I have been feasting on the book, Whispers in the Wilderness by Erik Stensland. That it was a gift from a friend who has great respect for restoration areas inside and outside, makes my stroll through its pages all the more poignant. In this book Strensland has compiled poignant photographs and reflections from hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. He says this about restoration areas
These [signs] are placed in areas that have been heavily visited, where the feet of far too many people have worn down the grass and flowers to bare dirt, turning a place of lush beauty into an area that resembles a well-used football field….I find great hope in these restoration signs. After years of watching them, I’ve seen these places spring back to life when they are given the space they deserve.
I learned how to give that space to a high school senior once. Her parents had a brief get-a-way on the Labor Day weekend. You can leave a trusted eighteen-year-old alone for two days. But this time a man broke into her home, raped her and forced her to drink poison. Thus began her coveted senior year. After a couple of months of constant police interviews, survivor support group, counseling, compassionate hovering of friends, parents and teachers she put up the sign for me to see, “RESTORATION AREA: STAY OFF.” I had seen her sitting on the floor before her locker and sat down beside her, asking the dreaded question, “So, how are you doing?” She was in desperate need of being left alone for a while, to restore, to find her center and get back to it.
I could relate. I was twenty-seven in 1976 when the group I was a part of gave over all of our power to an abusive psychologist who experimented with “Disclosure-Confrontation” marathon sessions. At one point in that journey I thought I was losing my mind, I so desperately needed space away from the others. I found the courage to plant the restoration sign in the ground of my soul, and was gradually restored.
It’s a matter of timing and we need to discern what time it is. Is it time to reach out with physical presence and words, or is it time to hold vigil in the quiet space we give the other? May we listen compassionately and wisely.
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