Dreams are powerful tools that can help guide anyone to success and happiness. They represent some cherished aspiration, an ultimate ideal of achievement.

The word sylvan refers most directly to a setting associated with the woods. Reflecting on the vigorous life that abounds in sylvan settings is a very powerful force in my life. For me, this word evokes feelings of transcendence, clarity, and unity.

A Sylvan Dream is a dynamic compilation of my life dream. It is an attempt to seek out and document the truth, beauty, and clarity that exists in this world.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Early Life - Part 1, Learning to Read

Learning to Read
While I was home during Christmas, it was great to spend so much time with my family. Although home is mostly the same when I go home, I witnessed subtle changes, one of which returned me to my childhood momentarily.

I was leaving to meet up with my friends, and my mom was sitting at the computer with my niece on her lap. Mackenzie was pounding on the keys, and my mom was urging her not to be so hard on them.

“What’s that,” Mackenzie would demand with a smile as she pushed her finger to the computer screen. My mom would try to sound out a word if there was a semblance of one, sometimes she would tell her to keep typing.

My mother used to do this with me. She would feed a sheet of paper into the typewriter, and allow me to lay waste to the sheet as my hands danced across the keys as though it were a piano of innumerable notes. At first, I remember seeing if I could type too fast for the machine. I felt joy in managing to stop its keys. I liked looking at the sweeping sinuous designs the hammer arms made as they overlapped each other in a rushed tangle instead of meeting the paper and recoiling in a blink as they were supposed to.

I remember one of these days only clearly enough to know it wasn’t long after my family moved across the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, from Lancaster county, home of the Amish, to York county, home of the racists. I was somewhere between three and four years old, old enough that I was speaking often, and beginning to only vaguely understand the symbolic relationship of all the signs my parents reacted to as if someone was speaking to them while driving me around in the car. I slowly began to understand that words were made up of these symbols called letters, and that all these letters could be arranged by my fingers dancing across the keyboard of a type writer, and from this came words, the same words I could speak!

After I was done, I would get up from the cold spare bedroom floor, and take the sheet of my writing to my mother to inspect for words. On this day I remember becoming particularly interested in what I later learned to be the letter q, and it covered the majority of my page, sometimes for several unwavering lines at once. My mom sat in her chair, tracing each line with her finger, as if feeling for a word. I eagerly watched the reflection of the paper in her glasses, her eyes rolling back and forth as though she might be dizzy.

“Well, here’s the word saw,” she said pointing to an amorphous jumble of letters on the page, “you know, like sawing a tree down?”

She made a motion with her arm, swinging back and forth, and I could see her arm sawing into a tree.

“Ohh,” I said slowly, taking the paper from her hands and walking out of the room. I sat in the spare bedroom, and stared at the word, wondering what made those letters mean the same thing as what we called a saw. A few minutes later I had come to no conclusions, and returned to my mom, asking her to find more words.

“That’s it,” she said resolutely, “that is the only word on the page.”


“That’s it beej,” she said again a little softer this time as she handed the paper back to me. I walked back into the room, and soon took to making more pages of typing. I don’t clearly remember how often I did this, but I can remember repeating these actions with my mom many times, and from this I began to recognize street signs, and understand worlds flying across the TV screen.

This type of learning was much different from what I was soon to be subject to. Everyone was so excited about learning how to read. Everyone was to begin learning how to read formally in school in first grade. I remember beginning first grade already after two years of school. I approached the air of importance that seemed to float about learning how to read a bit skeptically, yet I was excited to feel the same pleasure and satisfaction that my parents shared with my older sisters when they displayed their new talents at reading during school. This was a period of time in my life when being held by my parents was still simply the most pleasurable aspect of life, and learning to read seemed to provide another method to get them to hold me. I quickly found that I could get my parents to hold me in their arms a few more times a week if I could read a few sentences from a book we had spent weeks on at school.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Yeah, it's so great that it is a bluebird day, maybe we will get up there clear of clouds and wind," I said confidently looking towards the divide, "it would be great if the kids could get a close view of the divide." Mary nods in agreement, as we drive eagerly out of lyons and into the foothills, heading towards Rocky Mountain National Park.

However, forty minutes later, as we rounded one of the final corners approaching the Park in Estes, a tell-tale Chinook wall hovers above the Divide, periodically dropping between exposing movements, lifting to reveal a coating of fresh white powder. Mary and I smirk at each other with lips taught, both of us realizing we will not be greeted by glistening snow; rather a different world awaited us, only twenty minutes further into the mountains.

Squinting into the morning sun as we continued down the main street of Estes, I smirked at hearing the kids comment over all of the stores lining the road, knowing how different this quaint-looking road would look just several months later, clouded with hundreds of tourists, searching to buy their knick-knack, whose soul meaning it was to prove their momentary existence in Estes Park, Colorado; Grand Gateway to the Rockies.

I showed the park entrance attendant our papers, and rolled on as the kids excitedly pounded on their legs for one of our adult volunteers, celebrating his first entrance into RMNP.

