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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: End (02/13/06)

TITLE: My Life, the Woods & Man Eating Piranha
By Kevin Kaiser


Somewhere between the ages of twelve and fourteen something slipped from my heart that took me a decade to wrap my fingers around again. Something that I thought had vanished like a curl of smoke on the wind.

I realized it one evening as I stood at the back edge of my parents’ property staring into the woods where I played as a kid. Lightning bugs ambled through the heavy air, zagging and zigging low to the ground—a sure sign that a storm growled off in the distance. Midwestern air in the summer has a weight to it, almost oppressively so. And it’s humid. My lord, is it humid. But, it was nice to stand in it and listen to the woods come alive with a zillion crickets screaming at each other.

I was visiting from Colorado, where I had moved after college. My world had all but fallen apart and I was home to pick up what rubble was left, which at the time wasn’t much. I toed the old fence, bent down by years of my brother and I jumping over it, and thought about those days. Better days. More innocent days before I stepped from the woods and learned what the world was like.

Two universes were separated at one time by those gnarled trees. They marked the end of a mundane world and the threshold of one filled with wonder, fantastic danger and mind-numbing adventure. It was a place where the forest came alive—literally. The creek was a swollen river full of piranha able to swallow you whole, and stupid laws like gravity only applied to lesser mortals, which we were not. And there were invisible ninjas who jumped from the treetops. Middle Earth never had ninjas, but we did.

On one side lay the stuff of grown-ups, those muggles who just didn’t understand life and concerned themselves with cars, paying mortgages and mowing lawns. On the other were princesses to be saved, bad guys to be whipped and a world to be saved by blond, ten-year old boys who were bulletproof and unbreakable. We were heroes. I was a hero.

Then I grew up. And along the way, somewhere and somehow, life cinched its leash on me. Like a Mustang born to romp on the plains might be caught and broken in order to be someone’s pet, I was bridled. Adventure was crowded out by routine and predictability and saving princesses was traded for jobs and, yes, mortgages and lawns to be mowed.

Then something funny happened. I got married. Then we had a daughter. And lately I have been slack-jawed, beside myself with wonder at the possibility and adventure of the universe. At the possibility that wonder, fantastic danger and, yes, even mind-numbing things could happen. Not overnight, but little by little, the broken pieces have begun to snap together again, kind of like the dry bones in Ezekiel.

Now, I stand at the fence and wonder how to be that kid again. For, he was made for tire swings and creeks, not mortgages and stress. For wide-open plains, and not a fenced in yard. For life, and not some dime store replica of it. I’m not exactly sure how, but I’m taking some hints from my daughter. Now, I have a few rules. Anti-rules really, that help me break loose and live; to step to the edge of where one world ends and another begins. I want to share them with you. Maybe one will pluck the strings of your own heart and challenge you.

Carve your own trail. Well-worn paths are crowded and overrated.

Do not resist taking chances. Take them like vitamins.

Take your foot off the brake and see what happens. You probably won’t die. Probably. But you will eventually lose some control and gain some bumps and bruises. It’s worth it.

Don’t steer around the sections that scare you. Go over them. Go through them. Get muddy. Really muddy.

Pedal hard and, if you happen to crash and burn, go down with style.

Do something you’re terrified of.

Love big. Love recklessly.

Give more than you think you can afford.

Laugh. A lot. At life. In the face of your circumstance. At life’s impossibilities.

Do not worry about being “something” or “someone”. You already are.

Live well. Live loud. Live on purpose.

Live as long as you can in the woods, then bring the woods into the world with you. Oh yeah, and watch out for tree-dwelling ninjas.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Garnet Miller 02/20/06
What a delightful article. I especially liked the advice at the end. My carefree days have been replaced with mortgages and stress. But you know what? When I step out of the car in my parent's yard and breathe deeply the good old country air, I am transported back in time to a place where I can be a kid again with my kids. It's wonderful! Thanks for such a great story.
terri tiffany02/20/06
This was wonderful! I needed to read this today. My own daughter is leaving home and I am at the edge of the woods again and wondering how to live life. Thanks for writing this..I'll print it off. Oh..loved your easy style too!
Jan Ackerson 02/20/06
This is excellent! My teensiest suggestion is to re-write the sentence in the fourth paragraph with the 2nd person reference. I love your way with words--descriptive but not over to top, very evocative of the joys of childhood. Great job.
Brandi Roberts02/20/06
Well written. I enjoyed this. :)
Lynda Schultz 02/21/06
Wonderful! I ceased to dream as adulthood wore on, and am only beginning to dream again now. Excellent message, well delivered.
Birdie Courtright02/21/06
This was great! I was entertained all the way through...and loved the 'tips'at the end. Food for life! Great stuff!
Joe Moreland02/24/06
How often I catch myself in this exact same morass of adult living, only to be jerked back to the "real" world by one of my children begging me to do something insane with them. I can only add that you put your finger on it exactly...we weren't made to live life safely, but to stand out and be unique. I loved the way you took us back with you to your childhood, and then brought us forward to now so seamlessly. Excellent transition and great timing in your writing. Keep it coming.
Karen Rice02/25/06
Oh, I love coming home to play...what a great reminder for me that Wonder Woman is not stuck in the past, that she can still conquor evil, still get dirty (it won't stick!!!), never have a bad hair day or ruin her tights, move her quickest in heels, never break a nail. No one made fun of the way she dressed, had a cool invisible airplane, and never ever turned from a challenge.

Wonderfully, delightfully written!