"Toutes les grandes personnes ont d'abord été des enfants. (Mais peu d'entre elles s'en souviennent.)"
- Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince
I am an adult. I don't remember the moment I became one if there is a single moment at all. But there isn't a day, since then, that I have woken up without worry. I am frightened by what I see on the news, in my own life. I fear for others, I think, more than I fear for myself, for the world is relentless, a constant battle warring between all things, living, and breathing. It is in that a flood of debris that sullies good and corrupts solace. Conflict is everywhere; there is no wishing it away. There is no paradise separate from cruelty. And that is beautiful.
I am eighteen. I struggle with understanding the world around me. There is so much to see, to learn, and I find myself overwhelmed to a point of unending alertness. I am always experiencing, experiencing, experiencing, impressionable and vulnerable like the lamb. I am fighting to untangle myself from my own vices and I am blind to those of others. I acknowledge that they exist, of course- but I am in no position to understand them. They are not mine. They do not affect me. I'll leave them alone.
I am a child. Everything around me buzzes with music, strong and constant and bright, filling my head to my tiny toes with warmth and repose. I am constantly looking for beauty, simply, never stopping, always moving. And I see good. I see justice, or I make justice. The world can do me no harm; I am invulnerable.
There was this tree, a great, strong tree with stern branches and hollow space between the leaves perfectly sized for the quaint body of a curious girl. It was my favorite to climb; the bark was polished enough to touch but knobbed enough to allow for friction. There were endless paths to take when climbing that tree; each time was an exhilarating combination of grabbing, kicking, and chance. With so many options, I never planned my route, for I knew that each move I made was certain. I placed my trust in that tree when I climbed, that my foot would always land on a sturdy surface. Trees like that are hard to come by; the ratio of smooth to rough is often too unbalanced to provide adequate leverage.
On my way up through the branches, I would see ants, giant black ants with long, sticky legs and the uncanny ability to climb nearly vertically. I was never afraid of insects; they too were alive, after all, and were adroit climbers like myself. And being adroit climbers as we were, each of us was able to attain the same height, see the same view. It wasn't much – the foothills hide most of the mountains – but it was mine. From my place nestled in between limbs, only the ants and I had the opportunity to see the light shine the way it did, reflect off of the land and into my eyes from that one specific spot in that one specific tree. Sometimes, from my spot, I'd see geese, walking together in rhythm, an army of toy soldiers poised for childish battle, deployed by some unknown hand in some unknown realm. I could see where the sky ended and the peaks began, where Heaven kissed the earth. God had sent me a gift. Then I fell.
I haven't been back to that tree. I'm nearly positive that it is still there, among other trees, in the same park that I've walked past for ten years. Sometimes I find myself yearning to discover a new combination of footing to reach my crook, to see those obscure shadows of mountains behind the hogback. I miss the challenge, cradled in a blanket of certainty and a sense of trust. I miss the sight, but also the sound of the leaves in my ears, the chill of the wind raising goosebumps on my bare neck. I wish to climb it, still, and I'm perfectly capable. I could walk to that tree. I could climb it. But I don't.
Children do this funny thing of sharing and then taking away, to give their peers a quick glimpse of something new, and mock their disdain in its absence. It frightens me that my spot has remained untrodden by myself, that my own gift is left alone, vulnerable, unused. It's a tree in the middle of a forest and by Gosh, would it make a sound if it fell?
So I often envy the ants, driven by the instinct to climb and not by the fear of falling. They trod the same path every day, up and down, up and down. They are constantly reassured that the peaks of the mountains, and the roots of the tree, remain unchanged. I do not have that luxury, but I have stopped searching for reassurance of what I do know, and embarked on seeing the unexpected.
And it kills me, the unexpected. The horror stories on the news that keep me from walking around the block, from buying canned food and applesauce. I am no longer invincible – but I realize that. I am no longer sheltered under nature's wing, under the wing of childhood, in the space in between the leaves. I realize that my actions are directly related to the experience of others, and my own perception is influenced by theirs. Oh, dear Brutus, I have so much more influence than I give myself credit for, but also so little influence in the eyes of the Creator. I am so impressionable, but also so stubborn.
I live in a world that gives, and takes away. It bites me and I bite back. Because I am a child, wanting to experience. And fifteen, overwhelmed. And an Adult, fearful. I can hide in a tree, I can see beauty, but I will fall. Then I will stumble upon a new tree.
I am learning, every day I learn. I am no teacher. I am and will remain a pupil, then,
I am also the experiment of my own observation. The world uses me to teach me.J'étais un enfant, et je m'en souviens.