"Gee! There's not much snow," A few of them commented at the lack of snow here at almost 8000 feet elevation.
"Yeah," I mumbled back to them in agreement, worrying over the spectacle of 10 kids' disappointment, excited to go snowshoeing in the National Park only to arrive to dry, wind-blown trails void of snow.

I glared at the snow hopefully after every turn as we wound higher into the Park. After several miles, my hope began to wane as I stared at continuous patches of open forest floor, until finally the sun went gray as we passed into pencil-thin subalpine forests thrashing wildly in the wind. Droves of snow flew past us, the sky grew whiter as the sun disappeared, and the kids began to remark over the 4 foot banks of snow flanking the winding road.

"Alright, it's gonna be really windy out there, and it's probably gonna be uncomfortably cold, we need to get ready in the van, so when we get out into that wind, we can get our snowshoes on and get on the trail quickly, where the wind isn't as crazy," as I spoke a few kids dazed out, turning their heads to watch a family leaning against the freezing wind, grimacing as they donned their skis and backpacks.

Snow and freezing wind blasted into the van as the first kids threw open the doors to hop out. Snow swirled, and quickly began piling atop the van seats. Quickly we pulled snowshoes from the back of the van, and helped the kids attach them to their feet. Snow undulated in dancing tendrils around us and down the road. Cold wind and snow found the crevices between our hats and coats, chilling our neck. Slowly, each kid successfully attached their snowshoes and migrated to the relative shelter of a pavilion next to the forest, waiting for everyone to get ready.

Twenty minutes later, I tightened the final straps to the last kid. We hurried into the forest, and around the corner to the edge of the lake for a picture, and here the kids felt the true depth of Winter breathe into every exposing crevice of their clothing, making them shiver, wide-eyed in the realization of real Rocky Mountain winter cold. The group feigned masculine poses of triumph over the winter while I snapped a few shots with my camera, before running off of the frozen lake back into the shelter of the dense trees.

Hiking into the woods, Mary and I giggled, realizing quickly how little distance the group would cover together. In just a few hundred yards, we had to stop once to reattach a snowshoe, and again to change wet cotton socks. While waiting, we played a game of Lynx and Hare. I took off my snowshoes to become the lynx, while everyone else ran from me, as though they were snowshoe hares. Having never played this game, I thought it might be possible, or even easy to chase down each hare, encumbered by their large and buoyant feet. This was not the case. Two steps off the trail, my right foot disappeared up to my hip into the snow, and I felt no ground beneath it. Struggling free and standing upright again, I made it two more steps until my left foot disappeared as well, and this is how the game ensued until the socks were changed, and we continued.

Half a mile from the trailhead, we stumbled against the wind onto the frozen surface of small Nymph Lake. As the kids slowly filed out of the forest towards us, Mary and I decided this was a good place for lunch, as well as a turn around point. The temperature was hovering just above the 0 degree mark, and with a constant driving wind stinging snow into our faces, this was much, much colder than I had felt in a very long time, perhaps ever.

"Alright! Let's go into the trees and get some lunch," I yelled into the wind around the circle of kids. We lumbered into the trees, and fell back in delight, as the snow welcomed us with a cushioned hand, creating makeshift lazy-boys as our butts created perfect-fitting depressions to sit in. I inspected the kids as they sat down, finding all of them ecstatic with the day so far. Even the cold and shivering ones seemed to be glibly restraining their discomfort for the better enjoyment of the group. I pulled a frozen raspberry jam and almond butter tortilla out of my backpack and ate, watching to see what interesting lunches the kids had brought from home. My tortilla was gone far too quickly, and I felt too cold to dig the rest of my many grain oatmeal from my backpack, so I watched the kids eagerly, secretly hoping some of them had brought too much food to eat alone.

A plump doug squirrel hopped through the snow from tree to tree, until it was an arm's length away peering nervously from behind the tree, searching for an outstretched hand offering food. I knocked on the other side of tree, and the squirrel quickly ran up the tree, flinging itself through trees, and quickly descending next to others in the group, seeking help in this bitter winter forest it calls home. After only a minute or two of no luck, it returned to the treetops, and glided away from us like a bird, towards another group of people up the hill. For a few moments, I felt the plight of the squirrel as it stared at me from the other side of the tree, momentarily exposing itself to inspect my outstretched hand, in hoped of salvation. It lingered only for a moment, anchored to faith in our good nature.

There was only wind. The trees danced above us, swaying to a rhythm that will seldom lapse for another three months. The kids smiled at each other as they hurriedly ate their lunches, some still staring into the treetops, hoping the squirrel would return.

As we made a shortcut across the lake, thw wind blew so fiercely that I could not see others only twenty feet in front of me. As we emerged from the trail, we made straight for the shelter of the van. Not one of us turned to give a glimpse back at what we had just experienced. Barely an hour we explored the haunts of the subalpine winter forest, yet it sent all of us reeling back to the comfort of a steel cage and engine that would carry us back into Estes Park, where we peered back into the mountains out a sunny window, slowly sipping peppermint-cocoa warmth back into our body.