Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: End (02/13/06)
TITLE: My Life, the Woods & Man Eating Piranha
By Kevin Kaiser
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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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