An article in the March edition of The Writer magazine got me thinking about “sacred spaces” in my past. After considerable thought, forests seem to be the places where I feel closest to God. There’s something about being among tall trees, singing birds, and scurrying animals living out their lives that inspires a sense of awe in me.
As a child, I often played alone at Rose Creek, located east of the city of Fort Saskatchewan. Since neighbourhood children threw stones at me and called me “blindie” because of my thick eye glasses, I often explored the forest by the creek. Even today, the smell of the mud and the foliage evokes those long-ago memories.
When I was exiled to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind for months at a time, I fell in love with the forest and muddy plain behind the school. My imagination carried me out of the lonely anguish I felt as I envisaged myself being an explorer of the wilderness or an astronaut on an alien world. The frogs and pheasants I heard drew my soul into the animal stories our teachers read to us. How wonderful it would have been, I often thought, if those creatures could talk to me and be my friends.
As an adult, the North Saskatchewan river bank became a place where I could wander amid the trees and wildflowers, losing myself in thought. Once I found out there were paths along both sides of the river, I used my Friday afternoons off from work to explore them. My photo albums are filled with beautiful vistas and close-ups of the greenery there.
Then I discovered Mill Creek. It too has walking trails. Long ago, a mill had been built there and a railway track connected it to the main line. Back in the nineteen-eighties, the tracks were torn up and a cinder path replaced them. Like the river bank trails, I felt a sense of sublime wonder. Walking through the tall pines and poplars felt like being away from Edmonton’s noise and haste. Squirrels and birds filled the air with their cries while the creek babbled happily to itself. After walking the trails, I felt reluctant to return to the mundane setting of my home.
Though the forest on my neighbour’s land here in Radway is far from grand, the scents and colours of the leaves evoke wonderful memories. Spring is my favourite time of year because the pale green foliage exudes a delightful aroma. Autumn is a sad time, yet the gold of the leaves against the electric blue sky brings back happy memories of Rose Creek. Even so, none of these places holds the charm and wonder for me like Mill Creek.
I wrote about my love for the forests in Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School. I also mentioned the pleasant walks I took through the river valley in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers to learn more about how God marvelously led me to freedom from blasphemous teachings.