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.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Early Life-Part Three, Finding Nature

After Summer ended and second grade brought me back indoors, I was lucky to see another praying mantis egg. In a small patch of woods behind my house, I was waging a war that had been going on for several years now. Within the edge of the woods was a densely overgrown thicket of jaggers, which I much later learned were more commonly called briars. However, between two twelve-foot tall patches of jaggers there was a small passage through which I could enter into a small forest of sumac, and this is where I went wild. What started as a mere interest in helping my dad control our yard by knocking the tops of dandelions with small sticks, as though I was beheading someone, quickly grew into a full blown obsession for running through fields with a specially picked stick. A swath of shredded weeds would lay behind me, and I felt victorious as though I had just waded through a sea of warriors, having laid waste to them all.

I don’t recall ever being given a reason to hide this activity from my parents, but I can’t ever remember them being present when I would unleash such a jubilant rage. There was always a sense of secrecy to these slaughters, and this is exactly what I found in the sumac, well-hidden between the towering jagger bushes.
From the time I was allowed to walk the forests behind my house as early as three years old, I remember the worrying that came with the word poison ivy. There was some bad plant in the woods that could really hurt me, and I had to be very wary of it. At some point, I also learned of something called poison sumac, and I was convinced that my secret forest of sumac was just this enemy.
I went through many of the best sticks while destroying this sumac forest. These were not mere weeds in a field; these towering spindles of sumac blurred the definition between shrub and tree. Some of the stalks were almost the size of my arms, yet I was determined to leave nothing. Soon, I found an unused broomstick in our garage, and felt I had found the best stick of them all. No matter how hard I slashed through the sumac, the broomstick would not give. This is how it went for many seasons, and when the entire sumac forest had been raised to the ground, I would turn to the encroaching jaggers and smoothly shear off all the brighter green new growth protruding from the bushes. My fort was complete. Here I was alone and unknown within a natural fortress. I even began to burrow tunnels beneath the jagger bushes, where I could lay when the sun had made my fortress too hot. I would watch black specks fly past overhead, and remain motionless when sparrows, catbirds, and mockingbirds would creep through the bush, seeking insects.
On a warm Saturday after helping my dad with yard work, I retired to my fort, and resumed the carnage. My broomstick was stained a deep green from months of use. I was leaning against it for a rest, when I noticed a brown piece of Styrofoam wrapped around a jagger shoot I had just separated from the bush. I picked it up slowly, realizing what I had just found. I squeezed it gently, and it indeed felt like Styrofoam, but with a hard core.
Monday morning, my teacher humored my interests, and allowed me to bring the egg into class for all to see, as well as to give it a shelter for when the time came to hatch. Every day, I came into class, inspecting the egg and the glass cage for some change, but there was none. My hope for the egg’s hatching became a distant thought, the way one dreams of what they may get for Christmas when it is still months away.
One morning, while all the students were waiting in the gymnasium for the day to start, my teacher entered the cloud of students and motioned for me, smiling.
“Come, I have to show you something,” she said quietly with controlled excitement.
I felt a little sickness tighten in my stomach. It was all to common for me to be pulled away from the students for a scolding, or to be sent to the principal’s office for something I had done the previous day. Whether it was perpetrating what I thought was a playful fight on the playground, or riding my bike to school as a seven year old, the school always seemed to have problems with my actions. However, through some stroke of luck, this was not the case this morning. We rounded the corner to the glass cage and it seemed to be crawling with a small green mold, as though overnight mold had infested the cage.
“I was just bout to throw it away this morning, when I looked in and saw everything moving. They Hatched!” Mrs. Ritts exclaimed to me.
I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t a mold at all; rather hundreds of praying mantis babies no bigger than my pinky nail covered every surface of the cage. Life had existed within that egg the whole time! After the class had a day or two to inspect the offspring, we set them all loose in a field outside the school, and I took a handful home to foster on my own.
A month later, three of them remained alive, now about half the size of my thumb. I had spent hours watching them slink around the large canning jar, climbing sticks, falling from the sides of the glass, and periodically batting at each other when they came face to face. I wasn’t sure what they needed to eat anymore, for all the ants I had placed in the jar with them had died strewn about the dirt uneaten. So, I released them into my father’s iris bushes outside, and turned my interests to starting my own any colony from the many ants that frequented our flowerbeds. A week later as I perused the beautiful indigo blossoms where I had released the juvenile mantises, I found one, apparently healthy, and much larger already. If you have never seen a praying mantis turn its head and stare straight at you through its pearly green compound eyes, it is an eerily familiar sight, and I find it hard not to impart some sense of intelligence upon that stare.

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