There was a time when being here made me feel whole. A time when being saturated in the sweet pine and maple scent was worth the bugs and scurrying critters. In the summer, the entire open field would be alive with gorgeous clusters of wildflowers and we’d run through the tall grass hand in hand, sending the strays flying behind us as though they were the worries of the world. Gone, dismissed, forgotten, they were.
Without missing a beat, we’d run to the music of the foliage, harmonized by the wind carrying us through. Laughter would pierce the echoing silence and the disturbance would create a commotion of wings, barking, and sounds you could only hear in the forest. Zigzagging through on foot, there was never a shortage of fallen logs or loose branches to aid our imagination. Skinned knees and scraped arms came to be the price we were always willing to pay.
Once we’d reach Old Man’s Cat Hole, it was simply a jump into the swampy pond that would reveal the winner of our races. On those hot summer days we’d swim a while before relaxing on the dock. Old Man’s held so many memories from all the seasons and now they are forever tarnished by the void in my heart.
Several years later, I visited all the places we used to go in the heart of sweet summertime. The field of wildflowers is now gone, dug up and tilled for the next year’s crop season. The forest is still there, but it’s darker and less thrilling. The magic is gone, my imagination tired with grief. Old Man’s is nearly shallow enough to walk across and never have it reach my waist. Maybe it’s always been this way. Maybe this entire place was nothing more than a mirage.
But then again, maybe it was just two kids who saw the magic, the potential for the greatness this place had and refused to see the reality.