January 7, 2011
For much of my childhood, we lived on various farms. My most enjoyable memories involve solitude and nature. Hours were whiled away, wandering fields and woods, dabbling in springs, creeks and ponds, playing with animals, and soaking in the beauty around me. It was everywhere with a lushness I would not appreciate until city living made me aware of the acute absence of it. Nature and solitude. Except in my dreams, waking and sleeping, I see precious little of either in my present life.
I travel back there though in my imagination, and it is nearly as real to me as it was when I experienced it as a child. My feet travel swiftly across the hardened dirt paths trailing across the shaded yard, alongside the flower beds, and past the crab apple bush. Then along the tractor path back to the woods. Queen Anne’s Lace, moss, Jack in the pulpit, clover, trees, goldenrod, mustard, milkweed, cat tail, and tiger lilies, black walnut trees, black cherries, elderberries, mulberries, wild strawberries, everything around me was living, thriving, growing!
Now my world, more often than not, feels like a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Children come and go to school not knowing which of their peers may not return the next day. Instead of gardens, there is the corner store. Make sure you check the sell by dates on your purchases. There are vacant lots, cracked sidewalks, potholes, boarded up stores and businesses with hand painted misspelled signs. There are drunks and gang bangers and the occasional lady of the night meandering down the street. And there is the harshness of a world that can’t hide the reality of its barrenness in the unforgiving daylight.
A news report, the death of another child to gun violence, the harshness with which people inevitably treat each other in such a social landscape, all set my heart longing for the reality of my youth. I close my eyes and there I am, watching Jack Frost work his mischief on my windows, rubbing my pony’s nose while watching his frosted breath hang suspended in mid air, laying on my back and watching the sunlight scatter through dancing leaves. It doesn’t last long. It is only a matter of time before my daydreams are banished by a siren, a gunshot, a police helicopter, squealing tires, loud music or loud voices.
A different life, a different calling.