I won’t lie! This was a difficult challenge. I’ve been so many places over the last few years and so many places from my childhood are precious… How does one choose six? Well, I’ll do my very best!
1. My number one favorite place is Arizona. I love everything about it, yes even the heat! I love the city of Phoenix with it’s hot pavement and crowded shops, it’s an oasis in the desert. I love the mountains, both those that tower green and snowcapped in the high country and those great barren dinosaurs in the city limits. I love the Grand Canyon in all it’s depth and majesty, it is a reminder that we are much smaller than we think we are and that we are so blessed to live in this beautiful world. I love the meadows of the White Mountains, the dunes of the south desert, the saguaros, and the legends the haunt this beautiful state… I am in love with Arizona.
2. My second favorite place happens to be a place in Arizona but it deserves it’s own number. I love the Mogollon Rim. It’s a place in northeast Arizona where the land just drops away. On a clear day you can see over 50 miles from certain parts of it. It’s covered in towering pine trees and sweet smelling wildflowers, it has lakes, streams and springs and is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I spent a good deal of my childhood camping on the rim with my parents and grandparents. I spent days without end running through the woods with my sisters, sitting around campfires with my family, and when I was older camping with my best friend and our pups. There are places on the rim where the land falls away for hundreds of feet and you can sit on a boulder and dangle your feet out over open space. At those places the pine trees grow crooked… twisted by years of wind and fire… These places are a great place to sit and think… to listen to the wind to write out your thoughts to pray. I’ve spent many hours life doing just that and I hope to spend many more. The Rim will always hold a special place in my heart no matter where my feet might roam. It’s one of those places that means memories…
3. My third place is Prescott, Arizona. (Yes, I know, a third place in Arizona… but I did grow up there… a lot of my life was lived there and it continues to by my anchor as I travel the world.) When I was a very little girl my mom and dad bought property in Whispering Pines (an area about 20 minutes from town) They built a cabin that became my summer home for years. I still remember sitting on the floor in the family room at dawn to watch the sun light up the dust motes… I spent days of my life running up and down the mountains exploring, we still have a cactus in the front yard that I brought home from one of my excursions. There was a quiet ravine at the edge of our property with a giant boulder at the bottom that I used to sit on and read and at the time I was reading The Chronicles of Narnia… Aslan’s Rock is still there and I bet if I sat in the quiet long enough I would hear him roar one more time. My cousin’s family had a cabin on the next hill over and if we were both out on our decks we could yell across to each other… we made many play dates just that way. “Hey Courtney come over!” “Be right there!” It’s a place of imagination, history, and possibilities… Whenever I smell pine needles warmed in the sun I can close my eyes and be right there again… My parents have a new place there and it’s somewhere I still love to visit! I love the small town feel, the shops, the tree lined streets… I can’t wait to go back this summer and spend time teaching Isaac to love the hills and trees!
4. #2 Scharfbilliger Strassae Moetch Germany. This was the address of our little cottage in the German countryside. We loved living there… waking up to the smell of farm country and the Bitburger factory. I loved to watch the horses run the fields in summer, watch the leaves turn and fall in Autumn, to watch the fog banks roll up the street in the winter and to watch the whole world burst out in bloom in the spring. It was a magical place to live for the wonderful two years we had. It’s a place I would love to see again someday.
5. The Landhaus Beihl. In Germany, in Rheinland Pfalz, halfway down the B-50 between Spangdahlem and Bitburg there is a turnoff that takes you a few kilometers to the small town of Philipshiem. In that town is exactly one place to eat or spend the night. We had the great fortune of being placed there for the first 10 days we were in Germany because we needed a dog friendly place to stay. I never would have guessed that this one happy accident gave us a place that always felt like home, great food and wonderful friends! We spent so many lovely evenings sitting by the window eating a fantastic meal while watching the sunset over the Kyle River that ran through this beautiful little hamlet. Most evenings we would end the meal in the great company of Dirk and Nichole, the owners, who over the three years we lived there became our close friends. The food was good, the company was fantastic, and the feeling of coming home that this little place held makes me homesick for Nichole’s soup and Jagerschnitzel and for Dirk’s smile even now!
6. Paris! I know this was already on my wish list but it deserves repeating for me. Paris for me was like coming home… Gertrude Stein wrote “America is my country and Paris is my hometown.” That is exactly how I feel about it… I don’t know that I can explain but I would like to try. Every city has a rhythm, a pace that dictates the very feel of the air. Every person moves along at the pace of their home… When I stepped off the train in Paris for the first time it felt like putting on my favorite pair of boots. The rhythm of the city is the rhythm of my heartbeat. In a matter of a day I became the tourguide for every trip that came after. I learned Paris in moments when it took me a lifetime to learn my own home. I picked up more french in a few days then I picked up German in three years. I loved the sights, the shopping, the food. I will never forget seeing the city of lights from the top of the Eiffel tower, walking the Champs Elysees in the brisk air of a November morning with a coffee in my hand, walking the same famous street at night while the soft glow of Christmas lights in all the trees lit my path, climbing the Butte Montmartre to the Bascilique du Sacre-Coeur gleaming white in the sunshine of a bright fall day, standing at the top of Notre Dame watching the sunset through a gargoyle’s wings over the River Sein, sitting by my favorite bridge in Paris eating street food and watching the river vendors go by, seeing an old couple seated on a bench in the park and hearing him sing a soft love song in her ear and seeing the years between them. This city holds my heart… we have a love story all our own, and that will never cease to astonish me as it’s a place I never even wanted to visit!