I didn’t have the best child/teenagehood, though it was better than some. There are kids out there who get beaten every day just for existing. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have parents who actually loved me.
But by the time I hit my teenage years, the combination of seeing my parents treat each other like human punching bags, constant ridicule at school, and an intense sense that I didn’t belong turned me into a recluse. I would come home from school, go straight to my room, and not come out. I even ate my supper in there. Sometimes, I came out in the evenings to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy with my dad.
Most kids nowadays, when they wall themselves up in their rooms, get on the Internet for hours. I had no computer. And even if I did, we were too poor to afford dial-up. If I wanted to check email, I did it at school or at a neighbor’s (except I had no friends to send me email). So, what did I do in my room all day?
I read, wrote, and stared out my window.
Staring out of my window was my very favorite pastime. We lived in the country, so there was a small field just outside my window, then a line of trees, another field, and then the swamp. I would lay on my bed and watch the field. I would watch the sky and the trees. I would watch the birds. I loved watching the wind rippling through the world.
And it was at such times that I felt any real peace. It fueled my poetry and kept me from writing only angst-ridden trash. I watched my field in all its seasons, but my very, very favorite season was winter.
The plants would turn into shades of fawn and dark brown. Skeletal trees stood next to dark evergreens. When the wind came, it made what appeared to be dead suddenly come alive. I loved it especially when an iron grey clad the sky. If it rained, then it was perfection itself.
It was as if my feelings had escaped me and I was watching them play out in the natural world, leaving me with an understated joy. Mind you, my life wasn’t as bad as some, but it wasn’t great, either. As an adult, I wonder how much of that was of my own making. But I didn’t think of that at the time, and during winter, I escaped into the landscape without ever leaving my bedroom.
I think that saved me. Imagine if I sought my escape, as many teens do now, in boys, drugs, or the Internet. My life would be very different now. The greatest danger for anyone is turning too far into themselves. Nature helped to keep me from doing that and left me open to have encounters with God.
Some days, I just want to grab teens and yell, “Look around you!” Once you’ve observed a small bit of land through all its seasons, it’s hard to say you’re alone. And when the weather matches your insides, you can escape into it. Trust me when I say it beats the hell out of tumblr.
I still stare out of windows but it’s not the same, not quite. Perhaps I don’t need that escape as much as I once did. Perhaps I’m simply too busy. But as the leaves fall from the trees and we slowly turn to winter, I think back on those long hours that fluidly passed as I gazed out of my window and I can’t help but feel a certain amount of longing.