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.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Early Life-Part Two, Special Things Hide Outside

My fondness of reading didn’t last very long. Not long after I began to read, my family began watching much more TV together. I remember for a long time the TV was always turned off when it was time to eat together. We sat around the table, and talked, and enjoyed our meal. However, shortly after first grade, while it had usually only been a treat to be allowed to eat out dinner while laying on the floor of our living room, it became increasingly common for my parents to take their dinner to the couches, and for us kids to lay on the floor and watch shows like the Simpsons and McGuiver while eating dinner.

After finishing dinner, I would lay my plate in the sink, and sleek onto my mothers lap. Later, after I was too large for her lap, I would squeeze onto the very edge of the chair. This persisted well through elementary school, and completely replaced the ephemeral time I spent reading to my parents. Now the amount of contact I experienced with my parents was not dependent on my reading skills, and my skepticism of reading grew. Books seemed useless to me unless they were explaining some picture in the book of a frog laying eggs, or explaining how the planets of the solar system orbit the sun.

Slowly, science books became the only books I would read in school. It seemed the books for every other topic in school were a waste of time. The teachers seemed to always be giving us all the correct answers we needed to get good grades, and all we had to do was listen to them. But in these books, I found wonders the teachers never talked about. I found things I later learned they barely understood themselves. This is what brought me to the woods.

I was always exploring as a child. Much later in life, while in high school and a few times during college when I remarked to my mom about TV shows all of my friends were familiar with and I was not, or voiced concern, (I guess sometimes pride as well) over how other kids couldn’t climb a tree or catch a frog like I could my mom stated with motherly resolution, “Beej, that’s cause you were always outside. You never wanted to do anything else, you just wanted to be outside.”

Well, I guess it was always clear to me that I wanted to be outside, but I hadn’t entertained the possibility that this wasn’t the case for each and every kid I knew. I still have a tough time finding that other people don’t feel the same about this. Anyways, this was about the time when I found out teachers in a class room would teach you about things they had never witnessed on their own.

The summer before second grade, I was helping my grandmother trim some bushes outside of her house in Chambersburg. The summers were hot, so we got up and worked in the morning, and then sipped sweating glasses of sugary sun-made iced tea in the afternoon. One day my grand mother paused and yelled as she bent closer to a bush she was shearing.
“Oh Beej, come here quick, come look at this,” she exclaimed in the same ascending high pitched voice my mom used when she got excited about something.
I dropped the juniper branches I was carrying that smelled of cat piss, and ran over. I peered into a dark hole where no branches were growing upon this dense evergreen tree, and looking up at me was a pale green insect, nothing like I had ever seen.
This was no beetle, no fly, and no ant I later learned how to burn with a magnifying glass my grand mother gave me for Christmas.
“This is a praying mantis,” she said softly, slowing down and speaking very clearly as she said its name, “they are very special because they eat all the bad flies in these bushes. See how it looks like its prayin,” she questioned, folding her hands like she was praying too, “I just think they’re the dearest things.”

I am not sure I had any idea what bad flies did in bushes, but the fact that my grand mother introduced such a thing to me with such softness and clarity marked this insect to me as forever special. To this day I still feel worse about accidentally stepping on one large female I was trying to catch than I do about anything else I have ever killed. I suppose that was one of the first times I learned that very special things hid outside, and they could be found everywhere.

It was also this summer that I learned what a praying mantis egg was. Again, in similar circumstances, my grandmother called me over with excitement to a large shrub she had been shearing, and she pointed to a small brown piece of Styrofoam about the size of a ping-pong ball.
“When it is time for this to hatch, it will open up and hundreds of little babies will come out,” my grandmother whispered to me with quieted importance.
I had trouble picturing hundreds of babies, miniature versions of what I had seen just a few days before, emerging from such a small thing.

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