Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Sky Was Never Too Big (for The Incredible Hulk)

My t-shirt was soft and worn. When The Incredible Hulk slipped over my head, I knew that I could conquer the world. The pocket-knife in my frayed cut-off blue-jeans was my weapon that could withstand dragons and whittle spears. I had a tire-swing that could launch me into space and circle the globe. I travelled daily to far away places that I knew, and places that had never been discovered. A sandbox contained an entire city of matchbox cars, complete with a grocery store, a gas station, and a church. Oh, and of course a McDonald's. I mean, you gotta have priorities, right?

And then there was the boundary. A woodpile near the back property line leaned up against the fence that my dad and my grandpa built. By hand, using a rusty, creaky set of post hole-diggers, a tamping bar, a spade, and a wheelbarrow they set fence posts that surrounded my world. Beyond was wilderness. A meandering creek through the forest at the base of a cliff. Rusted and burned out cars lined the creek wall, a fascinating mystery and source of speculation to a developing mind. I was convinced that skeletons still grinned from those overturned wrecks. I would imagine their white bony grip on my ankles as I chased minnow and crawdads around their murky shadows.

The creek was rich with snakes. Both on the land, and some in the water. A misplaced step or an overturned rock would often reveal their rapid slid and my panicked retreat. My dog would always save me, and together we would run to the top of the old dirt pile near the shed where I would flop onto my back and gaze at the shifting clouds. I was mesmerized by both the depth of the eyes of a trusting dog, and the secrets hidden in the movement of the sky.

I knew no limits. The imagination of an only child armed with a pocket-knife, a dog, a canteen, a minnow seine, and a granola bar has more transformative power than the Hoover Damn. It was here that I began a life-long practice of contemplation. The warm sun and the sounds of rural Ohio served as my backdrop as my mind played out countless possibilities and impossibilities.

At times my full-hearted attack led me neck deep into trouble: falling through the ice in a winter creek, shooting the neighbor out of a tree with my BB-gun, skinny dipping in front of guests, flipping my motorcycle into the chain link fence, knocking the privacy fence down with the lawn mower, falling through my bedroom window, falling out of my treehouse, getting stuck in the tree, trying to flush the Incredible Hulk down the toilet, and my parents still say that I kicked in the front storm door (I STILL deny that one).

Life now... well, it's really not so different for me. Roaming The Countryside has deep meaning. As a child this is what I did to broaden my world. Grab my supplies and my dog and trek out for hours and discover the tactile world around me and then lay flat on my back and let my mind take me farther. Now, we roam a broader countryside. Kel and I have travelled to Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, Russia, Guatemala, and soon we hope to find ourselves in China. I still run headlong into things, and at times am met with a painful collision. But, the pain is so worth the journey.

We embrace life. This is our only shot. If you dream of doing something "One Day," then I challenge you that your best chance of doing it is now. Now when the fire is in your belly. C.S. Lewis once wrote that hope is as useless as fear (my paraphrase, for context see The Screwtape Letters, chapter 6, opening paragraph). Both cause you to do nothing. If all you are doing is hoping for "One Day" then you are doing nothing to get yourself there. Too often we view ourselves as victims in the universe when we could simply take the first step and chase our goals.

For me to dream is better than to hold hope. Dreaming inspires action, but hope simply waits on a tomorrow that never comes.

And so, we Roam The Countryside together. We chase our dreams. We scare our families and worry our friends. We put our finances on the line as well as our personal safety. But the risk is measured, and the pay-out is incredible. This life is given to us once, and it is meant to be lived.

For he has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind.

It is good that I remember the ah, "sound mind" part, and... does anyone know where I can buy Underoos for adults?

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