Here I sit on my weather-stained front porch – warm cup of coffee in hand as the sun begins to climb over the eastern horizon. For people like me, who spend many of their days under fluorescent lighting and glued to a desk, there are fewer joys than taking in the fresh air of country life. It hearkens back to earlier years…
You see, I spent a great deal of my childhood when I wasn’t in school or stuck in detention (stories for another day), wandering the woods and trekking alongside the streams of our families small farmstead. Our little 40-acre slice of heaven had three ponds, a large creek, and a small spring fed stream that lazily twisted and turned down the property until it spilled into the creek. During warm summer days, I would hook the old wagon up to the faded old Arien lawnmower grandpa gave us, and putt-putt-putt our way down to Eagle Creek – the small shallow creek that formed the southern line of our property.
We would walk out to the gravel sandbar, and I would bargain with my brothers to jump in the creek and swim. It seldom worked, but I was never one to let someone hold me back, so I would usually just swim by myself. I would crawl out onto an old fallen cottonwood tree, which had been uprooted years earlier during a flood and now lay across the entirety of the creek. I’d make my way out to the middle of the tree and stand up tall, close my eyes, plug my nose and jump off into the deep swimming hole. The chilly water of the murky, muddy creek washed over me and for a half-hour while my brothers watched both petrified and envious from the shorelines, there wasn’t another care in the world. After a while, I would climb out of the creek, dry off and we would putt-putt-putt back up to the farmhouse (for the sake of my brothers being sure I’d hit every bump on the dirt path I could find…)
It is moments like these I pray my kids have the opportunity to experience. It’s one of the driving factors for why we decided to look for a homestead of our own on which to settle. When we finally happened upon an available farm to buy, it took me only seconds to decide we would buy this neglected piece of property – complete with acres upon acres of johnsongrass and junk – and turn it into our home. Each night after hours of hard work getting the house ready to move in, we would put away the tools, and occasionally I would stop for a brief moment to take in the twinkling of stars, something I haven’t truly noticed since my childhood. For that one moment, I would realize there is more to life than the race and chase of a career. More to life than the constant push to give into our consumer culture. More to life than often we realize or remember is there.
Decades after wandering my childhood farm, I have a wife and five kids of my own and finally appreciate one of the greatest gifts my parents could have given me; a place where my imagination could run as free as the wind that raced through the trees around me. Years from now, when I lie in bed at the end of what was a long and meaningful life, surrounded by cherished family and friends, I pray one of my final thoughts will be of bare naked feet pressed to the bark of a fallen cottonwood tree moments before I plunge into the water.