I don’t typically remember much from my childhood. Call it self-imposed repressed memories, traumatic amnesia, or just plain forgetfulness, but there are a few memories that stand out in my mind that have, for one reason or another, stuck with me throughout the years. This morning, as I made a conscious effort to feel love for myself through meditation, I was breathing in deeply and feeling those feelings of love and peace, one of these childhood memories came flooding into my heart and mind like a wave flowing in from a newly-demolished dam.

The memory is a simple one, but one that impacted me deeply. It was in the springtime of my seventh year of my sojourn on this beautiful planet. My parents had relocated our family from Denver to Fruita, Colorado, a small town in the western part of the state, a little over a year before, and we had recently moved again into our second home within that small community.

The landscape of this home was beautiful and surrounded by alfalfa fields and cottonwood trees. There were horses, cows, wild peacocks, chickens, pieces of old farm equipment, crop dusters that would dive directly over our house to treat the field directly outside our back door, and enough dirt to provide the foundation for endless possibilities in the imagination of any little boy! I spent countless hours outside creating race tracks for hot wheels cars and would build entire cities, castles, pits of despair, moats, and forts out of everything I could find. The supply was limitless!

One of the many wonders of that place was a massive stack of old wooden pallets with which we had the freedom to create our hearts’ desires. Out of these pallets, my sisters and I were able to build the most spectacular fortress with a large empty center by stacking the pallets into four rows, all connected to one another to create “walls”. Each wall had varying levels, which created obstacles to overcome as we traversed the challenges and adventures that came from guarding such a stalwart edifice as we ran from dragons, saved princesses, and sought a new adventure with each passing moment. It was the most spectacular fortress and an excellent place to avoid the “hot lava” by staying on the pallets and hopping around to ensure that we remained safe from touching the dangerous magmatic substance, lest we meet a tragic, fiery demise.

The memory that often comes flowing back to me in my happiest moments took place on a beautiful spring morning as I lay out on that pallet fortress alone, staring up at the sky. The large cottonwood trees with their beautifully green leaves spinning in the breeze framed the most vividly blue sky I had ever seen. The smells in the air were of fresh grass, sweet flowers, nutty hay, pungent weeds, and fresh irrigation water mist. I could hear the birds chirping, bees and hummingbirds buzzing in the distance, and the rustling of foliage all around.

In that moment, I felt pure joy and true happiness. I felt fulfilled and loved completely. Something about that moment brought me joy beyond anything I had yet experienced in my short six and a half years of life. The sensations all around me were pure and right in every way. For the first time in my life, I connected with nature and the beauty that surrounds me every day in a way that left a mark permanently etched in my soul. I experience this feeling every time I witness a summertime thunderstorm or the sun rising over the mountains, every time I smell freshly fallen rain or see a colorful flower. This is one of the purest sources of joy that we can find during our time here!

In the stressful world filled with expectations and daily needs, it can be so easy to forget how much we are loved. The next time you forget to feel the joy in the world around you, I urge you to go outside. Play in the rain! Walk among the trees and grass that were given to us as a gift from the one who created everything! All of these things were created to bring us joy. As you place yourself among the beauty of the earth and see each gift that has been given to you through these simple things, you will find the love that you have forgotten and will be filled with the peace and joy that comes from remembering just how unique and loved you are!