When I was eleven we moved to the Bay Area in Northern California. However, the concrete jungle did not appeal to my family. My dad worked really hard to get transferred to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Writing this, I hear him telling me that saying “mountains” is redundant, as Sierra Nevada means “snowy mountain range” in Spanish. And so we found ourselves in those snowy mountains next to a beautiful little reservoir. Besides a few cabins here and there, it was a fairly isolated place. I was allowed a lot of freedom to explore. I had some special places there: a large, flat slab of granite where I’d sit and catch lizards and listen to the wind in the trees (anyone see the movie Nell?); a place by the lake where I’d watch the ducks and herons do their wild dance; a path around the lake where I could walk like a Native American Indian, one with the forest; and a nearby glade where we’d walk and find relics of an Indian camp—grinding rocks, arrowheads, beads, crystals. This place filled me with a spirit bigger than my own and gave me a sense of connection in lonely times (otherwise known as junior high).
Since we’ve been homeschooling (and especially since my daughter is junior high age), I’ve become aware that she doesn’t have the same access to the natural world. We live in suburbia. While we are lucky enough to live near a creek, it is inhabited by homeless people and litter and graffiti. I don’t feel safe walking by myself there and would not think of letting my daughter wander there alone.
One benefit of having this creek (however unloved), is that it draws wildlife. We do go for walks together. We see green herons, ducks, squirrels, and once Anouk spotted a rat that had built a little home in a bunch of plants in the middle of the creek. There are native plants and birds and insects and lizards. And sometimes these things venture into our yard. We’ve even been visited by skunks and flocks of turkeys! Just this morning a possum was investigating our back porch. And our trees are filled with beautiful little songbirds. For living in the suburbs, we really are lucky.
I’ve lived in this town for almost thirteen years and still have not accepted it as my home. I’ve been in this house for approaching six years and still haven’t quite moved in. So, where am I?! Limbo. Not the game, but the place between heaven and hell. I’m stuck waiting for my childhood dream to somehow manifest—to live back in nature. But do we ever live out of nature?!
Who knows if I will ever get back to the woods or how long I will live in this place. Who knows?! But I’m here, now. And for as long as I am here, I vow to get to know this place. Maybe in turn, it will introduce me to myself, to my nature. And so, today, I am turning over a new leaf.