In my early childhood, my family spent vast amounts of time outdoors. Camping trips, or daily feeding runs to the farm where my dad leased land for cattle, or fall treks on my grandfather’s land to search for walnuts, or the imagination station of our own yard (that was far grander in scale from a small perspective than it was in actual scale)—outside informed me about the world and myself. Before many other voices gained entrance and told me otherwise, the world told me that it was full of adventure and wonder and mysteries. Creation formed a mirror by which I saw myself, full of adventure and wonder and mysteries.
We walked creeks that wound through lands my parents and grandparents knew. We swung on monkey branches that gave us safe passage across ravines we imagined to be large and dangerous. We scaled hills. We found our way to town across three farms that belonged to people we knew, because everyone knew everyone then and there. We created make-believe orphan homes by dried-up creek beds and fallen trees. The domed canopy of the crab apple tree and its smooth, damp floor served as a hiding place from all the bad guys.
Dad taught us the song of the whippoorwill, how to listen for it and how to whistle a response and see how long the exchange could go on. Mom took us to Granny and Daddy Hob’s garden and taught us how to recognize a ready green bean and ear of corn. She knew where the blackberries grew. My parents set up a house each spring for the purple martins, and we watched for their arrival. With an ice pick, Mom poked holes in countless jar lids to give our lightening bugs and grasshoppers and frogs and butterflies air to breathe.
We rode on the back of the tractor and on wagons pulled by a tractor. We jumped the oversized round bales like an obstacle course for some Olympic game yet to be known by real athletes. We traipsed without fear on barn scaffolding. We played in Uncle Phil’s silos and tobacco barns. We fished, we romped in the fields, we made hay bale mazes in Ms. Barnett’s barn, we built forts. We came home with dirt under our fingernails.
When I was little, we played and lived as much time as we were allowed outside. Before circumstances and people told me who I was, God’s good green earth informed me. Ants and lightning bugs and birds and flowers and clovers and water spigots and clouds and snow and rain and snakes. Cracks in the sidewalk and leaves and blossoms and maple leaf helicopters and sand and swings and wind and stars in the sky. Bats and the smell of earth and grass and fresh strawberries off of the vine and cows and cow manure and barns and fields of waist-high grasses and handfuls of violets and dandelions and weeping willows and the moon and the sun. These were the voices I heard first. They spoke true words, true elements in the face of every other thing that could turn.
Before I believed weird stories about myself—that I was too much, that I was too sensitive, that being a pretty little girl was a power or a detriment; before pornography told me I was sexual, that my body could be dirty, that I could be dirty in my body. Before all of this, my heart beat strong inside me. I trusted the goodness of God, I trusted God in me. I believed, with the pure faith of a child, the words we sang around the piano at church—Jesus loves me, this I know.
Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied, “Rabbi, let me see again.”