Growing up is a creeping thing. It doesn’t happen all at once—it comes instead in small, hesitant steps urged on by inexperience, grabbed up greedily, desired and hoarded until it crams itself into every available empty corner, filling places with responsibility where dreams once wandered.
Age easily takes up sovereignty once it’s admitted. Experience, confidence, knowledge, accomplishment, systematic management of hours and years—they take over, stable and ascendant. Age builds a fortress, a throne room, from which life is managed, data sorted, plans made and executed. We yield this ground more than willingly, expecting it to open a way for achievement, for explosion from bud to blossom.
But this ordering, this considered management also exacts a price. It imposes the tyranny of the useful. From these heights, play becomes wasted time, spontaneity is assigned to fools, and dreaming disintegrates and floats away, shouldered out by schedules and appointments.
This is when childhood becomes clearer and I, with both hands up, cling to the bars of my handcrafted prison. I peer out between them, whose names I now know to be Misunderstood Serving and Unnecessary Sacrifice, into an almost untouched world of effortless surprise.
The pendulum has swung too far, and I have pushed it into motion with my own two hands. But I can push it back again. Childlike joy, after all, has not vanished. It’s only hiding and to find it requires no effort at all.
Life is not a job, living not an assignment that will be graded according to its results. Even as I am given work to do, gifts to use, a talent to invest, so does God give me Time—long, open expanses of clear air and the freedom to fill them or to simply walk into them, feeling the brush of tall reeds through my fingers or the sun on my hair.
I’ve lost too much time already, I think. The towering, perfectly round maple in my west field has made and lost twenty undocumented crowns of leaves. I don’t know which birds nest in the old henhouse. My children have gotten old enough to produce their own new humans. The sun has risen and set too often unremarked.
There is a point where planning becomes superfluous. Opening eyes and unclenching fists is the easiest thing in the world to do. Perhaps it would have been better to have seen this earlier, but this bit of horizon is now, at least, coming into better focus. Now, like an infant, all I need to do is look out and reach.