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Bars and Antique Stores
When thinking of my childhood, I often come across memories of a field set across the street from my first house. The difficult thing for people to understand is that even though my house was part of a small town, we were the in country. Our town had a grocery store, and even a main street, but there were no real stores. On summer afternoons when walked to the park, I would walk on the right side sidewalk of Main Street, past all the bars and the movie store. When I walked home in the evening, I would stick to the left side where the antique stores were just closing down. There were only bars, antique stores, and fields in my town. No, bars antique stores, fields, and mountains; that is where I grew up.
Since I was not a drinker, and I did not much admire old dolls and furniture, I spent much of my time in the field. Where I reside now, in Virginia, I have become acquainted with the common misconception that where I lived previously was a desert. However, cactus and lack of trees do not a desert make. Of course these things are a few characteristics of a dessert, but my field also had grass and a variety of plants.
I spent a lot of time in the field, most of it chasing after my brother and his friends. I always fell behind, because I was constantly tripping. In a way, that was a good thing.
I have often heard of people striving for a “birds eye view” but I feel as if we have been looking for the wrong thing. One would think that we have seen the world from the ground up more often than from the sky down, but that is not true. While trying to convince the sky to accept us, we have forgotten about the earth that is always there to catch us when the sky spits us out, time and time again. The ground has an even better view than the sky, and it always takes us back. Seeing from ground level is like entering a whole new world.
Falling. It’s a frightening thing, but if I allow myself to experience it in the right way, and in the right place, it can be a phenomenal experience. If I let go during the fall, I will experience that moment of perpetual bliss often felt when one is suspended in the air. If I choose delight over fear, when I hit the ground there will be no regret.
Colors. Most people are blind to them, caught up in the daily routine of life, but I can differentiate between each minuscule shift in hue. Every inch of every mile has a billion different colors, all mixing and working together. The brightly colored flowers pop against the tall, brown grass. Everyone is always stuck on the brown grass. They think it must be dead, when in fact it is more alive than anything else. Why is it brown? God knew that if there were no neutral, than the beauty of the flowers would not be as spectacular.
Beauty. I notice it in all the places no one thinks to look. If I were to look at each component separately, I would not see what there really is. True beauty of nature is how everything works together, to survive, to grow, and to start new life. Everything works to make everything else brighter, healthier, and more important. How can I, a stranger to this system, learn to go along?
I look around at all the plants, then look up to see the sky.
Sky. Stretching over me in every direction, ending only where it meets the mountains on three sides of me, but going on, seemingly forever, to the fourth, where there is only grass. A piercing blue that stands out against the neutral mountains.
Mountains. Reaching for the sky, conquering heights that humans have only started to reach. They hold even my parents, the most in charge people I know, within their almost complete prison. Even roads must fight and adapt to overcome the mountain range.
Skills. The steps necessary for survival in a place. For me this means knowing what plants are safe to eat and how to make soap from a yucca root. It means recognizing a coyote den and knowing the difference between a rattle snake hole and a prairie dog hole. It means learning the land, knowing the animals, and living with what you know. Only some skills can be taught, as for the others, you have to experience them.
Experience. That is the only way you could ever understand my home. It is the onlyway easterners would come to realize what truly defines a desert, and it is the only way to understand a small town with only bars and antique stores.