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The Boy is Father to the Man

Journal Entry: 12-4-11, 11:48 PM

Sorting through my photo collection the other day, I came across a few that caught my attention. They were not exotic photos of plants or colorful insects, or breathtaking landscapes. They were photos of me, marking various intervals of my travel through time. I don’t have many photos of me, especially the first 40 years – long before digital cameras and iPhones became ubiquitous, so each image of me is part of a small, yet precious archive of a life in progress.

One photo in particular – a school portrait taken when I was ten years old – just grabbed me. There I am, in a moment preserved for posterity, wearing a green shirt I never liked and my hair plastered into a proper catholic school wave-form sculpted by that mysterious gray stiffening gel my mother rubbed into it each morning. What caught me as I was skimming through hundreds of photos in my library were the eyes. My eyes. I stopped and stared into them, and in doing so crossed through a kind of portal that had opened in them. I felt suddenly drawn into the room with my 10 year-old self as he waited for his picture to be taken. We sat silently for a while, staring across the decades at one another not in surprise, but with a kind of knowing that this meeting was a special gift. A chance to reconcile the events of an ordinary life with the dreams of youth.

I had thought of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but at age 10, I wasn’t really settled on any one thing. How much can a boy really see into his future at that age? How can one anticipate the twists and turns of a life? I had considered some professions with specific experiences I wanted to have: an Astronaut (to fly to the moon and look at the earth from the gray lunar landscape, listening to the profound silence there); an Explorer (specifically of the Amazon River, Australian Outback, and the jungles of Borneo); an Archaeologist (discovering some ancient temple lost in desert sands or dense jungle vegetation); and a priest (not for the religion, but to deeply understand the sacred mysteries and spiritual energies of life that I experienced as a young boy). They were not necessarily career goals, but were vitally important dreams to have. Hidden within the adventure of those dreams was a map for the journey of my spirit.

Studying the features on the face of my younger self, I recognized the subtle and important events hidden behind that half-way smile, the dreamy gaze, and unfurrowed brow. It was all there, written on that face… my joys and fears, my spiritual and emotional openings and subsequent wounds. My imagination was strong and elaborate, though my self-confidence was only modest back then. As I looked deeper into his eyes, I was overwhelmed with love and admiration for that brave little boy who traveled daily into the unknown, with his heart wide-open.

Silently, I thanked him for the wonderful gifts he gave to me. I hoped he was not disappointed with my simple achievements over the years. I confessed to him that I had not, in fact, gone to the moon, explored ancient ruins, or traveled much of anywhere in the 40 or so years since he dreamed those dreams. Smiling back at me across the expanse of time, I could hear him say in a sweetly gentle voice, “But you did have those experiences. It just looks a little different than I imagined.”

Reader Comments (2)

You did it again! Super writing to bring the reader into your world and life -- and thereby, having them look at their own life.
- DG

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonald G

I just recently did the same thing: I went through the old fotos. What I found is a little girl, always with some kind of animal and a wide smile, somewhere out in the green.
What I see today, is a woman having traveled around the world, who still finds the greatest comfort from the animals and being out in the green, recovering from the Hero's wounds...

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEva

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