Back when I was little, say eleven or twelve, I would hang out with my cousins a lot… or at least a lot more than I do now. Being an only child, my cousins were pretty much the only people resembling siblings that I had. Being severely introverted, my cousins were pretty much the only people resembling friends that I had. The only problem, of course, was that they lived an hour and a half away. So, yeah, that kind of made it impossible to just pop over any time I wanted to. Because I couldn’t drive. Because I was twelve.
They had a lot of land, though, and it was fun to run around and play. (This was in the days before smartphones and tablets; the most advanced technology we had was a Nintendo 64.) Starting in front of their house and expanding in every direction was a wooded area that weaved its way through several grassy fields. But from the perspective of kids, it looked more like a big forest. Indeed, looking at it on Google Maps, it seems like it would still be easy to get lost in those woods. Many games of hide and seek took place in these woods, and not the kind of fast-paced hide and seek that’s limited by the size of a back yard. I’m talking about hour-long stealth battles. The map, if you will, was pretty much infinite. And we explored every bit of it.
I remember one of my favorite things to do was sit on their front porch and watch the many colors of sunset filter through the trees. There were just enough gaps in the trees that you could watch the sunlight blink out one section at a time. Different colors would appear at different points, and my experience was unhindered by an astronomy lesson. Looking back, this was a sacred experience for me. I know it’s not typical of a child to pay this much attention to a simple sunset, but these were incredible moments for me. It was at times like this where I was sure… I was absolutely sure that there was something greater than just myself and other people. There was purpose and reason that can’t be explained by coincidence or luck. And it was fun… it was one of the few places where I actually remember having a childhood and not just a series of memories of reading books or standing in a corner waiting to be noticed.
Unfortunately, life moves on and you can’t just live in that moment. My cousins and their family have moved on to other places, and I’ve moved on with my life. I no longer have the same eyes I did when I was little. Nothing in this life is permanent. The woods that I found peaceful as a child are no more. But perhaps some days I can still catch a glimmer of that same sunset through the trees if I look hard enough.