Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Secret Place

There is just something delicious about going on an adventure alone, something selfish about the desire to experience something that no one else has discovered, to see something differently than anyone else has seen it. There’s something tantalizing about being able to take samples of my travels back like the explorers of old, to awe the simpletons back home who had been too scared or practical to embark along with me.
I was not abused or neglected as a child. So I’m not sure why I always longed to find a secret place to escape to like those of my favorite literary characters—be it a boxcar, a tree house, a cave, a garden, or a world behind a wardrobe, I wanted a place to call my own where no one could follow or intrude unless invited. I had friends who had tree houses or playhouses or attic spaces or basements to claim as their own. But somehow when my parents were looking for the houses of my childhood, a secret place for their solace seeking second daughter was not a prerequisite feature for signing a home owner’s contract.
No, I never found that secret place of solace in my childhood. Instead, I scrounged for privacy in the top bunk, or hid in plain sight behind the couch. In other words, I made do with the secret place I carved out in my heart.
I’ve wondered if this is a detrimental tendency, this desire for a secret place. But I don’t think it is; even Jesus needed to be alone, and Moses had to leave Joshua behind in order to go up the mountain. Now, I’m not Moses or Jesus and my purposes for being alone dissolve in the light of their purposes. But like them, I think there is a common need among humans for solace.
The truth is that I find my identity in the adventures I embark on, in the secret places that those adventures lead me to. And while a friend waiting with a knapsack and walking stick, ready to accompany me on my adventures is a priceless one to possess, sometimes I don’t want to share identities with anyone. Not even adventure craving amegos.
I’ve learned how to carve out that secret place now that I’m older—one of my favorite spots was beside the ice maker in my dorm during college (Jack, someone had named him—as in Jack Frost.) Jack stood back in a cranny cut out of the wall. Every evening, I would pull the cushions off the couches in my dorm floor’s dayroom and spend quality time with my computer and Jack. Jack knew how to make a girl happy. He had this humming noise that he produced whenever he was making ice—that constant humming noise kept my mind focused while the warm air that Jack’s motor blew out over me warmed my toes, insulated my imagination. Whenever Jack would stop purring and blowing air, I would stand, and scoop ice away from the back of him to manipulate him to start back up. Yes, I loved Jack. People would come to get ice and apologize for getting in my way even though it was I who was sprawled out in front of the machine. Could it be that they were sorry that they had invaded my secret place? I had to leave Jack behind—although I would gladly buy him and put him in my living room, given the chance.
Now, I’ve carved out another secret place—you're standing right in the middle of it, the puddle. Sometimes I open the webpage just to enter its solitude as I grade, or write, or do other chores, comforted, contented to be in my secret place.

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