of the bush mindless of the bugs and worms, believing I was totally hidden from the world.
There were a couple other places I found, but my favorite place to this nine year old’s perspective, was a huge pine tree across the alley from our backyard. Once I realized I could climb that tree to what seemed as high as the sky, I knew true safety and solitude. I am now certain that my Lord’s hands guided me many times from branch to branch. Other than musing upon a bird’s nest with eggs, then chicks one spring, I can’t recall what my thoughts were. What I remember so distinctly was how safe I felt. My child mind had already blocked the unpleasantness in my life, but not the need for feeling safe. Unfortunately, and without cause, I still find safety in my solitude.
I remember asking my therapist, Sue, of three years, how does such egregious moments so completely be erased from memory. This gifted woman of God gently explained to me that the events were so horrendous that my child brain could not cope and immediately blocked them. Then, add that the person who a child loves and trusts above all, my father, was the one who violated the innate needs of this child. Thus, blocking. Sue was absolutely correct. A couple years ago as I was reading through my journals from that period of therapy, I came across an event written in my own hand, that I had blocked yet again! Reading the details made the event fresh. I can say that in addition to memory recall, I also experienced physical recall. Without adding graphic detail, the discomfort from the act of sitting was very real and lasted over a week.
I need to add, and probably the most important is that throughout therapy, I was never afraid. Blown away and hurt, yes. In addition to the fact that my dad was deceased, I had the tangible presence of Christ right next to me. So tangible, in fact, I could feel His soft clothing, the warmth of His breath and see the tears in His eyes. As lunatic as this may sound to some, it is fact. Even if it were my imagination, and it was not (emphatically stated) He saved me. He saved me as a child and as an adult from addiction. He saved me from perpetuating the abuse with my own children. He made Himself tangible, a physical presence, in my life. Because of this I need to speak about it. *Most importantly, there may be others in pain and are suffering, who also can seek His presence and find comfort, as I did. Surely, He is there….He was there for this despairing and sinful soul.
Don’t get me wrong by any means, I am still far from healed. In spite of my real experiences with Christ, I sometimes forget to reach for Him when feeling confused. He loves me anyway and I suspect I won’t feel completely healed until I am by His side in Heaven.
I pray that my need for solitude dissipates because, even at 60 years of age, I only feel my safest in my solitude. There is a true sense of physical and emotional desperation when I feel the loss of this solitude and need to seek it. I take comfort in knowing that Christ also sought solitude in the mountains. Unfortunately, this can be difficult on my family and loved ones. There are not enough words of gratitude to those who understand this.
I thank you, Lord, for my memories that give me clarity and understanding of this soul You created and prepared for service. I know that in doing so You have suffered the same indignities that I have suffered. You have always been in and with me. This thought broke my heart, and I sobbed, when I first realized this years ago. You have suffered not only for our salvation, but You have and continue to suffer every indignity and torment that Your children endure. I praise You for that, for always being with me and I will speak of Your love forever. And I thank You, Lord, for pine trees.