This is a guest post by my dear friend Neal Popa.
Though the thought is a sad one, it is a nearly universal truth that the word was larger and full of more wonder when we were young lads and lasses. I recall going on expeditions into a patch of trees in front of my home that measures no more than 50 yards by 50 yards, yet as a young boy I could (and did) spend hours in that lot of trees with my brother “exploring.” We explored the same area just about three times a week, digging holes that had no purpose, leaning sticks against trees for no reason throwing rope around low branches and trying to get onto the roof of our shed. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I cannot recall our thoughts and dreams as we did these things, but I know for a fact that they were the best kind of dreams, and the most creative of thoughts.
The wonderful thing about it was we were never more than a five second run to our front door, and the lemonade and cookies that waited inside that door. Now, as young men of twenty, the world is a smaller place and the jumble of trees and bramble that separates the house from the road, or the corn from the bean fields, is not as wondrous as it was before. This unfortunate phenomenon makes old-school summer fun and childhood adventures much more difficult to come across.
A simple solution to the problem? Look up.
Before the weather got too cold, I walked out my front door ready for an adventure that should take my mind and body a good distance from the comfort of my bed. What was different about this little personal trek was that I was out of the house for no more than an hour and never left the yard. Armed with my trusty recurved bow and duct-tape quiver across my back, a garage-sale kitchen knife thrust through my belt, a stout stick, a bugle horn, and dressed in dirty Goodwill clothing I walked to the side of the house and into the section of un-kept grass and shrubbery. It was on the small patch of land that I found my freedom, crawling on all fours through bushes and pivoting my head to watch for “enemies” or “game” I made my way slowly and peacefully to the largest bush in the plot, in the furthest corner of our property.
Shrugging off my few pieces of gear I reclined in the tall grass and watched clouds. From my bed of grass and earth I could see nothing of this man-made world, could only hear the soft wind through the grass and the crunch of dried leaves beneath my head as it moved ever so slightly to find comfort. The clouds floated by slowly, the sun lowered in the sky casting its colors onto my world and the occasional rustle of field mice put my body on edge, my mind thinking it was a thief or wild boar in the distant brush.
Perhaps I am childish, perhaps I let my mind go to freely, perhaps I am not mature or serious about the “important” things in life. But I was smiling, and for that hour I was miles away from the house, from any street or phone line. I was in a world and time where cars and highways did not and will not ever exsist. Looking to the sky as I was, the world around me that I could not see was whatever my mind wanted it to be, the thoughts and dreams of a young boy came back to me and the adventure of a young man still floated through my head and heart as freely as the clouds I watched floated through the sunset.
Just look up.