The Irish Celtic tradition honours and emphasizes the sacred value and meaning of ‘place location’. Places that hold the spirit of something important to a person, family or tribe. Usually encompassing core values held at the centre of our identity, survival and thriving.

Who are you and what is your identity?

Right now, I am at my mother’s cabin in the highlands of Ontario where summers are hot and winters bitter cold and unforgiving. Here, there are many ghosts of babies crawling in the dirt, sticky marshmallow fingers, and loon lullabies.

Instantly, I recall children forest walking and marveling at the creatures on the ground and in the trees. I envision mom telling stories of Beatrix Potter, about the generations of chipmunks and their adventures outsmarting the nasty red squirrel.

There are moments of catching your first fish, starlight swim, and the maniacal thrill of your third Yahtzee! An otherworldly dragonfly shimmers nearby and stimulates wonder, posing the question, ‘who are you?’.

Where is your cathedral?

In this place, my mom was trying to recreate the magic of her childhood. She embodied the simplicity of nature being the teacher, entertainer and caregiver.

The tender slow days where wilderness shaped you from within the safe haven of the forest and water. I call this the cathedral, a place of worship and an opportunity to transform and heal.

Where is your cathedral?

With mom gone, the cabin still reminds us of the continuity of life. The family of merganser ducks gliding together, the glint of sun on rippling water, the haunting solemn cry of the loon, and buttery soft air caressing leaves.

Everything imperceptibly whispers her secrets and encases the spirits, the faeries, gnomes, and animals that can talk. If I listen carefully, I can even detect the glamour and royalty of hummingbirds and frogs. These are the breathtaking moments when these creatures and spirits land on us, look at us and spend time with us. Maybe we are special too? We are seen!

Waiting for the rumble to come

Don’t get me wrong. The cabin was also a place where the proverbial beans spilt. Family rows, generational trauma, secrets and betrayals all occurred in this place. Our ears stayed close to the ground for the inevitable storm brewing in the distance. We would wait for the rumble to come and watch for the dark clouds to assemble for the great reckoning.

It was as cyclical as the rain that came after to wash away the tears. Essentially, it became part of the cleansing and clearing of this sacred place. We all kept coming back despite the beautiful turbulence. Like a fierce battle that leaves you spent yet satisfied, always coming back for more. It was real. My stepdad says, “everyone gets something out of this place”, a gift to keep and a life-changing amulet to take with you for the road.

Daydreaming and angst-ing

Now, I am here with my eldest daughter who is leaving home soon. Today she disclosed the sweet nostalgia she is experiencing here on this eve of independence. With the expanses of time here, she remembers daydreaming, angst-ing, and worrying about her life.

Was this all there is?

How will her life land and settle?

Could she do it – achieve a ‘good life?’.

Knowing my identity, knowing who I am!

There’s a framework for her to see and hear that uncertain little girl’s concerns. Just by being here, at this moment. This place location gives us the touchstone of turtle rock, twin pines doubling their size, and the people that are still here and haven’t changed.

Through this lens, my daughter could triumphantly realize she is joyfully achieving her dreams.

The cabin’s magical container where all things are possible had been a crucible for her dreams.  And now, stepping back in she could see how many of them were alive and breathing!

The relief of recognizing, in real-time, the flexibility and eternal every-unfolding nature of life.  She has choices and can be fearless in her hopes. There is stability in her knowing herself. The steady proclamation, ‘I know who I am.’

Without a place location to hold the fears, secrets, dreams, mysteries and insecurities for you, how can you know you’ve (at least temporarily) arrived?

Where is your place location holding you and the evolution of your life?

Revel in peace, let it guide your identity

Today she asked me, “what if something bad happens to take it all away?”. The merganser mamma knows all too well something bad always happens.

Storms always come on those particularly hot and sunny days. It’s our birthright and responsibility to immerse ourselves in the sweet clean water of cool relief when things are amazing. This mere moment reinforces our identity and peace with it. We revel in that peace until we see the dark clouds gather and hear the ominous rumble in the distance.

All of us must allow this place location to nurture and fortify us. With this knowledge and strength, we survive the inevitable storms so we can emerge intact, wiser and full of gratitude for another chance to live.

Kathlyn McHugh RCC, RSW Counselling Practice takes place at the Vitality Clinic in the West Shore Area, close to Victoria BC.

Visit the website at: Home – The Vitality Clinic