Saturday, February 18, 2006

Our childhoods will all be gone soon, in matter if not in heart and mind. Surveying the remaining artifacts, I can see only transience.

This morning I found that my rope swing is gone. I say my rope swing because it was mine. It belonged to me in the same way that it belonged to everyone else who enjoyed it when there was nothing else to do. In this suburb, where the best use of space that thousands upon thousands of people can find is to fill it with houses, manicured trees, concrete, emptiness, that swing was something special. It was my own. It was somewhere to go. Somewhere without straight lines. Now it's gone, because someone thought it was dangerous for children.

At home, I composed half of "An Open Letter to Scripps Ranch." I want people to see how lifeless they are making this place, how flawed is their manufactured perfection, how alienating. I want them to know there is a better way, to live together, to trust, to cherish, to grow and build and collaborate. I want to take them all to the rope swing, where there was some small bit of freedom, awkward and spontaneous intimacy, the simplicity of holding on to a stick thirty feet in the air.

But I know how easy comfort is. I know that people want the alienation, the appearance of community, the substancelessness. I didn't finish the letter.

I have always tempered this thought with the idea that what appears as empty to me is rewarding and stimulating to others. I have often thought that people may find real comfort, real community in Blockbuster, McDonalds, Safeway, endless streets and sidewalks, curfews, God Bless America, "Country Living," the Chargers, shaved mountaintops, stucco and stucco and stucco, but I am beginning to doubt.

And I see it all perpetuated. I see it in little acts of thoughtlessness. Like cutting down the rope swing. Like alcohol, cigarettes, Marijuana, Cocaine, Ecstasy. Like not caring. Like squirming at words like "love," "empowerment," "kindness." Like giving up.

I'll be leaving soon. I am thankful for my home, my life and the people who share it. I just hope people will remember that freedom is as simple as a rope and a ladder.

The Rope Swing
By Matthew Louv (3rd grade)

grab hold of the rope
run like the wind down the hill
hold on very tight
hope to god that you don't fall
and swing like never before
swing as high as trees
fly as high as high as a red-tail
don't ever look down
twist and turn and glide and fly
and land with grace and beauty
and then look around
the teenagers stand in awe
and then the applause
stand there, bask in your glory
hope you can come back again