The sacred place

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, January 2, 2013

By water, one would put in at the steel bridge and go downstream a mile, past the cabin at the goose pond and past the Boone field. By land, head towards the back silo. Follow the woods line past the yellow hill through the clubhouse field. It is there, in the far right corner one makes his entrance.

Should you get that far, follow the path down the steep embankment past the large beech tree to your right with the initials “JSA +NSB” carved four feet up on the east side.

Be careful, for the path is steep. At the bottom of the embankment the land spreads out towards the river, welcoming a small stream just to your right that has never, in all my years, stopped flowing. The woods open to the sky and the soil changes to sand.

There, in that place, was the birthplace of our imaginations.

It invited us to invent, marvel, explore and experience. Always, always, with the stream flowing and the river running.

It beckoned us to dream. And so we did. We dove and swam and splashed and dunked. We pushed and shoved and held contests. Dropped out of trees and jumped off banks.

We built a real, world-class diving board with a two-by-eight and did cannon balls and can openers. Jumped off one at the time, two at the time and three at the time. The river beckoned us to do more. We did front flips, back flips and belly-flops. Swan dives and karate moves in mid-air.

We built rafts. Some floated and some didn’t.

We strung a steel cable from a high limb on one side of the river to the base of a tree on the other and had us a homemade monorail. A pulley, two-by-four and broom handle later we were riding down and dropping with a yell into eight foot water.

Sometimes we just lay on the bank, hands behind our heads, letting the sun warm our wet, half-naked glistening bodies as the stream comforted us with its gurgling refrains.

It came to be part of who we were, like a warm, inviting, glorious friend, always there, always speaking, always waiting for our company.

Today, the stream still flows, the river still runs. The leaves still cover the floor in the fall. But it rarely sees any visitors, save for a squirrel, foraging for nuts.

If you happen to be paddling down the river and come upon it, perhaps you should stop paddling and float silently by. If you happen to be walking in the forest and come upon it, perhaps it best to walk quietly around it.

For it is a sacred place.

To tell the truth, I probably shouldn’t be writing about it.

REX ALPHIN of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is