I grew up in the country with cows and coyotes and snakes and jackrabbits. With hay bales to jump, trees to climb, and old barns and acres of woods and pasture to explore. With peace and quiet except for the occasional crack and pop of family and neighbors practicing marksmanship behind the stock-pond. To my five-year-old mind, going to Wal-Mart was tantamount to an expedition, requiring extensive preparation and the decision of the perfect toy or book to pack to pass the time on the (three-mile) drive into Town—and, yes, back then it was capital-T Town. A trip to “Dallas” aka anywhere west of the neighboring town of Forney, seemed a temporary move.
Now, I live in Town (though I’m sure someone from an urban area would still say I live in the country). I’m serenaded nightly by sirens rather than coyotes, and as a shy, private person I often feel trapped by the transparency of my chain-link fence and the constant presence of people on the street or in the yards. Don’t get me wrong, it has its upsides: like being an easy walk or bike ride from most places I want or need to go; and I’m pretty sure I’ve developed such a dependence on my internet I’d likely go into withdrawls if I had to stay with my parents in the sorry-you’re-about-100-feet-too-far-for-our-internet zone where I grew up.
Despite living roughly three miles from my parents and the home where I grew up, it can sometimes feel like an impassable chasm lies between. The chasm that lies between all of us and our childhoods. I still drive through once a week, if not more; but it’s not the same. I’m not the same.
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a runner. Have been a runner in some form or fashion since I was about twelve, because my mom was an avid runner. As a kid, I ran the rock roads around our home, had all the usual distances marked. The mile marker, first driveway around the corner at the end of the road. Mile and a half, the first bend of the S-curve, just past the delineation between rocky dirt and pavement, past the old Nike base. Two miles, where the little country road met Highway 205. The scenery was pretty and there was very little traffic; though the rocks on the road increased the threat of a twisted ankle and I carried a big stick to scare off the dogs that liked to chase and sometimes bite anything—runners, other animals, cars–that passed their houses.
Now, I’ve got favorite running locales all over the area. (And one day I’ll post a list of my top ten favorite.) Last week, I was feeling particularly nostalgic and decided to run my childhood route. The roads are all paved now. And the S-curve is a single curve that dead-ends where the old county road was converted to a FM road. Very little remains of the old Nike base, which as a child I had believed was an abandoned shoe factory until my dad laughingly explained that Nike was a type of missile they’d stored there during WWII.
And while the traffic is a little heavier, the scenery is still bucolic. So much has changed, and yet so much is still the same.
The smells of grass and soil and cattle—a pleasant yet slightly unpleasant aroma—fill the air. The hum and buzz of insects accompanied by birdsong, interspersed with the crackling of startled animals and underscored by the susurrus of the breeze in the long, prairie grass formed my running mix long before the ipod was unleashed upon the world. And I was pleased to find it still plays on a running loop, with seasonal variations, for the free enjoyment of all.
These simple pleasures brought me joy and peace as a child and they still do today as long as I take the time to slip on a good pair of shoes and get out there. And the best part is that this isn’t some far-off, utopic fairy realm. We can find it all around us in the green places, in the wild places, in the carefully nurtured landscapes and the lovingly tended desk plants. It’s in the life that flourishes all around us, and sometimes in spite of us. It’s something that merits our protection not our consumption. And if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, unplug for a bit, throw on some shoes, step outside and find out for yourself. ~a.d. guzman