Today, I took a leisurely kayak trip along the edge of a slow lake. Slow, that is, except for when a motor boat passed by. I love those moments, when the kayak is set to rocking and rolling upon the surge of waves each boat produces. It’s a gentle swoosh of up and down motion. Next thing I knew, that motion had rocked me right down to memory lane. Though it was not a wave for which I reminisced, rather, the swaying of the boat, reminded me a great deal of the swaying of a certain Maple tree within which I used to nap as a girl, 20 or so feet up in the air. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As a youth, I had the great fortune (or misfortune, depending upon how you look at it) to be one who traveled often. Like a military child, only more so than they. On this particular year my mother and I had moved to a new home at the very start of school vacation. New home, new town. consequently I knew not a soul, but not to worry, I set out right away to find what children I could and to make my friends where I could find them. It was perhaps my 9th or 10th year.
I expected it would be an easy thing, to find groups of children playing stick-ball in the street, or at least a few children in their backyards. But alas, this new neighborhood had very slim pickins. It all worked out in the end, proving to be one of the best years of my youth, but at this time in the very beginning? Very slim indeed.
After living in my new neighborhood long enough to know it like the back of my hand, one day I happened upon a new boy I had never before seen. He was a couple of years younger than me, if not more so, such was the difference in our respective heights. I still remember his name was Jason, completely different from the boys I was used to playing with, they with their endless wrestling contests and king of the mountain antics which I loved. Yes this boy was very different, soft-spoken and gentle. strangely, he was kinda like my own inner voice come to life in the flesh.
Jason would appear out of the blue, we would spend an entire day together, then he would disappear again for an untold amount of days. I never knew from wence he came nor when he would come back. In fact we hardly knew much about each other at all. But each time he came back, it was as if he never left, and together we would spend the day exploring, using our imaginations, and even talking of our hopes and dreams.
We both shared a deep fascination for the local pond, spending hours walking ankle deep in water, exploring in wonderment, all there was to see. Its how we developed our great plan. We were going to build a raft, it would be the perfect raft, to get us to the other side of the pond were we could explore even further than before.
Of course, since Jason could not swim we laid meticulous plans to be certain our raft would really float. Thus began our treasure hunt, to find all the discarded scrap wood laying about in the forest. Rocks became our hammers, nails were pulled from various sources with ingenuity. We even rigged up platforms as places to store our fishing gear which of course, would be strings tied to sticks. It was a labor of many days, spread out over weeks, for I would not build the raft except he was there with me to partake of the venture.
I had grown accustomed to finding Jason when I looked for him and grew very fond of our quiet unity. We took our time, I thought we had all the time in the world.
In another part of the forest, one day we talked as usual, (odd, how we spent so much time talking, isn’t it?) We talked and shared our mutual love for climbing trees. Mind you… I knew this place like the back of my hand. Nothing occurred within 2 miles of my house that I did not know about. Never-the-less, Jason spoke to me as usual, it happened out of the blue…
In a voice full of quiet innocence he spoke, “I have a favorite climbing tree. Do you want to see it?” I of course said, “Yes” and turned to follow him. Then with a confidence and a firmness well beyond his diminutive years, he spoke again, “Come on… I’ll show you.” Then… unexpectedly, he reached out and took my hand. He actually LED me. The walk lasted a couple of minutes.
I was floored, I was shocked. Such a simple gesture of trust and friendship, that hand which had slipped itself into mine. It was almost like I was being led by the hand of Christ himself, and this from a girl, too young to understand that she was already a cynic at the tender age of 10. My heart melted at his gesture. I can say that event as simple as it was, that moment taught me SO much about trust and friendship. Words can’t aptly express.
The tree was indeed a wonder to behold. A mature Maple whos lowest branches were far too high for either of us to reach. Jason showed me the trick. Again he expressed a maturity well beyond his years. Coaching me with utmost care, place my toe here, my hand there. The trick was to climb up a nearby sapling then transfer into the Maple with a kick and a swing, just so. Again I felt wonder, though at that tender age I barely knew the words to describe it even to myself.
I waited eagerly for Jason to return again. Our raft was at the verge of being finished. I waited for what seemed an eternity. At last it became aparent that he would not be returning. I never saw him again. I finished the raft alone, thinking of him the entire time. Who now can I share my joy with? Who will see this perfect labor of love and hard effort? I decided to show the raft to my parents and began to attempt to carry it to my house.
Kids don’t always think of practical things. We had build our raft VERY far away from the pond. My home was only about two minutes away. The raft seemed 200 pounds to me. I could not carry it, but had to roll/walk it. It took ages, but such was my pride of accomplishment, I just HAD to show it to somebody. Alas that 200 yards was too much even for me and sweating up a storm, I left it propped up beside the building. I never even got to find out if it would float. It never made it to the water. “What was the point anyway?”, I thought to myself. It was OUR raft after all, not mine alone.
The Maple tree Jason had shown me, on the other hand, became like a true friend to me, if trees can be said to ever be good friends. I spent much of that summer up in that tree, climbing to its highest branches till there were no more branches that could support my weight. There I would lay down, one leg each draped over a limb, my head propped on a third limb, hands folded neatly on chest. I watched new buds turn into full leaves over my head. They played and danced so. Even the smallest breeze on the ground would feel like a great gust that high up in the air.
If the wind began to pick up in any force, I would dare myself to stay in the tree as long as I could, before I chickened out. The tree creaked and vibrated with life beneath my back. Often, I dozed up there and watched raccoons and other life happening below me. They never ever look up.
As I experience my kayak, swaying with the swelll of water around me, sometimes gentle, sometimes fierce, I remember my tree. And I remember Jason. To this day I still do wonder: Was he just a child like me, caught up in a life between two divorced parents?
Was he an angel?
Sent to me at a time of need. Who set my feet upon a very specific and definite path and changed me forever in a way that can never be denied.
The day Love took me by the hand.
Heres to you Jason.
Who ever you may be.
And now, that Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are on on my mind… please enjoy this most classic of songs by RUSH. Its magical!
And the men who hold high places Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality Closer to the heart, Closer to the heart
The blacksmith and the artist Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the heart Closer to the heart
Philosophers and ploughmen Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the heart Closer to the heart
You can be the captain I will draw the chart
Sailing into destiny Closer to the heart