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My Most Beautiful Place

The most beautiful place…I…have ever…been… How do I narrow it down? There are so many places, so many experiences, each more beautiful than the other, each in it’s own way. The vineyard in Tuscany: too early for the grapes, rows and rows of barren, gnarled vines, cloudy skies, the mud puddle on the path through the wood that ate my shoe. Lonely, gray, and beautiful. Or that mountain top in Switzerland: like something out of a travel magazine, brilliant white snow, ice blue sky, sun so hot I was wearing shorts as I made a snowman next to the ski run. Or… (I am officially overwhelmed.

) O. K. I’ve decided: My favorite place of all is in my backyard. I am 12-years old, and I’m in a rotten mood. I am sitting on “my” rock overlooking the edge of the cliff. The rock is cold and damp from the rain, and I can feel the seat of my jeans becoming wet. It doesn’t matter. I am sitting with my feet hanging over the edge, kind of wondering why I am doing this because I’m afraid of heights. The rock is covered with liverwort and I pick at it absentmindedly; the smell of the wet moss is earthy, powerful—it smells like the sound of a base drum, vibrating through my whole body.

The smell comforts me, and I close my eyes, breathing deep. At first it is so quiet—and then my ears adjust and I hear everything. The drizzle sounds like little pins dropping, tapping musically as it falls on the leaves. A breeze comes along, and the leaves spill their water in a quick burst of rustle and rush. Little droplets blow onto my neck, making me shiver. A branch somewhere snaps and falls– the snap echoes, sort of, and when it finally lands 100 feet down, I can hear only a muffled smooshing sound.

At the snap, I open my eyes to see where it came from, but it could be from any one of the hundreds of treetops and thousands of thousands of branches surrounding me. My view is clearer if I gaze downward—the trunks of the oaks are straight and free of growth, affording me a nice view of the woods below. There’s the bog; I used to call it a river before I realized it wasn’t flowing. I’ve climbed down there before, many times, actually, jumping from rock to rock to avoid breaking the skunk cabbage leaves.

I would explore the rusted old tractor sunk to it’s door frame in the mud, each time with the renewed anticipation that I would find some sort of treasure or at least a hint of where it came from. Never did, but that never stopped me from hoping. The rust would crumble into a powder between my fingertips. Sometimes when I sat on my rock, I would see some kid passing through down below, saving time on his way home by cutting through the woods. He never knew I was there, above him, watching him. Even though I was miles and miles away, I would hold my breath until he was out of sight. And then I’d get mad.

What was he doing in MY woods? The nerve. One time I found graffiti on one of the rocks down below. I cried, and wanted my dad to put up “No Trespassing” signs. It was MY WOODS. I hear a loud rustling next to me. I turn and look, and come face to face with a deer. She sees me, but is not afraid. I look at her. She looks at me. We are both perfectly still. I ruin it by saying hello. She bolts off, down the cliff. I watch as she leaps from rock to rock and finally disappears into the trees. I stand up, grasping the knotty roots of a big oak for support. Yep, my jeans are soaking. But that’s ok. My rotten mood is gone.

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