I went for a jog the other morning. The air was thick in my lungs and the breeze created a barrier between me and forward motion. Needless to say, I am not in shape. But exercise is exercise. So, hurrah for me for pulling myself out of bed and taking the first step of going outside . . . and then that second step and the third and the fourth and the one that made me want to turn around and just go home. But, I did it. I did it!
I thought I was just getting some physical activity in for the day, but I passed by the creek that I used to play in when I was a kid. My brothers and I would hike down there looking for crayfish and cattails, bugs and critters. It was our Bridge to Terabithia. Our Narnia. It was our childhood.
We would walk along the shallow bank and cross over like we were Israelites fleeing Egypt. We were explorers and pioneers. We were children. To us, it wasn’t just any creek it was The Creek. It was ours.
In my memory, The Creek was teeming with life and mystery. There was a giant willow tree who dipped its branches into the clear, bubbling water. We would grab onto those vines and swing like wild monkeys. Shrieking with laughter. Battles were imagined, blood was lost, wars were won. We would trundle home sundrenched and warm with sweat and happiness.
But as I jogged by the other day, The Creek was unimpressive. Shallow. Dried up, almost. Weeds overran the place. There were no children. There were no wildflowers. There was no willow tree. There was dirt, and there was quiet. There was the reflection of broken sunlight scattered across the still surface.
What happened to the lush oasis of my youth? Why were there no children keeping it alive? I guess that’s just life. We grow up and we give up some things. I feel as though I’ve sacrificed my romance with the world to buy into the adult reality of full-time jobs, health insurance, benefits, 401k’s . . . you name it. (Not that I have those things, but being surrounded by other adults makes me feel like I need those things, which is partially true).
Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic. Maybe I’m just hopeless. But I need to believe that words matter, that art matters, that beauty can and should be treasured. That monetary gain and gainful employment are not the end all be all. That there is no end all be all. Because I don’t believe there is.
In youth, we’re told the world is our oyster. We don’t know what this means, but we hear that it’s ours. Without understanding what we possess, we enjoy being infinite. Lately, all I feel is trapped and hedged in by the world and “the norm.” I miss having the power to shape my own reality.
When I was a child, The Creek was a place of infinite possibility–I created possibility. The other day, it looked . . . without. Perspective can be a powerful tool.