Crystal got back to campus today. She's more or less bed-ridden, and limps around on crutches when she does move, but she decided she'd rather convalesce here than at her mother's house. Karen got back at the same time; Crystal's mother dropped both of them off.
I've been back on campus for a week, of course. And of course I'm startled by how much further advanced spring is here than up on the Island. Startled but not surprised, because this happens every year. What does surprise me is how much I missed my spot in the woods.
I mean the one where I spend a night or two a week as per Charlie's assignment.
I've really gotten to know the place. I can identify all the woody plants growing there (except two shrubs that aren't in any of my books but I've given them names anyway) and almost everything that's flowered so far, including all the grasses. I know most of the insects, at least to the point that I can say whether I've seen it before, and I know the sounds and I know the smells. I know what birds are nesting there this week and where the nests are. I know how the weather feels.
The thing is, having been gone for almost two weeks, I've missed things. And it really bothers me to have missed them. I'm interested in this place. I want to know the news.
I like knowing one place this well.
I forgot to explain what happened with looking for my favorite place on the island. After David "abandoned" me to go exploring with his sister, I ended up looking for my favorite place in company with Alexis, who is seven. Of course, hiking around with a seven-year-old was different. She's strong and a willing hiker, but I can't just go hiking all over without thinking about her limitations. I can't just spend all day without botanizing or tracking without thinking about whether she would get bored. I had to figure out how to explain things so they would make sense to her. I'm not saying I had a bad time. Alexis is a great kid. But it was different, different than I expected. And that's probably a good thing.
I covered almost every trail on the Island in those two weeks, with either David or Alexis or, the first few days, Charlie, and most of the coastline, and I never found one spot that stood out as my favorite.
Towards the end of the week I was sitting on a big slab of bedrock on a mountain with Alexis, looking out through a huge bank of wet fog, and she asked me if I'd found my spot yet. I said no. And she said well, why not this spot?
"What, just pick this one?"
"Yeah. I mean, I'm friends with half the girls in my class, right? But they're not any better than the people in any other class. I just know them better, so we can be friends. So get to know this place better. Make it your special place."
I looked at her and wondered if it could be that simple. It didn't really matter at that point, because it was either pick a spot or tell Charlie I'd failed to complete the assignment. So I picked it.
And it worked, emotionally. I'm thinking of that spot now, too--and it bothers me that I don't know when I'm going back there. It's my favorite spot on the islands.
Does that mean that's all there is? Could I just pick any place, any person, and make it my home, my family? Could I have picked any school?
No, I could not have. Some places are special.