There’s a special spot in the Charleston harbor. It’s where the two rivers meet and begin to blur with the ocean. If you hit it at the right time, in the right kind of boat, you can climb out, and stand up… hundreds of yards from land. If you paddle out while the tide is really low you can dance around in a combination of salt and freshwater that hits just above your ankles. It’s water you couldn’t stand in at any other time of day.
There’s a creek at the back of my parents’ property. It’s big enough to have a name and appear on maps, but private enough that we can have our rowdy New Years Eve family bonfires without disturbing anyone. When it rains hard enough you can ride a tube from one end of our property to another. In the Spring the trees around it turn a shade of green I’ve never seen anywhere else. If you cross the creek and walk up on to the land next door you’re on the property of a woman who taught both of my grandparents and my dad in the third grade. Between the creek and a rotted old picnic table there’s a tree with my mom and dad’s initials carved into it. My dad did that the year they bought the farm. I once tried to swing on a vine from that tree. It seemed sturdy right up until the moment I fell flat on my back. My brother laughed so hard he couldn’t help me up. The first time I went home after turning 21 my dad asked me to have a beer with him down by the creek. We spent an entire afternoon just sitting by his tractor drinking beers.
There are lakeside trails behind my high school. Those trails are where I learned the joys and pain of distance running. They’re where we spent every fall afternoon torturing ourselves, getting our shoes muddy, and laughing at the kind of jokes only insane kids who’d voluntarily join a cross country team would enjoy. The trails are easy for anyone to get to, but not well known by non-natives. If you hit the right path you can run several miles with the lake in your sight. There used to be a rope swing at the end of one dirt road. It was the subject of an ongoing battle between Sheriff’s deputies who’d take it down and rowdy kids who’d tie a new one back up, until the deputies finally just cut down the tree that was used to hold it. You can still jump from the rock next to it, but not many people do anymore.
There’s a little mountain not far from my home. It’s easy to get to, but it’ll cost you two dollars or the price of a parks pass. It has more trails than I know at this point, because even though I’ve run there several times I keep going back to the same spot. The loop that takes you up and down the sides of the mountain until it spits you out at a lake surrounded on three sides by peaks. I’ve been there on sunny days when it’s beautiful and glowing. I’ve been there on cloudy days when the whole place looks like something you’re supposed to keep secret. It’s a popular park but I’ve never passed more than a handful of people while running there, for whatever reason.
What I’m saying is, there are places you can get away. There are places to clear your head. When everything that’s running through your mind gets to be too much, and you need a place to just be… those spots are everywhere. They’re why I believe, whole-heartedly, that all a person really needs in life is people to love and a little land or water of her own.