The stream trickled by with a pleasant babble. Its water—tinted with a resplendent violet hue—reminded me of my childhood when I would gather bouquets of purple dame’s rocket on my father’s orchard. I remember spending many carefree days alone wandering through the vast fields. I never desired company; the soft hums of the wind rustling through the vibrant green leaves of the surrounding trees was all I needed. I never again would feel as free—of worry or responsibility—as I did during those wonderful days by myself.
That orchard wasn’t much different in appearance to the one I’m walking through now; only this one has the stream to follow. The longer I walk alongside the stream the more evident the gradual change in its color becomes. It started off violet, but after bleeding through a series of cracks between a mound of large rocks, the purple tint faded away and the water took on the color of rust. The stream had been flowing through an open clearing, but that too had gradually changed. High stalks of cattail pants took over the path and the ground beneath now squishes with a soggy marsh-like texture. It has become much more difficult to follow the stream—as it widened and seemingly spread out into the shape of a shallow pond—but something inside me felt the need to push through these obstacles.
As I fight through the thick mud, rusty looking water, and tall plants, another memory stirs inside me: I was a teenager—only in age as I hadn’t hit puberty yet—and was with a group of friends. We all lived in the same small town and spent our summers playing in the nearby woods. One particular day we found a small pond tucked away in a part of the woods we never been to before. We had to push through sharp thorn bushes and a series of near impenetrable brush to get to the pond; I remember spending half the day clearing a path to it.
Shade blanketed the pond with only a few orange beams of sunlight making it through the heavy tree cover. Half of the pond drained into a shallow creek and the crystal clear water was only ankle-deep. It was perfect for us to catch frogs, sit and talk about life and our families, and simply get away from the real world which seemed to become increasingly overwhelming to us as we learned more and more about the responsibilities awaiting us in the future.
Long gone are the details of the discussions we had, the plans we made, and the lives we wanted. The only thing that remains from those days is the feelings we felt and the things we saw. And as I walk through the marshy grounds along this rust colored stream, I specifically remember the moment that chapter in my life had ended. It happened in an instant.
The day held a balmy heat—even under the thick tree cover of our little oasis—and our group was sitting around lamenting the last days of summer. The topics of conversation or what led up the end to my childhood is lost to history, but a single moment is burned into my memory. The group had gotten into a heated argument—something that to us was as important as the end of the world, but was ultimately insignificant outside of that moment in time—and I had stood up with excited haste and planned to storm away to cement my anger with the others. Unfortunately, I had stepped too quickly and slipped on a loose rock; crashing into the shallow waters of the pond. After falling, the memory is deeply muddled with random colors and noise, but I do recollect witnessing a beam of light pierce through the trees and illuminate the water my face was partially submerged in. A swirl of crimson sullied the clarity of the crystal water and changed it to a rusty-red. Panic surged through the group and everything went black. When I woke up I was in a hospital bed. Some way or another I was rescued from perishing in the pond of what was once our oasis away from the world.
I’d recovered quickly from my head injury, but the summer had ended by the time I was allowed to come home. Our group slowly splintered off from each other as we entered high school that year, and puberty hit me not long after. Soon I became interested in girls and forgot all about our oasis. I learned some years later that due to my accident the township had fenced the whole area off. A few more years after that the pond had dried up for whatever reason and they eventually turned the whole area into a parking lot for a nearby Christian school.
Brief memories of high school flicker through my head as I finally hit the tail end of the marshy area. The small pond drains back into another stream and the rust colored water has changed yet again. This time it’s a muddy brown; most likely caused by the soggy marsh. The stream pushes through to another flat field, but I stop following. Tall weeds hang over the narrow stream and block the path. The brown water—opaque and hard to navigate—doesn’t spark anymore memories. It would seem the future is too cloudy to see; not unlike this stream. But something inside tells me the water will become crystal clear one day. Perhaps I will come back when I’m an old man and follow the stream from beginning to end.
Like life, I know it must end at some point. And when it does end, so will the memories—all lost in time like the changing waters of a flowing stream.
If you liked this you should check out the rest of the series.