There is a place I know that no one else knows. Plenty of others know about the physical place and where it is, but I’m the only one who knows about the spiritual and tranquil place it once was. Sadly, everyone who knew about that place — my mom, my dad, my sister, my grandparents — they’re all gone now. It is gone as well, disguised now by thousands of Christmas trees. I’m the only one who knows it ever existed, and I need to make sure that the miraculous place it was doesn’t die with me, that you know about it and what it felt like to be there.
This most special of all places was part of a larger area that Daddy laughingly dubbed “Varmitsville”. Although he was just joking around about the name he gave the thirty-something odd acres that he and Mom bought when I was a child, the name stuck. He called it this because we ran cattle (varmints) on it. He thought he was very clever. He always thought he was very clever. Little did he know, though, just exactly what Varmitsville would come to mean to his eldest daughter.
To get to Varmitsville, all we had to do was walk through the yard, up by the garage, and through the gate onto the hill where the cattle grazed. Getting there was not that easy to begin with, though. When Dad and Mom bought the farm, it had not been used for years upon years and was all grown up with briars, brambles, bushes, and trees. We worked for months to cut the trees and bushes and clear the briars and brambles. Well, I guess it was mostly Daddy who did all the work since Mom was working at Sears in town, and my sister and I were too young to do much more than drag small stuff to the brush pile, but we thought we helped a lot. We would make big piles of brush, then often roast hotdogs and marshmallows over the fire as the piles burned to ashes. Life doesn’t get much better than that! When it was all cleared, we had one of the prettiest pieces of land around.
A group of trees stood at the very top of the hill to give the cattle shade from the hot summer sun. It was here that my sister planned to build her house when she grew up, got married, and “moved away” from home. She did grow up, and she did get married, but the house on top of the hill remained a childhood dream.
I was, and still am, usually drawn to the top of any hill, but in this case, I was more drawn to another spot. To get to that most special place, you followed the cow path around the side of the hill until the house was out of sight. You kept going until you came to a rock that jutted out of the ground and formed the perfect place to sit. That rock was to be the cornerstone of the house I intended to build when I grew up, got married, and moved away from home.
That was my spot, and no one else’s. From that spot in Varmitsville, the whole valley opened up in front of my eyes. The winding road far below looked like nothing more than a squiggly mark cut into the green of the meadows, and the two or three houses that I could see looked like Monopoly game pieces. I could look out over the valley and know how minute I was in the whole of creation, but when I surveyed the valley below I always felt so close to God that I just knew I was the most important person on earth.
My spot faced the west where the sun set behind the distant mountains leaving a trail of red clouds trailing behind it. The contrast of the lush green of the grass and trees against the blazing reds and oranges of the sunset filled my soul with a sense of longing to sit right there on that rock forever. In the fall, the even more intense reds, yellows, and oranges blended into the skyline until you could hardly tell where the earth ended and the heavens began. The brilliant sunsets of winter reached down to the starkness of the snow-covered fields and hills, leaving the impression that the whole earth might melt right before your eyes. And in the spring, the tender greens tempered and tamed the sunsets to the point they almost looked cool.
This was the place I went to cry until I lost my breath when life’s pain or hurt overtook me. It was the place I went to pray, to give thanks for God’s grace and to plead for God’s purpose in my life. It was the place I went to think about deep and important things and the place I went to just sit and be. It was the place where no one expected anything of me and where I didn’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. Everyone needs such a place to go. Everyone should be so lucky to have such a place to go. I am thankful I did.