When Place is Your Teacher

If you’ve been following my blog for a bit, you’ve probably observed that I get tied-up in knots; I go round and around, jump as if someone’s pushing me, and when I finally land, the proverbial parachute cords have lassoed my legs paralyzing my ability, and desire, to move forward. 

I don’t know if I’m alone in this quagmire called change.  I definitely didn’t follow the Hollywood film version of a dramatic rainbow-at-dawn awakening. I don’t have The Answer. Clearly, I’m never going to be Swami Janet, maybe Swimming in the Questions Janet, but any leaning towards Enlightened One status skipped this girl’s DNA. 

Slow, but steady, wins the race. Isn’t that what the old fable suggests?

Thanks to Nature, aka God, bit by bit, however, I’m piecing together The Puzzle. 


This Place wants nothing from me. She even forgives me if I do rotten things like leave trash, which I would NEVER do, or hang a hammock from tree trunks (guilty as charged). This Place provides unconditional love not just to me, but to everyone who graces her forest home. 

Like Terrie, the camp host:

Two years older than me, she has cared for the Twin Lakes Campground for nine seasons. She has a reputation for keeping the campground immaculate. Every day, she and her crew scrub the flushing pit toilets and blow-out the firepits and surrounding asphalt. “I like to keep it the way I’d want it to be if I was camping here,” she explains. Terrie, a tanned, white-haired fireball of light and energy, decorates her 24-foot trailer to remind campers of the season; these days she scoots around in her golf cart handing out Halloween candy. She calls it “her” campground and means it; she and her senior citizen dog reside in the same spot from April to mid-October or when the weather changes and the campground closes. As she ritualistically strips the faded American flags from the campsite post she patriotically places at every campsite at the start of the season, Terrie tells me that she comes back every year, despite her adult children’s objections, because it renews her spirit and brings her back to her truth. “I am a different person here than I am when I’m at home,” she said, referring to the 117-degree Palm Springs condo she shares with her second husband. 

Sunday at noon when she leaves, Terrie will cross the Sierras and drive along the Oregon and Washington coast hoteling it all the way. “This job doesn’t pay a lot, but it pays for my vacations which I NEED to do before transitioning back home,” she says, rolling her eyes and explaining that her sticks and bricks address is a “Place of Responsibility and Duty.” 

Terrie confesses that her family doesn’t “get” her and why she has to “regenerate” and leave the family each year. “That’s OK,” she says, because she knows her decisions won’t always please the people she loves. “I have to do this to restore my soul.”

Tilting her head in the afternoon sun, she sighs, taking-in her last day and a half in the Sierra Fall, and says, “They have to accept me, just as I accept them.”

Terrie has had a turbulent past; an abusive, controlling first husband, and a daughter who was a drug addict from the time she graduated high school until just a couple of years ago when she made the difficult decision to press charges against her for robbery: “One of the hardest things I have ever had to do.” Her grown kids alienated her for calling police but, she said, wiping away tears, her daughter stole all her possessions and, worst yet, abandoned her senile elderly mother for 48 hours while Terrie was out of town for the weekend. 

“It was the last straw,” Terrie said, and one in which her daughter just recently credited her with as the decision that finally turned her life around. “If it weren’t for that decision,” her daughter acknowledged, “I wouldn’t be here, I’d be dead.”

At 44, having attended a Meth program and living clean and sober with other recovering addicts for the last two years, Terrie’s daughter is once again the daughter she once knew. She has a job, goes to meetings and has renewed her relationship with her teenage daughters. “Can you ever forgive me?” Terrie’s daughter asked, just last week. “Yes, my dear girl.” 

“But what’s more important,” she said, “is have you forgiven yourself?”


Terrie has three other grown children and 10 grandchildren whom she dearly loves, “more than I can put into words.” But just like the advice she gave to her daughter, she says, she has learned to take care of, herself: “If I don’t do that first, I’m no good to anyone else.”

This Unexpected Place. This Unlikely Teacher. 

As I enjoy my last 24 hours in this Chapel of Peace, I am filled with love and gratitude to the Teachers I’ve met, the blue skies and crisp weather I’ve experienced, and the luxury of Time. 

Had it not been for a MapQuest error, I wouldn’t have been where I was supposed to be. As I used to tell my 8th grade English Language Arts students, “It’s not a mistake, it’s an opportunity.”

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