The Island

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I’m not exactly sure when it entered the family’s possession, but I know that my paternal grandparents owned a 55-acre island full of cypress trees in the Black River in eastern North Carolina. That land was passed down to my dad, and when he died, my mother and I made the decision to donate the land to the North Carolina Nature Conservancy in the hopes that they would preserve the trees on it in perpetuity.

Now I’m hearing news from North Carolina that a bill has passed the state House and is now before the state Senate that would take some of the Nature Conservancy land in and around the Black River and turn it into the anchor for a proposed state park. The odds are fairly good that our island would be part of that new park. I haven’t seen actual plans but based on the description of the geography and the age of the trees on the island, it’s a decent bet that it’s included. The oldest tree on our former property is over 1,200 years old and one tree in the proposed park, not too far from the island, is called the Methuselah tree due to its advanced age – researchers have determined that the tree was living in 364 AD, while Emperor Valentinian I ruled the Roman Empire.

No one knew how old the trees were until the 1980s, when a university team came and took core samples from trees in the area, including trees on our property. The Nature Conservancy started to step in at that point, with land owners either selling or donating their property to help preserve the trees from developers. The land around the island and up and down that part of the river is very swampy, but the river itself is beautiful and eventually someone would have gotten the notion to clearcut and fill in the swamp around the river for some choice real estate developments. The Nature Conservancy, thankfully, stepped in to prevent that from happening.

It’s important to note that the Conservancy isn’t turning over even the majority of their land to the state for the purposes of creating the park. They’re donating some two thousand acres of land out of the over 15,000 acres they own, which means that even around the park there will be a buffer of Conservancy land continuing to stand undisturbed and undeveloped.

I’m overjoyed that the Nature Conservancy and state legislators are pursuing this path to protect the cypress trees in the area and share them with the public, and thrilled that my family might have contributed to its potential creation.

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The Peaceful Scene

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(For those curious, I’m up early because of my back, and thought I’d be productive with my time, so I’ve jumped ahead in my checklist to my reading for the day. This blog post is in large part an exercise from that reading.)

In The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Sixth Edition by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, I’m on chapter four, called Relaxation. It covers in detail several relaxation techniques. Today’s reading describes The Peaceful Scene. In it, the workbook suggests that you create a scene that you can return to in your mind, a scene that’s designed to help you relax and release any unwanted anxiety. There are two versions of the scene that I’ve used in my head for years, one imagined, and one real. Here’s the story.

In the imagined scene, I am sitting alone in a grassy clearing just in front of a stand of pine trees. It is a beautiful brisk morning, the kind of day that you can feel the temperature difference between sun and shadow. The sun is out and there are a small number of fluffy white cumulus clouds in the bright blue sky, none near the sun. In front of me there’s a small stream that features a series of gentle waterfalls as the stream moves downhill across a series of rocky outcroppings. Across the stream from me, to the left, is another stand of green pine trees, and the scent of the pines is strong on the gentle breeze that’s blowing. In front of me, to the right of the stand of trees, is a meadow, with yellow and blue wildflowers in bloom. The sounds of birds in the trees compete with the rushing waters of the stream for my attention. Off in the distance, beyond the meadow, there is a mountain range, its grey rocky peaks standing above the tree line and topped with snow. I can run my fingers through the grass that I’m sitting in and gain a sense of peace and tranquility in the beautiful scene laid before me.

That was my go-to peaceful scene, and I was sure that it only existed in my mind until I was hospitalized in 2007. I was in for chest pains that turned out to be nothing more than anxiety, strangely enough. While I was in the hospital, I found a station on the television that would broadcast environmental sounds with images of nature. While watching this station, this one image came onto the screen and my breath was caught as I beheld a photograph of my peaceful scene! I was so stunned that I forgot to take note of where it said the photograph was taken. But it wasn’t long before the image reappeared and I was ready with pen and paper to jot down the spot, promising to look it up when I got home.

The place is called Schwabacher’s Landing, and that’s a picture of it above. Schwabacher’s Landing is a boat landing on the Snake River about 16 miles north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with the Grand Tetons rising in the distance. The meadow is missing, but the trees are there, between the river and the mountains. The view is almost due west across the river to the mountains, and it is a popular place between spring and fall. (The dirt access road is impassable in the winter.) As you can see, it is a breathtakingly beautiful spot, and it is on my bucket list to travel there and see it for myself someday.

I don’t utilize the peaceful scene – either of them – as often as I should, given my anxiety, but I should really change that. Looking at this majestic view I can almost picture myself there, experiencing all the sights and sounds and smells that the location can offer. Travel guide say there’s coyote, antelope, and deer often spotted in the trees, and otters can sometimes be found in the water, with eagles occasionally soaring overhead, and spotting one or more of these animals in their habitat would only heighten the sense of peace that I would experience being there. I really look forward to that day.