After waking before five this morning and finding myself unable to locate slumber again, I arose and began my day with little direction. Certainly I had my share of necessary evils to do today. In fact, I had jotted down a rather long list of chores just last night, yet within me grew a restless spirit unwilling to delve into such mundane tasks before the sun climbed above the horizon.
I shared quality time with The Kids before making my way to fetch a cup of coffee. Upon returning, however, I found the disquiet within me continued growing like a tumor until it threatened to overwhelm me.
As though driven by some unseen command, I eventually grabbed the camera and walked down to the lake. Whether burying myself in the natural world could resolve my unsteady morning remained to be seen. Nevertheless, I was willing to try anything in the hope it would conquer the directionless wanderings of my thoughts.
When first I entered the refuge from urban life, I found myself beset on all sides by a quiet stillness. The early hour meant few people had arrived at the lake. The as yet unsullied microcosm of places far removed from here welcomed me, embraced me with heavy dew undisturbed and thickly wet, greeted me with smells untainted by human activity that would soon overrun its sensual scent, and whispered to me with a voice too silent and unmoving to be heard by anyone else.
I felt awash by showers of absence. Absence of concern. Absence of commotion. Absence of people. Pure, blissful absence.
Dirty with haze immobilized by a lack of wind, even the air clung to the ground and refused to budge. So, then, did the water sit almost motionless.
Although so familiar to me as to be kin and kith in one, Sunset Bay seemed to hold no offering for me on this morning. I beckoned to it to hold me dearly as it so often has.
In response, it offered all it could to fulfill my unspoken need. But it was not enough, so I journeyed away from that sacred place in search of something else. What I needed would be found elsewhere… if at all.
Already the sun dappled the landscape as its light struggled into the sky and forced its way through verdant foliage now thick with spring’s vitality. Tributaries of shadow traced stark contrasts between the day and what little of the night remained in places deep and dark, those secret hollows where its reign sometimes doesn’t end even as noon draws nigh.
No solace was to be found in such wonders, though. My eyes feasted on heavenly sights while my spirit grew more anxious with empty musings. I wished for relief from whatever vampire had drained me of my will.
I turned and moved on. This place that usually captivates me so had been unable to satiate my needs. Though it surprised me, I knew it would strive to fulfill my wanting if I would only keep going, keep soaking myself in its bathing hold.
Then suddenly the air grew sweet with an aroma from Olympus. Indeed it must have emanated from the nectar of the gods for it billowed around me and seduced me with a bouquet that could be tasted as much as smelled. I was drawn to it, pulled onward by its maddening enticement.
Honeysuckle in full bloom covered a large swath on the opposite bank. Its temptation nestled safely in a riparian habitat forever out of reach for human visitors. Like siren songs the flowers cast their vivacious allure across the water calling to all who could smell. Yet with a natural moat separating the plant from its human admirers, its safety was ensured.
“Look but don’t touch,” it could be heard saying. “Breath the gift, but do not consume it.”
Vexed of insatiable want and teased with what could not be had, I cursed the beautiful flora and turned away. I would not suffer its seduction any longer.
Along the edge of waterways coursing through the area I walked, and I searched for something I could neither identify nor name. My bosom gave life to a craving need that refused to be sated. And I hated myself for it, for not knowing, for not understanding, and for requiring that which could not be had.
At last with feet upon the edge of yet another stream, this one smaller than those I had already visited, I stood in shadows cast by trees both old and wise, and upon their reflections in the water I gazed unendingly. As clear as glass this liquid sat. Like everything else, it rested without moving, clinging to the banks and bottom of its safe harbor. I resented its contentment. Somewhere within me I felt a need to take it, to rend it from the water itself so it could be mine.
The reflections, however, reminded me of patience, of a stoic resolve to withstand what we do not comprehend. In that moment, I realized my budding anger welled from a place I could not reach on my own. The morning thus far had changed nothing.
With damnable curses spoken under my breath for wanting what laid right before me but was unattainable, my agitated state drew me elsewhere. My feet were all too happy to oblige, for they wished to carry their burden on an unending quest. For them, at least, the walking was diversion enough.
Everywhere I went presented the same thing: an utter calm vehemently contradicting my mood. Where trees and brush reached across the water, they cast shadows upon a still and reflective surface. In their lack of motion I discovered and rediscovered discontent. What drew me forward I didn’t know. A fruitless search over the distances I traveled meant I would not find my answers there. Still, I kept going.
As I approached the opposite side of the peninsula from where my trek had begun, I realized hours had passed and the lake had turned from serene quiet to busy cacophony, all of it due to the unending influx of people. Even though I shirked throngs of them at every turn, I felt more pressed upon by them. It became increasingly difficult to avoid them.
And then I found it.
While it did not supply the demand I felt, allowing my feet to aimlessly move step after step had brought me to a place so far removed from the masses of writhing humanity as to be a world unto itself. The lush greenery provided for a veritable Eden.
Although sunlight struggled to invade its borders, only on the outside fringes did its brightness make an impact. In the heart of the spot there existed a private, secluded, protected locale wherein sunshine was unwelcome. Even more important, its walls were thickly constructed of dense forest and thicket. It offered to me—and me alone—a place where I could rest, think, and meditate, all without a single intrusion by mindless apes converging on the one refuge available. In their haste to enjoy a bit of nature, they changed it from an escape to a destination. And in that moment it became anything but natural.
Yet I stood in the midst of a garden so hidden as to be otherworldly. Even the sounds of civilization did not penetrate its boundaries with ease.
Only then did I finally realize the source of my gloomy outlook. Only as I stood in such a wondrous place did I at last see the truth of my restless wanderings.
The beauty of the place had done nothing to quell my longing. It had offered so much yet provided so little. Why then did I suddenly discover the answer I had been seeking all along?
It was in that world within a world that I came to see the truth of my quandary. Despite the presence of so much splendor right outside my door, I have grown to hate this place. I have grown to despise its deception by way of human violence against what I want… need.
When I go to the lake, I find myself escaping to a false sense of wonder. It’s artificial and surrounded on all sides by horrendous invasions.
Even amongst the most quiet and still of creatures, even as I stand in hidden gardens of life, I need only take a few steps to see skyscrapers, cars, and brutally primitive people who litter and mutilate the area out of selfish intent.
I held my camera and understood finally that using it in this place brings with it the need to constantly adjust views to keep from capturing the trash that permeates every place there is, to avoid taking a snapshot of the hundreds of people that can be seen in one place within the course of an hour. I have to work to see nature here. It doesn’t come by itself.
And it was in that second of introspection that I fell under the spell of the epiphany I had been seeking.
It’s time to go. The decision to leave Dallas is now final. The hopeful intention to get away from large cities and concrete jungles is at last a done deal. My abhorrence for civilization and the people who create it has reached the pinnacle of its growth, and it now demands action.
This will be a year of change for me. This will be a turning point in my life that for too long has hinged directly on the overwhelming stench of humanity.
I need breathing room. I need fresh air. I need to be able to take a walk in places unsullied by too much progress. I need to see and hear and smell the fascinating and wonderful enchantment nature can offer when not subjugated by such unreasonable foes. I need to walk along waterways not filled with litter. I need to see fields and forests thriving with life in its normal habitat rather than only those creatures that haven’t yet been pushed out of their homes or wiped out entirely. I need to exist somewhere that offers a night sky black and robust with the universe’s tithes.
I need to get away from here.