I’ve been here before. All this looks familiar. I think I used to climb that tree by the river before it rot with desire. I don’t know if those branches could hold me now. I was young then. Young and troubled. I carried a bag of burdens across my shoulder all the time and wandered through the halls of my high school like an inmate released for an hour each day for exercise and sunlight. I could not see beyond myself to anything else. I could not grasp the possibilities, so young and fragile in thought, alas I could not move the mountain.
There first time I came here was a wild day, obscured and cataloged in my memory as an adventure to rival the great safaris of Africa. Though I was less then a mile from my home, I was in the woods and no one knew where I was. The trees spoke to me a gracious welcome, bidding me deeper and deeper into their magic enchantment. Frogs, turtles and fish all leapt with excitement from shore to splash as I sauntered by. The rough trails criss crossed here and there and for the first of many times to come, I got lost in the woods.
Somehow being lost only excited me. Here was adventure. Here only my sweat and effort would lead me home. Strangely I already felt I was home. When I came to the clearing my eyes dazzled at the lush overgrown fields of wildflowers. I imagined tigers or lions lurking in the hedge but was night frightened. I saw snakes slither across the pond and wanted only a closer look on my expedition. There was nothing separating me from the wild, except my mom and the fact that eventually I would be missed.
Why not stay? I could be quite comfortable here amongst my new friends. All things holy and true growing up around me in the perfect symmetry and beauty of nature. Here I could find my answers and still the discord and confusion of my heart. At home there was no rest. At home the bills piled up on the kitchen table with large red letters that read PAST DUE. At home there was yelling and fighting and general despair. At home the beauty had faded over time into a troubled pale reflection of the love between a man and woman. What did I know of parents? What did I know of love? I knew only that I must find my soul in the wild and cast my troubles upon the crystal river.
Before they built the bridge I used to stand on the sliver of land between the pond and the river and watch the curious animals caught in the flow. Some would never return to the pond after being sucked into the river. Some would slither or crawl back over while others where easy prey for the osprey and herons that gathered for lunch. I imagined a porthole to another world to transport me from my pond to the crystal river. The river that ran to the ocean and the ocean, which touched all other oceans in the world and opened up countless possibilities. A river to South America, Africa, anywhere wild. A river to sweep my worries into its current and fling them into the sea. A river to occupy my mind and at sunset to assure me that life is good and God is full and happy. A river to compose my thoughts and still my troubled heart as she meandered around pleasant groves of trees in a long standing agreement with the shore to encroach this much and no more. To provide me marshy wet islands to sink my bare feet in and lose sight of my legs up to my knees. To get filthy then do a back flip and be clean. To row my boat across my dreams in search of the light the floods the screen of imaginations. A river to hold my attention and teach me how to communicate with myself. To instruct me in language and poetry, meter and rhyme. To fling off convention and drift with the tide. To show me all the efforts of men over time and where I can find myself in the mad dizzying race against insignificance.
Show me my heart- I shouted one morning into her crystal blue waters. Give me a voice, give me something to say…of all these thoughts…these maddening conflicts…give me release! She invited me to dive in. To submerge myself in her cool grip and be ransomed from the world of pain. I was baptized that day into life. I was taken from one world and placed in another. She wrapped me in a blanket of summer and warmed me with a soft southern breeze the greatest thing this side of heaven. Though my memory may favor her as the giver of life and harbinger of truth she was indeed not my mother.
When I stood in the house there were no other arms. When I sat in my room forlorn my mother would come to the door. When I despaired that another birthday had disappointed she understood and lifted my heart to a happy tune. She tried to carry my burdens with me as best she could but alas I choose the river. Not as a choice between a mothers love and a love for the wild. But as the instinct of my heart took over I knew that to find my voice I must live in a world where I can measure myself against the horizon and no ones’ arms could be so large as to wrap themselves around my fleeing heart as I ran and ran and ran chasing the horizon and wondering in my deepest thoughts if what I so earnestly sought even existed.