Friday, October 3, 2014

I Stopped to Listen

Morning mist on a redwood stump.

When I was eight years old, my parents bought the Funny Farm. It was a "fixer-upper," which meant a cheap initial price tag leading to a nightmare of epic proportions. While my mom still has panic attacks from the trauma that house caused us, to an 8-year-old, everything was exciting. That spot by the living room window where they claimed the floor joist had fallen off its supports? Instant trampoline. It's actually termite damage, and they've shredded every joist in the house? Bugs are cool, I guess. Not having floors is even cooler, because you get to run across the room on the new joists and see who can make it without falling and cracking a shin. Digging our own field lines when we discovered the septic system hadn't been put in correctly and the backyard turned into a sewer every time it rained? ...Okay, even as an eight-year-old I didn't appreciate that one.

When I think of the Funny Farm, though, out of all the memories that flood back--eight years of them--the thing I miss most right now is nature. 

I feel like a sappy tree-hugger saying that, but you know what? I miss hugging trees. I miss wrapping my arms around the trunk of a silver maple, feeling for grooves in the thick bark and digging my bare toes in as I scoot up into the smaller branches; hiding in a world of green spending hours watching the way light filters through leaves the size of my hand; listening to the call of birds whose names I don't know but whose songs I can mimic; feeling the sway of the branches in the wind.

We had space, so much space, and so many burrows for me to squirrel away treasures and secrets. I had a fallen tree that would wrap its bleached limbs around me as I lay in the softest, newest green grass. I cleared space to let that grass spread, moving leaves that had smushed into clumps under winter snows. I picked certain spaces between branches and labeled them cupboards, filling them with walnuts and acorns in the fall, only to come the next day and find they'd been stolen by grateful chipmunks.

I caught salamanders in the cow pond, watched snapping turtles float with just their noses poking out of the lake-pond. I came nose-to-nose with a bat in a cave. I carved my initials onto a rock the size of our minivan that stuck up from the side of a pasture. 

I stomped up steep, forested hills drifted with snow, caught fireflies, watched the clouds, and watched the stars.

I spent eight years that way, and then life moved on, and we moved away, and I grew up. And I grew distracted. What little time I spend outdoors now is often hurried and frazzled, with me too busy chasing my kids and thinking about everything I need to get done to notice the patterns of the clouds, or the texture of new grass. 

Sometimes, though, early in the morning, I'll hear a bird through my window, and yesterday I stopped to listen. And I remembered. I stepped outside, cool concrete under my toes, and smelled dew on the grass as it trilled.  Life slowed. For just a moment, I felt time the way a child does, where every moment is an eternity and there will always be more eternities available to sit on branches and swing my feet in empty space. That's something I haven't felt in a long time, something I miss. Something I need to find again.

I'm setting a goal for the next couple of months. I'm going to take my girls, and we're going to find nature. Whether that's laying in the grass in the backyard, going to the swamp 45 minutes away, or just finding a park that has trees and walking trails, we're going to find it, and we're going to count birds, and crunch leaves, and feel, and smell, and maybe even taste.

And I'm going to stop, and stop again, until I find that place where moments live. Maybe, if I visit often enough, I'll be able to memorize the way there.

9 comments:

  1. I will always treasure my memories at the Funny Farm. It's the place our children call their favorite, & where I wrote three books. I miss the quiet and calmness of that place.

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    1. Me too. I loved the respite from human sounds, which let you hear the rain on the tin roof and the crickets in the grass. I'm so glad that you got some time there, and that it was good to you and your family.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your memories. It was a beautiful place and a great place to raise children. Maybe, if the sell falls through, it will once again be a beautiful place and a great place to raise grandchildren.

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    1. If it comes to that, we'll come help make it beautiful again.

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  3. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing glimpses of your memories. It motivates me to better preserve and share my own.

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    1. Thank you. Sometimes I feel a little egotistical thinking anyone will care about my memories, so it's good to know it helped you think about your own. Makes me less self-conscious about sharing.

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  4. I loved this, and I TOTALLY get it. I didn't grow up on a farm, but we had a woods in the back that I considered my personal property. :) One of the single hardest things about being an adult (aka the period in my life starting with moving to college) is lack of immediate access to "wild spaces" - and my soul NEEDS those wild spaces so much. I've made an effort this summer as Kate has gotten older and more interested in the world to go at least once or twice a week to a place replete with nature and just spend some time with her, exploring the beautiful world. It has been one of the highlights of my summer, hands-down.

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    1. Yes, that's exactly how I've been feeling. Unfortunately, right now is not the best time for me to go outside. I stepped outside with the baby for 10 minutes this morning, and the baby and I both had huge allergy attacks--our noses started running, eyes watering, and my asthma acted up. Ryan and Mari are also miserable. Georgia hates all of us except Cim, apparently. :-/

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    2. That's the worst. :( hoping you can have a litlte peace and allergy free "wild" in your life somehow!

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