Fewer than 50 steps from my back door is a small piece of heaven, an altar to nature and life.
My Meditation Station took under $100 of wood and stone to make and returns priceless dividends with each visit. Out here my mind is at home, can empty, and take in the scene: a burbling stream, birds, the wind in the trees, a frog, and the rustle of creatures around me.
The stream that runs next to my chair and platform doesn’t exist on any map I’ve found, marked only as a patch of wetlands, but it is more real than I could imagine.
There is no feeder to the steam but the Earth itself; it originates in a spring behind my neighbor, and gravity then pulls it past me next, barely six inches deep and a few feet wide.
From here, it makes its way through the woods, under a road, past businesses and neighborhoods, under another road, then another, until it connects to the Quinnipiac River. From there, it traces the course of my life, through the towns I lived and grew up in, then into the Long Island Sound of my childhood.
As it empties into the Atlantic, it becomes the water my great-grandparents sailed to escape war and seek a better life. The water my grandfather crossed in the other direction to instead head to war. The water I’ve crossed six times myself in far greater comfort than them all, chasing their ghosts.
Out here on my platform, there’s little of that. My son’s energy is nearby, though…the tree and clump of dirt in the middle of the stream that used to be called “Ryan Island” is now toppled and lost to nature’s cycle, but the large sticks he drove into the stream to trap fish somehow remain. Until they rot away, like we all will.
There’s no other place on Earth I’ve found where I can empty my messy, conflicted brain as well as here.
It’s always buggy and often smells of decay and water and life. Countless creatures live Hobbes’s nasty, brutish, and short lives just a stone’s throw from my peace. The citronella candles I sometimes light can give it a primitive feel, which is both inadvertent and profoundly accurate.
It’s cool on hot days, sheltered by the branches above and around, and frigid in the winter, when there’s no block to the wind and the marshy ground is frozen solid under my feet as I walk out to the platform.
It comes alive in the spring, when snapper turtles, frogs, and water striders emerge, skunk cabbage sprouts, and trees burst to green. In the fall, it’s like a snow globe of orange and red and yellow. At night in the summer, it’s a miracle of lightning bugs and singing frogs.
True to its name, it’s a place of meditation and escape, a nook to hide away from lawnmowers and cars and airplanes I hear in the distance. It’s a place to read, to write, to think, to dream.
We all need those spaces today, with so much information, distraction, and false urgency. When so much is fake, it is real. It’s 50 steps and may as well be 50 miles, and time spent here becomes more and more valuable as the hours left of my life grow fewer and fewer each day.
Find your place, where everything flows around you and there’s room to breathe and think.
Find your space, to consider your role in it all, ponder your infinite value, and realize your utter insignificance.
But most importantly, get outside and away from what’s false and easy, and toward what’s real and difficult.
Then meditate on how lucky you are to do so.