There are three ways to get to my favourite place.
I can go out the gate at the back of the yard and cross the farmer’s field, but this only works when the soil is firm and dry, ’cause the ruts are deep and my feet are small.
The second way is through the backyards that border the field. This is tricky sometimes, because not all the neighbours want kids in their backyards, and two doors down there is a family of mean boys. I can take any of them by themselves, but if all three decide to gang up on me, I’m in trouble.
The third way is to go around by the street, but I never feel safe doing this. I am only a little kid, and not supposed to be on the road by myself.
But I will take I whatever risks I need to take to get there.
Once I get past the houses and the fields, there are woods. A path runs through them, but it doesn’t go there, so I have to step off the path. I usually look for openings between the trees, and push branches back to step over fallen limbs or stumps. Sometimes, I stumble, but that’s okay.
Once I am out of sight of the path, and everything is quiet, I listen for it – the bubbling, laughing, trickle of water. The sound makes me giddy, and I push harder through the brush, hardly noticing the branches scraping my skin.
My heart dances when I see the light of the clearing ahead, and as I break through the trees, I see it: my stream! The water is so clean and clear, I can see right to the bottom!
Digging my heels into the rock bed, I squat down, preparing for a long sit. I can watch the water for hours. I love how the stream flows constantly, swirling around rocks, catching twigs and leaves as it rolls, carrying them along until they become snagged again. I imagine that I am the water, cool, crisp, and clear, flowing, constantly flowing. It makes me feel carefree, and alive.
I study the bottom of the creek, looking for life, and if I am patient enough, I will spot a crayfish, white-bodied, translucent, diligently making its way, holding its ground against the current, in constant search mode. Sometimes, I will sit on my bum and dip my toes in the water, tempting the crayfish to nibble, but it never does. It scurries away, as if I am something to be afraid of.
Mostly, I am still like the praying mantis: quiet so that nature won’t notice me, and go about its business.
Everything about this place makes me feel good all over: the constant, soothing rhythm of the water, the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, the gentle summer breeze, the mingling scents of earth and flora, and the unabashed chirping of the birds. In my stillness, I belong here, and a sense of harmonious wonder fills me.
And then the wind will change, and I will notice that the sun has shifted and the shadows are growing longer, and I will know that it is time to return home. As I emerge from the trees, back onto the path, I feel a tug of regret for having to leave the stream behind, and enter once more into the everyday unpredictability that is my life.