I grew up in an area of farms separated by large woodlands in southern new jersey when that area was nothing else... it's now nothing but too-large houses on too-small naked lots... the trees, meadows, farms and orchards are all gone now. but from the age of five 'till I left for college at 17, almost every day found me taking the path behind my house into the woods, the path that led to the meadow where, my mother told me, she had learned to drive by taking her family's sedan and just cutting loose in that open, gently rolling space of grass and wildflowers.(this activity ended when she hit a stump in the northwest corner of the meadow, near where the creek runs out of and then back into the circling woods). This was my place to go to be just myself, not as referred to others. I was nobody's daughter, cousin, student or friend there, I was only me. in the center of the meadow was a small copse of wild black cherry trees, volunteers sprung up from roots not pulled when the forest was cut 100 years before...pruned by grass fires in the hot summers, the only space clear of snow in the winter when everything else in the meadow was white, the compact clump of smallish twisted black paper-barked trees was my own space. it was easier to get into the little open space at the center of the copse when I was small, but I never stopped going there until I left home and started the other life after childhood's end.Mink, fox, pheasant tracks in the winter snow; tiny blades of first grass, the improbably bright green of earth's fur just as the trees in the copse began to bloom in spring; buzz and flutter of the prosaic and the beautiful things with wings in the hot, still summer just before the afternoon thunderstorm; the changing leaves and chill even in the sun the fall I was 12 and succeeded in catching the breeze just right and finally got a kite to fly all day at the end of a half-mile of string and looking so small I could hardly see it, didn't want to come home that evening because it meant the kite would have to be brought back to earth. I believe that if I have any capacity for love of the earth, I learned it there. if I know the names of the birds and recognize their songs, I saw and heard them there. If I know what a tree is worth to the forest or a blade of grass to a field or a flower to a garden, it was shown to me in early mornings and lingering evening shade at the edge of that lovely open space with my secrets all in its wooded heart. I think about that place, long paved over and with all nature driven away, when I think of home. I look for it everywhere, all the miles along the road. maybe if I see it in Washington (where I was born, by the way; how I got from there to the meadow in new jersey is another story for another time), I'll stop traveling for a while...maybe longer... By Mama Turtle of the Rainbow family.