Happy Places

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Do you have one?

I love finding happy places. I can go to these places when I’m stressed out and immediately feel calmer.

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These days, it is Valley Forge park. Today was one of the days I needed a happy place and it worked. I took a long walk and found a spot under a tree again. There was hardly anyone in the park because the afternoon wasn’t quite over so it was just about silent.

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It is one of my most peaceful happy places.

When I lived in Birmingham, my happy place was Vulcan. It’s a big statue overlooking the city with a viewing tower at the top. I remember sitting up there and feeling like I was above everything. I liked being on top of the world. It has been some time since I got to go to my Birmingham happy place, but I do have it hanging in my house.

I love that place so much that my friend got me a big picture of the view from the viewing tower at dusk as a housewarming gift. It was such an amazing gift.

I had my staff Christmas party there last year. That was a great memory! I also took my little cousin there last year and went through the museum.

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I’m known to do a Laura twirl in happy places! The next happy place was somewhere in Oklahoma that I’ll never know how to find again.

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We just wanted somewhere to watch the sunset. I asked a Park Ranger. As soon as I got out of the car, I fell in love with it. I spun! I watched the sunset and I truly enjoyed every minute of it.

Of course, I was in my happy place all through Italy… But it was Venice that got the twirl.

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My next one is Niagara Falls.

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Of course I enjoy my time there as I’m always in good company with these two incredibly special men. Something else too though, it is larger than life. I just stand there and watch the water falling over that drop in the horseshoe falls and I am in awe. It has always made me happy and is one place I keep saying I need to go to more often!

I think everyone should have a happy place… For me, it is somewhere I go to escape reality. It is a swing set in a park or a bench on a hill or a boat!!!! I love boats!!!

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Sometimes it is just as simple as a place that holds a good memory, or a place where you catch a scent of
something you like, or a place where you can escape from the world.
No matter what it is, I think everyone should have one!

Life’s Ups and Downs

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They go on forever, changing the course, rolling from one into another….

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You can follow a path that seems to go up expecting that amazing view at the top but end up trekking into a low valley. It does not have the same extravagant view so some may just pass by anticipating the next incline. These hills have shown me that if you do that, if you only look for the top of the hill, you will miss so much life and beauty.

The sounds in the valleys are different. The grass moves next to you with every step because a little reptile has felt your presence. Each and every flower is different and in this place, you quite literally have to stop and smell the roses. Your presence in the valley will challenge you to a climb. You can question your ability, evaluate how steep the hill is, or you can just look around in awe and move forward. When you pay attention to the beauty in your surroundings instead of the challenge of the climb, it becomes a different journey.

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My brother wrote to me yesterday. It was the nicest note and in it he said:
“This is just proof that anything is possible and the unknown is where all the best things in life happen.”
He is so right. How many times do we avoid the unknown out of fear or ignorance? I know I have fears that hinder me from things every day. Is it okay to leave it unknown because we don’t know what we’re missing? Aaron goes on to say,
“If you said, I can’t speak or understand Italian so I can’t go to Italy, you would have missed out on all of this.”
I really didn’t think about that, but he is right. In another time in my life, I never would have done this. I have fears of being alone, fears of getting lost, fears of being unsafe, fears of trains, fears of losing key, passports, etc. I have learned that there is so much life to live and I have to push through when I am unreasonable, and be determined instead. Sitting here in Italy shows me that I have figured it out…. and as I sit here and look around at every one of these hills in front of me, I am proud.

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We got here Tuesday night, it seemed difficult but I was in the back seat, minding my own business, with my headphones in, just looking out the window while Karrie navigated. As we got closer though, I couldn’t help it, I said, “I’m really sorry, but can we stop right here?” I jumped out of the car with excitement and stood at the end of the drop off on the side of the road. “THIS IS IT,” I thought, this is what I have fantasized about for the last ten years. I can’t believe I am here, looking at this picture. It is so green, and the hills are everywhere, each one different from the next, some have olive trees lining them, few have houses, the trees are beautiful and I can’t believe I am looking at this as the sky is changing colors from the sun setting. Am I in a dream right now? I cannot explain how happy I feel that this picture of the Chianti hills in Tuscany at sunset is no longer an unknown. You can see this in a movie, or on a postcard, but I promise the magic of this moment cannot be translated in any other way. Of course, I will try for you with pictures…

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Wednesday morning, I got up early and went out to explore. I left a note that said, “Went for a jog, leave door unlocked in case I find my way back.” I really did not know how I was going to maneuver these hills without getting lost, but I went anyway. I took pictures of the street and entrance to the apartment so I wouldn’t forget. This is where I learned about the sounds in the valleys and the beauty from the peaks. Every step was an adventure, every twist and turn of the path provided new views and sounds. Climbing a gravel path up the hill, I saw a church. I turned and climbed to it, Chiesa di San Pietro. I couldn’t go inside but the outside provided plenty of interesting sights. The steps next to the church were old, with a large tree at the top. I sat on the steps for a minute just admiring everything around me, thinking I wish we could replicate these views, but then thinking, wouldn’t that take away from it’s magic. Maybe it is better that it does not exist, quite like this, anywhere else in the world.

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I continued my journey along the paved road. I found the old house that Karrie had pointed out on our way up to the apartment. In the car, she said, “Why can’t we buy this, fix it up and live here.” I wandered around it and noticed an open door. I could see through it and the back wall had these openings through it. It wasn’t a typical window, it was like every other brick was missing for parts of the wall, in a square shape. I thought I shouldn’t go in since I don’t really know for sure if it is abandoned. Although, we went back later all together and did try to go in but inside the open doorway was a two story drop. I don’t know what this place is but it is unique and old and I felt like we got a glimpse into the inside of it.

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I walked further along the main road. There is no sidewalk and although there is not much traffic, the people drive very fast. You can imagine me, with music playing through headphones in one ear, twirling and singing up the side of this road while people are driving by in their cars. I waved and smiled at everyone. They smiled and waved back. The nice Italian gentlemen beeped the horn, just like in America. I laughed and twirled around and continued my journey back, stopping for pictures and jumping when I heard a new noise. I don’t know what kind of birds and animals I am hearing but they are all new sounds.

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We went for the afternoon in Sienna. Sienna had a similar quaint and charming feel to Verona. We walked to find the square and admired the narrow streets and architecture on the way. There was a street artist, halfway through a picture on the ground, I could tell it would be beautiful. The closer we got to the square, the more people we passed. There were so many cute stores to shop in but (mostly because of my lunchtime nap) we were so hungry since we hadn’t eaten all day. We made it to the square and found a restaurant where we could sit outside and people watch.

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While there, a woman came up to ask what I was drinking and we started talking. There was a large group of people there for a wedding from the same area I am from. We laughed and talked about home. We found out that we go to the same restaurant, and the Owner of that restaurant was sitting a few tables away from us. I congratulated the bride and they went on their way. I want to say, it’s a small world, but even after this, I can’t. I don’t think I can ever say that again, but I will say it was fun to be so far from home and meet people with that in common.

On our way back to the car, we stopped to shop some and then passed the street artist again. As we went by, I noticed he was just about finished. It was beautiful. I went back and left some euros in his basket and told him so. He smiled and said, “Grazie.”

When we returned, it was time for the hammock. The sky was turning dark blue, and then black. I laid in a hammock, under the stars, with a view that showed only the outline of the hills and very few lights to end my first day in Tuscany…