Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

Old Stomping Grounds and New Perspectives

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This past week I returned to Silver City for a couple of days. In addition to meeting with some people for spiritual direction, I was able to get into the mountains with my hiking buddy—which felt very much like coming home. I’ve always loved the mountains, and the pine trees which cover so many hillsides in New Mexico.

IMG_0684As we walked along a familiar path, I found myself thinking about the phrase, “old stomping grounds.” It refers to a place where someone frequently spends time, and that certainly applied to my life in Silver City. The mountains around town became a familiar and sacred space where I walked, stomped, prayed, pondered, and gave thanks for my community and for the beauty of the natural world around me.

At a further point along the path, we passed through a grove of tall Ponderosa pine trees. That area felt like an outdoor chapel to me, in part because it reminds me of a similar grove of pine trees at Maudslay State Park in Massachusetts. That was another of my “old stomping grounds”—a holy place for me when I lived in the Boston area. The connection between those sacred-for-me places led me to ask for a pause in our hike, to which my buddy readily agreed.

IMG_0694And then she went a step further. Looking down at the carpet of pine needles beneath the trees, she suggested we might want to lie down on them for a bit—and it was my turn to readily agree. As I lay there, facing upward, recalling other times when I’ve looked up the trunks of trees toward the sky, I found myself thinking about new perspectives.

The mountains around Silver City have joined Maudslay State Park as “old stomping grounds” rather than places I will frequently spend time in the future. I am now a visitor to, not a resident of, the area. I do not yet have “new stomping grounds” in the Tucson area, unless you count the immediate neighborhood around our house. That is not (yet?) a holy place for me—although it is becoming a more familiar one. Places become holy for us because of the quality of the time we spend there, the experiences we have, and the way we think about them when we are not there, as well as when we are.

I continue to be living in a period of transition. New perspectives, new experiences…but not yet any new stomping grounds. It is a tough place to be in, sometimes, because of that lack of familiarity, peace, and comfort. But it is also a period of opportunity, because I do not yet take things for granted, or make assumptions about my life in this new home.

What are some of your “old stomping grounds”? What have they meant to you in the past, and what do they mean to you now? Are any of them “holy”?

What new perspectives are you experiencing because of changes in circumstance at this time in your life?

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