I realized today that I’ve spent most of my life yearning. Sometimes in earnest, sometimes the yearning is set on simmer, but it’s always there. I spent a little time analyzing just what’s causing me such angst…
While everyone certainly wants more moolah and bigger, better, fancier, flashier toys, I’m pretty satisfied with what I have. Dagmar and I will never be rich; to the contrary, I’m reasonably sure we’ll always struggle with debt – but we have food, clothes, a place to call home and a VERY happy marriage… But still I have this strange yearning. Why? It took me a long time to figure it out…
I want time.
That’s all. I want time. I want a summer off. I want a summer like they used to be. I want the kind of a summer that can only happen to kids between the ages of five and nine – when you’re old enough to go outside and play on your own, but you’re young enough that you don’t know there are things you’re not supposed to do. That’s what I want.
I remember waking up in the morning, lazing in bed and watching the shadows in my room move, the dust motes slowly swirling in a sunbeam. A single, well-aimed breath would make them dance, even from all the way across the room – but once you’ve made the dust dance in the sunlight, you have to be patient for a long time before you can do it again. One look out the window and you knew if it was a wet, dewy sort of day or a dry, dusty sort of day. Both are good, but it’s best to wear shoes if it’s a wet, dewy sort of day. Out the room, down the stairs and out the door – sometimes fully clothed, sometimes wearing nothing but britches – it all depended on who caught you before you got out the door. Never mind taking a bath – time enough to do that later, after the clouds go to bed.
Growing up on a farm spoiled me. Once out the door, so many things to do. But there was never a decision to make. Within thirty seconds of leaving the house, something would capture my energy – sometimes a pretty bug climbing up a tallish stem of grass to get a good look at his kingdom, other times a sparkly rock would keep me entertained for a while, dreaming of the places it had been. Sometimes I’d want to see the sky, so I’d wander off to the fields where the trees stand solitaire along the edges of the rows, keeping watch.
The sky can look powerful big when the trees are far away – a good place to watch the clouds. How far can the clouds see? Can they see all the way to town? Where have they been? Did they like it there? Sometimes, though, it’s nice to watch the clouds with just one tree to keep you company. That’s easy enough… If you do it right, you can find a spot under a tree where the green leaves make the sky look electric blue – that’s the best.
Ooh – there’s a milkweed. Any butterflies around? They like milkweeds. There are usually some butterflies in the fields, but sometimes they like to go in the grove and hang out with the trees there for a while. Off to chase the flutterbyes.
The grove is always a fun place to be. Davy Crockett and Dan’l Boone help me sneak through the woods, so quiet and slow the rabbits don’t notice me. Sometimes it’s nice to go slow, to feel the leaves brush against you, to look at the bark on the trees, to smell the grass, to wonder at the complexity and harmony. Sometimes it’s nice to be a rabbit. I could never get my nose to wriggle right, though. Other times it’s fun to help Stanley and Livingston find their way out of the wilderness, making lots of noise so the elephants don’t attack. Sometimes it’s nice to climb a tree. If you’re real still in a tree sometimes a bird will land close.
Sometimes there are birds in the barns. But sometimes there are bees and wasps and hornets, too. Best not to go there. Better to play in the dust for a while. Ever figure out why there’s so much dust over here, but not so much over there? Why does it pile in one place when it’s outside? Or is it just a thing that happens on farms in the summer? Throwing a handful of dust if fun, if you’re not throwing for distance.
You could tell when it’s getting late – the cicadas start whirring, the crickets tune their orchestras, the frogs tell the crickets to shut up, sometimes the first lightning bug of the night flashes. Time to go in. Gotta pause for a while first, though – this is the best time to listen. How many crickets are there? Where are the frogs, anyway? Why can’t I find the frogs in the daytime?
Methinks the joy of childhood summers lies partly in the patience to take the world at it’s own pace, and partly the knowledge that you have no responsibilities. Of course someone has to cook the meals and clean things and do all the things that need to be done by responsible people, but can’t we wait until the clouds go to sleep to do that? There’s plenty of time…
So, that’s what I’m yearning for. I want one more childhood summer on the farm. But this time I want company – I want my wife there. It’s more fun to look at bugs if you have someone you like with you. I promise, if I get my summer, I’ll waste it well.