Kalamazoo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Kalamazoo is a place of great tranquility. You are probably wondering if I mean Kalamazoo, Michigan. Kalamazoo is the name that my friends and I gave to the childhood hangout where we used to play. Now I go there when I want to be alone and think. Even though it is only about three hundred feet from my house, I feel secluded from the rest of the world. It is a wooded area of maple and oak trees, wild flowers, tall grass and rocky ledges. Isolated from my house and neighbors, I can just be myself. I can hum, sing or shout and I won't be embarrassed. The time seems to pass more slowly there, perhaps because there is not much to do except to look and think. It is a good place to sort out problems or get inspiration.

As the seasons change, so does my special place. In the summer the wild flowers, tall grass and trees form a natural fence, a green shelter from the rest of the world. If you lie down among the soft green, you can stare up at the clear blue sky through a hole in the branches of the trees. In the autumn there are different sights and sounds. The leaves turn colors and the oak trees drop their acorns. They "klunk" as they hit the rocky ground.

In winter I don't visit my place as often because it is usually too cold when the ground is covered with snow and ice. Kalamazoo can look bleak and scary when the trees wave their dark, bare arms. The grass and flowers are lifeless, withered and flattened by the frost. It can be desolate and depressing, at times matching my mood. I'll just sit there, letting my frustration or sadness echo the ugliness of nature in winter. At other moments, Kalamazoo can be beautiful when it is transformed from a barren, gloomy landscape into a fairyland of shimmering glass after an ice storm has coated the trees. In the spring, the squirrels, birds and insects are busy. The lush growth of plants and grass again provides a secluded hideaway.

On this afternoon, I am perched on a rock. As I concentrate on my surroundings, there is a noisy concert of birds calling to one another. There is a woodpecker tapping through the thick bark of an old tree. The vibrant leaves of red, yellow and golden orange rustle as the wind blows gently. The wind increases and the leaves fall slowly, showering me.

As I sit here, childhood memories rush through my head. My friends and I used to play house, dividing the various rocky formations and flat places into rooms. We created a kitchen area in one section. We used an old picnic table and plastic silverware to create a restaurant. There were bedrooms and a living room. We used an old misshapen tree for a bike. Kalamazoo was transformed into a jungle wilderness, complete with a rope swing. We crawled through the tall grass in search of wild beasts.

Kalamazoo stills looks the same as it did years ago, but I look at it differently now. It used to be a place to play with friends, and now it is my private space to be alone to sort out problems or seek inspiration from nature. When I have outgrown Kalamazoo, perhaps other children will discover this special place, a sheltered spot to call their own.n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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