Dreaming ...
January 29, 2008

It is a well known fact to anyone who knows me at all well, that I hate winter with a fiery passion. That, in fact, I proclaimed in CCD (think Catholic Sunday School) loudly and frequently that hell was not hot, but cold. Naturally, the parents who'd volunteered to teach were scandalized but hardly knew what to do with a child who simply out-logic'd them about the issue. (Well, we say "left out in the cold" when someone leaves us ... or "turns a cold shoulder," right? And if hell is the absence of God ... then God has given those in hell the cold shoulder and therefore, OBVIOUSLY, hell is cold. These poor volunteer teachers just kind of blinked at me and ignored the issue all together.)

Come to think of it, this is the way most adults tended to deal with me. Anyway.

I talked in an earlier post this month about when I first moved to Arlington and began attending Butler Elementary. There was one area we used to stage our Pretend games of Hardy Boys ... Nancy Drew when Tracy got upset and put her foot down about us playing at being boys. Sometimes Star Wars and sometimes we just made stuff up. There was a tree that was our front door ... another that helped delineate the "rooms" of our "house." Another that I climbed incessantly despite the fact that tree climbing was expressly forbidden. (And it's a measure of how invisible I felt ... and possibly how much the teachers knew what "being in trouble" meant to me ... that they sometimes walked right underneath the tree I was in and never said a word ... despite the little ratty tattle-tales.)

But this place ... this place was for dreaming and the photo does not even begin to do it justice.

Elementary school valley

If you click through, a desktop wallpaper version will pop up ... 1680x1260.

That rock, that's flat to the ground, mostly buried ... yeah, over there on the bottom, kind of to the right. We used to sit on that and look down into that little "valley" below us and just dream. We were always quiet and serious there. Some places just ask that of you and even grade-schoolers can sense it. Later, when recess was a little less about games of Let's Pretend and a little more ... for me, anyway ... trying to figure out life, the universe and everything, I can remember laying on my back, watching the sky ... trying to find a way to watch the sky and my little valley at the same time ... and, of course, solve all the issues in the universe. All in a 30 minute recess.

For me, the small pathway entrance into the woods represented so many different things. And that clearing you had to pass to get to it. Completely exposed ... except because it was a "valley" ... the teachers couldn't see us if we went down there.

I know my love of that spot drove most of our teachers crazy. It was at the very, very edge of our "safe" playground area. Going down to that valley, or worse, into the woods, was strictly forbidden. The kind of forbidden that kids hate because you can feel the adults' fear behind the edict ... when they are honestly scared that "bad things" will happen to any child who disobeys. It's a very different feel from the arbitrary, we're-imposing-order-upon-you kinds of rules.

And, to be honest, the entire time I went to Butler, at least once a year there were reports of "flashers" in raincoats just waiting to show off for some kid. And, there was a creek which ran through the narrow strip of woods ... home to the ever-lovely cottonmouths (water moccasins).

For me, the woods represented something else completely. Some flashes of a special place. Tinged with hints of fear. Coloured with a need to explore and discover and learn. A need to know and put an end to something that I couldn't name ... and at the same time I was terrified that I was not ready to know what answers the woods might hold, what they might unlock.

Our teachers took small groups through the woods on science expeditions from time to time. And I could see where the older kids ... the neighborhood kids had set up BMX bike ramps and obstacles. A rope swing to get across the creek.

The magic of the woods danced on the unknown edges during these excursions, as if the mere presence of adults ... of a gaggle of other children ... forced the things I needed further away into the undergrowth ... dancing up the vines into the treetops ... lurking in the gaping wounds of some of the tree trunks.

A couple of times, when I was near the end of elementary school ... when I had started junior high and was playing one summer, I went into the woods alone, hoping to unlock this thing that kept teasing me. Nothing bad ever happened. I saw a couple of other kids, playing. No adults. No snakes.

And no answers to my mystery, either.

Despite the fact that the woods taunted me from my recess perch ... when I was finally able to explore them, I was left with one conclusion:

These were the wrong woods.

Beautiful and interesting in their own right. Mysterious and captivating.

But these woods were not, after all, my woods.

And my woods ... Balcones Woods ... back in Austin ... those had been torn down.

I would have to find my answers another way.

Posted by Red Monkey at January 29, 2008 5:23 AM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | Struggles | Vacations and Photos | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Huckdoll said:

Beautifully written. I love the picture, just gorgeous the green contrast!

January 29, 2008 8:51 PM


Kim said:

this post brought me back to my own place where I would lay on the grass stare up at the trees and solve all the issues of the universe. and at that time i never thought i would never be able to go back to that place, but alas, the property is no longer ours and they have cut down the beautiful trees. as HD mentioned above beautiful post.

January 29, 2008 9:41 PM


kelly said:

Magic. And I'm referring to the place but mostly to you and your writing.

January 30, 2008 1:56 PM


newnorth said:

sounds like a nice place to rest

...I always get the captcha text box wrong, grrr

January 30, 2008 8:37 PM


Ashley Sanders said:

What if hell is cold...but still has fire? Then, maybe? Could it be cold and hot all at once? Like when you've been outside too long and your skin feels like it's on fire? Wonder how many blinks you'd get with that one :)

January 31, 2008 3:08 PM
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